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Becoming ChristianRace, Reformation, and Early Modern English Romance$
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Dennis Austin Britton

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823257140

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823257140.001.0001

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. Reproducing Christians

. Reproducing Christians

Salvation, Race, and Gender on the Early Modern En glish Stage

(p.142) 5. Reproducing Christians
Becoming Christian

Dennis Austin Britton

Fordham University Press

Whereas numerous infidel women convert to Christianity on the early modern English stage, relatively few infidel men convert. Chapter 5 explores the interplay of race, gender, and salvation in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, John Fletcher’s The Island Princess, and Philip Massinger’s The Renegado. The frequency with which Jewish, Turkish, and Moorish women convert to Christianity in English drama more generally responds to the convergence of theological and medical discourses that highlighted the role of male seed in creating a child’s identity, and reflects as well Reformation theology’s linkage of spiritual and sexual reproduction. Nonetheless, anxieties about what an infidel mother might pass on to her children, even when she is married to a Christian man, prompt Fletcher’s and Massinger’s plays to employ the discourse of martyrdom in order to verify the women’s acquisitions of true Christian faith.

Keywords:   race, gender, sexual reproduction, martyrdom, William Shakespeare, John Fletcher, Philip Massinger, The Merchant of Venice, The Island Princess, The Renegado

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