Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4558
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Winstead , Karen A.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Capgrave's Saint Katherine and the Perils of Gynecocracy
  • Source: Viator 25, ( 1994): Pages 361 - 376.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Capgrave, John, Author- Life of Saint Katherine Catherine of Alexandria, Martyr, Saint Education Gender Hagiography Henry VI, King of England Literature- Verse Politics Queens in Literature Rulers Women in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 15
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  • Abstract: This essay examines the extended debate about female sovereignty that occurs in Book Two of John Capgrave's life of the virgin martyr Katherine of Alexandria. In Capgrave's 1445 narrative, the scholarly young queen of Alexandria defies the wishes of her mother and her lords, who urge her to marry so that a man can take charge of her realm. What follows is a debate of remarkable complexity, whose interpretation is further complicated by its context. On the one hand, Katherine's stature as a saint seems to authorize her radical assertion that a woman can govern as effectively as a man; on the other hand, her subjects' objections are persuasive, and Katherine's martyrdom, as Capgrave presents it, confirms their claim that government by a woman will not work. Capgrave uses Katherine's debate with her lords to address two issues of contemporary interest: the crisis of political authority in Henry VI's England, and the potentially subversive consequences of women's learning. [Reproduced by permission of the University of California Press.]
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  • Year of Publication: 1994.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00835897
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