In the Acts and Monuments, Foxe eulogized as martyrs a number of women who at first glance it would seem neither he nor his godly associates would have wanted as wives. Engaging in long, complex debate, resisting and mocking male authority, developing intimate, if presumably spiritual, extra-marital relationships, dominating, disobeying and even leaving their husbands, these women, as Protestant icons, defy historiographical expectations when it comes to early modern ideas about virtuous female behaviour. But Foxe did not design these women to serve as models of virtuous behaviour for living female members of a godly community; rather, as characters in an historical and cosmic drama described in Bale’s Image of Both Churches and Foxe’s Christus Triumphans, they are models for disobedience to authority, whether marital, ecclesiastical or royal. Such authority had in the past, and could still, demand idolatry in worship and thus, for the elect member of the true church, adultery. In such circumstances members of the true church had to choose between obedience to earthly authority and fidelity to Christ, to whom, in election, they were married.
KeywordsSixteenth Century Virtuous Behaviour Real Presence Subversive Quality Female Domesticity
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