Astraea Returned to Heaven

  • Jennifer Feather
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


Throughout, this book concerns itself with the implications that shifting ideas of combat have for sixteenth-century conceptions of individual and communal selfhood. This striking image of a headless female body bathed in blood not only recalls the emblem of the headless female in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, it initiates Artegall’s judicial exploits in Book Five of The Faerie Queene, suggesting the important place of bodily damage in the judicial process as Artegall conceives it. The image functions, almost as an early modern emblem might, by offering a way of reading the physical reality of the body.2 Many critics, uncomfortable with the cruelty and violence implicit in the retributive judicial zeal presented here, have seen Artegall’s practice of justice in the first several cantos of Book Five as deeply flawed and canto four as presenting the true beginning of Artegall’s judicial exploits.3 However, the emblem of the headless female has a history not only in medieval romance, as evidenced in Malory’s Morte, but in depictions of the goddess Astraea as a symbol of her dispassionate judgment.


Social Identity Social Order Social Meaning Legal Code Judicial Action 
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© Jennifer Feather 2011

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  • Jennifer Feather

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