Fletcher's Satire of Caratach in Bonduca


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Marco Mincoff once argued that for Fletcher "the soldier is the embodiment of all the virtues,"1 particularly courage, integrity, and truthfulness. Such characters as Caratach in Bonduca and Aecius in Valentinian assert moral authority in their playworlds. Paul D. Green views the hypermasculine Caratach as patently superior to Queen Bonduca and her daughters because he champions the Roman attitudes and values the play endorses: "In the context of the play, 'woman' suggests irrationality, thoughtlessness, and violence," whereas "to be a 'man' is to be reasonable and honorable in the Roman mode."2 Simon Shepherd deems Caratach "the only Briton who is truly just and chivalrous."3 S baron Macdonald claims Caratach represents King James and flatteringly mirrors the king's misogynistic views.4 John Curran characterizes Bonduca as "bloodthirsty, irrational, and childishly irrelevant," praising Caratach as "high-minded."5 More recently Jodi Mikalachki asserts that the "distinction between Caractacus's manly romanitas and Boadicea's female savagery became a standard feature of early modern accounts of Roman Britain."6 Caractacus is "a figure of exemplary manliness"7 who ''wins unqualified historiographical praise,"8 whereas Boadicea represents, as late as Milton, "'the rankest note of Barbarism"'9 which must be purged in order for Britain to join Rome in the masculine project of civilization. Mikalachki argues that "Fletcher seems to have followed this pattern in composing his drama Bonduca,"10 claiming that "Because she defied Caratach's order to return to her spinning wheel and instead meddled in the affairs of men, Bonduca is made to bear full responsibility for the Britons' eventual defeat."11 Mikalachki here paraphrases Caratach' s own words, but the passive "is made" is imprecise; Caratach blames Bonduca for the British loss, but does the play? In assuming that the play endorses the values and perspective of Caratach, these views miss Fletcher's dramatic techniques that everywhere undermine Caratach and ultimately repudiate him.

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