Article Title

"My naked weapon": Male Anxiety and the Violent Courtship of the Jacobean Stage Widow


Jennifer Panek


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

On the night of the nineteenth of November in 1628, a young widow by the name of Elizabeth Bennett was asleep in her house in the London parish of St. Olave. Only seven months earlier, the Widow Bennett had lost her husband Richard, a wealthy Mercer who had made his wife sole executrix of his estate and heir to two-thirds of it, including their fine house in the Old Jewry and a coach with four horses. As a widow worth twenty thousand pounds, Elizabeth was already besieged by suitors. On that November night, however, one of them-a physician named John Raven-figured he would get the jump on the others. He bribed Elizabeth's servants to let him into her bedchamber, whereupon, in the words of the diarist John Rous, the widow awoke to find Dr. Raven "put[ting] his legge into the bedde."1 Perhaps the doctor's medical training had something to do with why he thought the widow would respond to his methods: "What shall we say;' writes Nicholas Fontanus in The Woman's Doctor,

concerning Widowes, who lye fallow, and live sequestered from these Venerous conjunctions? We must conclude, that if they be young, of a black complexion, and hairie, and are likewise somewhat discoloured in their cheeks, that they have a spirit of salacity, and feele within themselves a frequent titillation, their seed being hot and prurient, doth irritate and inflame them to Venery.2

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