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"A more natural mother": Concepts of maternity and queenship in early modern England

Anne-Marie Kathleen Strohman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Early in her reign, in response to Parliament's formal requests that she marry and secure the succession, Elizabeth calls herself the "mother of England." Her metaphorical maternity signals a rhetorical transaction between Elizabeth and her people that stretches across time, space, and genre; writers respond to Elizabeth by modifying the metaphor in order to shape her behavior. Conceptual blending theory, developed by cognitive scientists Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, provides language to articulate the complexities of Elizabeth's metaphor—to understand how language, culture, and cognition interact to create and modify meaning. ^ Furthering the work of critics who analyze Elizabeth's self-presentation and in light of Amy Cook's work with conceptual blending theory and theater, this dissertation examines Elizabeth's maternal metaphor in her speeches and considers Sidney's Arcadia (c. 1581-82, 1584; published in 1590), Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (c. 1588), and Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596) as examples of responses to and explorations of Elizabeth's mother–queen blend. By manipulating the mother–queen metaphor in various ways, these writers urge Elizabeth to fulfill her responsibilities as a figurative mother: first, through actual marriage and motherhood, and later, as Elizabeth's age led to infertility, by naming an heir. Elizabeth's attempts to control her image through metaphor were thwarted by the very nature of her method. This examination of her metaphor in the context of imaginative writing reveals the malleability of Elizabeth's carefully crafted image.^

Subject Area

Medieval literature|Women's studies|English literature|Sociolinguistics

Recommended Citation

Strohman, Anne-Marie Kathleen, ""A more natural mother": Concepts of maternity and queenship in early modern England" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3615453.