A public and highly popular literary form, English Renaissance drama affords a uniquely valuable index of the process of cultural transformation. The Expense of Spirit integrates feminist and historicist critical approaches to explore the dynamics of cultural conflict and change during a crucial period in the formation of modern sexual values. Comparing Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatic representations of love and sexuality with those in contemporary moral tracts and religious writings on women, love, and marriage, Mary Beth Rose argues that such literature not only interpreted sexual sensibilities but also contributed to creating and transforming them.
Mary Beth Rose is Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Gender and Heroism in Early Modern English Literature and editor of Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives.
What is especially interesting here is the sophistication with which Rose develops her argument in relation to dramatic genres. She is acute in registering the ways that the ideological inconsistencies evident in nondramatic texts become the stuff of dramatic conflict, and occasionally resolution, on stage. Trenchantly and persuasively, Rose argues that the shift of focus in tragedy from the Elizabethan concern with public action to the Jacobean preoccupation with domestic life and individual psychology witnesses the new dignity and significance assigned to private life.
~Raymond B. Waddington, Sixteenth Century Journal