ABSTRACT

In Shakespeare’s late plays, romance thrives to a large extent on a Raphael-like liturgy of death and resurrection. Twice in these plays-in Pericles and The Winter’s Tale-a mother dies in order to reappear, together with her daughter, as an agent of reconciliation. In both plays death is problematically related to childbirth and the obscure or uncanny side of pregnancy. What kind of metamorphosis does the mother undergo in the interval which takes her from death to life again so that she may acquire the virtue she needs to perform such a cathartic task? And how is this plot specific to romance? In this chapter I want to speculate on the presumptive deadly status of mothers in Shakespeare’s romances: their mid-state, or better their transition from one state-and placeto another. As part of my argument I will explore the ways Renaissance visual art and theory, medicine, and divinity combined to influence this cathartic/ purgational representation of the maternal; and how this representation worked on both the sanitization of Shakespeare’s late family plots and the Bard’s recovery of female “grace” as the lost grace of representation.