‘As sure as I have a thought or a soul’: The Protestant Heroine in Shakespeare and Austen

  • Claire McEachern


Shakespeare and Austen have striking female comic characters in common: resourceful, frequently insightful, sharp of tongue and mind. For instance, Much Ado’s Beatrice and Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet have provoked inquiry into the degree to which each author critiques (or not) the gender politics of their respective moments. In spite of the heroines’ strength, they frequently must undergo a kind of chastening process, so that whatever romantic happiness is achieved must be preceded by repentance and renunciation. Yet, both authors have been readily assimilated to a secular, or sceptical, vision of religious identity. This essay proposes a religious origin prototype for the winning intellectual heroine, sourcing her to the martyrological writings of Anne Askew, John Bale and John Foxe. After examining the writings of Anne Askew, this chapter analyses Shakespeare’s and Austen’s Protestant heroines—in particular, Fanny Price. The chapter suggests that Shakespeare and Austen adapted these figures from martyrology in their writings, complicating merely ‘stock’ notions of character function so as to render nuanced representations of interiority.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire McEachern
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English, University of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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