‘Above a Theatre and Beyond a Throne’: Cavendish, Philips, and the Potency of Feminized Retreat
This chapter points out Cavendish and Philips's shared concern with feminized spaces of retreat or interiority, arguing that these participate in the Interregnum royalist impetus to represent the space of retirement or inwardness as the actual centre of power. Philips's verse develops the notion found elsewhere in contemporary royalist writing that political agency may exist apart from its conventional military or governmental expressions, and underlines the fact that this constitutes more than a simple strategy of quietism or evasion. The borrowings from her verses to be found in the manuscript writings of imprisoned Restoration Puritan, Robert Overton, attest to the resonance of these ideas beyond the Interregnum royalist context of their inception. Although Cavendish's explorations of empowerment through retreat forge far fewer direct links with the wider political dilemmas of her contemporaries, they provide a central catalyst to her fantasies of enhanced female agency. Communal female retirement as a dramatic motif is markedly transformed as she draws on the political dynamics of closet drama.
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