A new issue of the online journal Early Modern Literary Studies has appeared! It contains an article on the role of Shakespeare’s Richard II in the Essex rebellion, representations of the supernatural in the early modern country house poem, and interestingly in the context of my earlier post on Paster’s fluid sense of selfhood (in which men can feel the melancholy of cats) it contains an article on lycanthropy in Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi.
Brett D. Hirsch wonders why Webster’s play features a werewolf, when despite many cases on the Continent, no cases against werewolves were known in England in the early modern period. Webster’s lycanthrope has been explained with reference to demonic possession, but Hirsch looks for its connotations in medical, theological and philosophical texts. He demonstrates that the werewolf is a border creature, both human and animal, evocative of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Both man and wolf, the werewolf in early modern culture blurs the lines between man and beast, and thus evokes anxieties over the boundaries between good and evil, civility and wildness, reason and madness, and masculinity and femininity.