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Chaste ValueEconomic Crisis, Female Chastity and the Production of Social Difference on Shakespeare's Stage$
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Katherine Gillen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474417716

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417716.001.0001

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Chaste Treasure and National Identity in the Rape of Lucrece and Cymbeline

Chaste Treasure and National Identity in the Rape of Lucrece and Cymbeline

(p.254) Chapter 6 Chaste Treasure and National Identity in the Rape of Lucrece and Cymbeline
Chaste Value

Katherine Gillen

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter addresses chastity’s role in English (and British) national identity, arguing that Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece and Cymbeline question the Roman myth’s application in early capitalist England. In particular, both works employ chastity-as-treasure tropes tointerrogate the ways in which commercial models disrupt national ideologies that align Elizabeth I’s virgin body with the integrity of the state. The Rape of Lucrece exposes the ways in which mercantile treasure discourse invites sexual violence, compromising a woman who metonymically symbolises the state. In Cymbeline, Shakespeare reconfigures the Lucretia myth so as to articulate a revised mode of chaste national thinking suited to a nation headed by a male monarch and aspiring to become an imperial mercantile power. By transforming Innogen’s jewellery into currency that circulates in her name, Shakespeare infuses Britain’s expanding mercantile sphere—and its imperial projects—with chaste, white legitimacy while removing the physical female body from its once central place in the national imaginary.

Keywords:   Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece, Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, national identity, Elizabeth I, Lucretia myth, treasure, commodity

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