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Social circumstances in Early Modern England mostly served to repress women’s voices. Patriarchal culture and institutions constructed them as chaste, silent, obedient, and subordinate. At the beginning of the 17th century, the ideology of patriarchy, political absolutism, and gender hierarchy were reaffirmed powerfully by King James in The Trew Law of Free Monarchie and the Basilikon Doron; by that ideology the absolute power of God the supreme patriarch was seen to be imaged in the absolute monarch of the state and in the husband and father of a family. Accordingly, a woman’s subjection, first to her father and then to her husband, imaged the subjection of English people to their monarch, and of all Christians to God. Also, the period saw an outpouring of repressive or overtly misogynist sermons, tracts, and plays, detailing women’s physical and mental defects, spiritual evils, rebelliousness, shrewish ness, and natural inferiority to men.

Yet some social and cultural conditions served to empower women. During the Elizabethan era (1558—1603) the culture was dominated by a powerful Queen, who provided an impressive female example though she left scant cultural space for other women. Elizabethan women writers began to produce original texts but were occupied chiefly with translation. In the 17th century, however, various circumstances enabled women to write original texts in some numbers. For one thing, some counterweight to patriarchy was provided by female communities—mothers and daughters, extended kinship networks, close female friends, the separate court of Queen Anne (King James’ consort) and her often oppositional masques and political activities. For another, most of these women had a reasonably good education (modern languages, history, literature, religion, music, occasionally Latin) and some apparently found in romances and histories more expansive terms for imagining women’s lives. Also, representation of vigorous and rebellious female characters in literature and especially on the stage no doubt helped to undermine any monolithic social construct of women’s mature and role.

Most important, perhaps, was the radical potential inherent in the Protestant insistence on every Christian’s immediate relationship with God and primary responsibility to follow his or her individual conscience. There is plenty of support in St Paul’s epistles and elsewhere in the Bible for patriarchy and a wife’s subjection to her husband, but some texts (notably Galatians 3:28) inscribe a very different politics, promoting women’s spiritual equality: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Jesus Christ.” Such texts encouraged some women to claim the support of God the supreme patriarch against the various earthly patriarchs who claimed to stand toward them in his stead.

There is also the gap or slippage between ideology and common experience. English women throughout the 17th century exercised a good deal of accrual power: as managers of estates in their husbands’ absences at court or on military and diplomatic missions; as members of guilds; as wives and mothers who apex during the English Civil War and Interregnum (1640-60) as the execution of the King and the attendant disruption of social hierarchies led many women to seize new roles—as preachers, as prophetesses, as deputies for exiled royalist husbands, as writers of religious and political tracts.

1.         What is the best title for this passage?

[A]. Women’s Position in the 17th Century.

[B]. Women’s Subjection to Patriarchy.

[C]. Social Circumstances in the 17th Century.

[D]. Women’s objection in the 17th Century.

2.         What did the Queen Elizabeth do for the women in culture?

[A]. She set an impressive female example to follow.

[B]. She dominated the culture.

[C]. She did little.

[D]. She allowed women to translate something.

3.         Which of the following is Not mention as a reason to enable women to original texts?

[A].Female communities provided some counterweight to patriarchy.

[B]. Queen Anne’s political activities.

[C]. Most women had a good education.

[D]. Queen Elizabeth’s political activities.

4.         What did the religion so for the women?

[A]. It did nothing.

[B]. It too asked women to be obedient except some texts.

[C]. It supported women.

[D]. It appealed to the God.

Vocabulary

1.         repress                       压制,镇压,约束

2.         patriarchy                    族长制,家长制

3.         chaste                       贞洁的,高雅的

4.         hierarchy                     等级制

5.         monarch                      君主,最高统治

6.         image                        象征,反映

7.         overtly                       公开的,明显的

8.         outpour                      倾泻

9.         sermon                       布道,说教

10.      tract                         政治宗教,小册子传单

11.      misogynist                    反对妇女

12.      shrewish                      泼妇似的,爱骂街的

13.      counterweight                  抗衡

14.      consort                       配偶

15.      masque                       化装舞会

16.      monolithic                    铁板一样的,磐石般的

17.      epistle                        圣经·新约中的使徒书

18.      Galatians                      新约圣经中加拉太书

19.      inscribe                       写,题写,铭记

    
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