n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - “If that small sparke could yield so great a fire” : Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia and Eugenie Freed’s A Several Plot - review

Volume 32 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



Review: Eugenie Freed, A Several Plot (Johannesburg: Eugenie R. Freed, 2017) and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Emilia (London: Oberon, 2018).

Over four hundred years ago Emilia (Æmilia) Bassano Lanyer published a collection of her English feminist poetry. She was a woman of Italian migrant heritage with a Jewish background, born of the Venetian Bassanos and the English Johnsons. Her rare publication was entitled Salve Deus Rex Judæorum (Hail God, King of the Jews) and was dedicated exclusively to female patrons. This, in a time when women were only allowed by the Censor to write about religion. Bassano Lanyer disguised activist messages within her seemingly religious text. The Poetry Foundation describes Salve Deus, “a subtle and complex work of 1,840 lines in ottavarima, iambic-pentameter stanzas”, as “assured” and “unapologetic”: “Lanyer’s religious poem claims biblical and  historical authority, and grants the viewpoint of women as much or greater authenticity as that of men ... for a woman to write authoritatively on so sacred a subject (was) unusual, but for her to revise fifteen hundred years of traditional commentary in the process (was) unheard of.”

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