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Elizabeth I’s Virginity and the Body of Evidence: Jonson’s Notorious Crux

  • Kaara L. Peterson (a1)

Abstract

In a famous, frequently quoted statement, Ben Jonson claims that Queen Elizabeth I “had a membrana on her which made her uncapable of man.” This essay reinvestigates the basis for Jonson’s 400-year-old crux and, more broadly, argues for the relevance of an unexplored area of critical studies on Elizabeth: what early modern medicine and culture thought about lifelong virginity and its distinctive perils for the queen’s aging body natural. Finally, looking at the inner-circle gossip about Tudor and Stuart queens’ health and various records documenting Elizabeth’s identified illnesses, including hysterica passio, the essay uncovers how virgins’ diseases were thought to afflict Elizabeth over her reign and possibly contribute to her death.

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Elizabeth I’s Virginity and the Body of Evidence: Jonson’s Notorious Crux

  • Kaara L. Peterson (a1)

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