gender and sexuality
love and marriage
imagined worlds
places and spaces
danger: love
writing and fame
la querelle femmes

Danger: Love
Ashlee-Morgan Piper

Queen Beatriz was "one of the most perfect ladies in her intelligence, virtue, and devoutness" (Boyer 18). She was the wife of King Ladislao II of Hungary and never wanted for admirers. However, in María de Zayas's "Triumph Over Persecution" (The Disenchantments of Love, 1647), Beatriz becomes the emblematic victim of an admiring man's unrequited love and eventual rage. War is declared in Hungary and the King must away to oversee his troops. As a result, he leaves his trusted brother, Federico, to govern in his stead. Federico falls madly in love with the noble and beautiful Beatriz and makes many public attempts to woo her. Beatriz "reprimands him harshly" (Boyer 18) and locks him in a gilded cage in order to restrain his affections until his brother-her husband-returns.

After holding him in luxurious confinement for many days, Beatriz frees the lecherous Federico so that he may "ride out to greet the returning King" (Boyer 18). In the sensationalist tradition of Zayas's Disenchantments, Federico publicly accuses Beatriz of attempting to seduce him and urges Ladislao to have "his lascivious wife killed" (Boyer 18). No one will hear Beatriz's explanation and, with a violent irrationality, Ladislao turns his once beloved wife over to his huntsmen who "strike out her eyes, strip her of her royal jewels, and leave her to die of hunger or as prey to wild beasts" (Boyer 18). The honorable Beatriz suffers greatly, but is miraculously saved by a beautiful, mysterious "protectress" (Zayas 347).

Despite Beatriz's rescue and relocation, Federico, the archetypal misogynist, thirsts to victimize her more. His desire to possess and punish Beatriz puts her in constant danger. "In revenge for your contempt, I shall rape you; then I shall kill you so you cannot get back at me" (Zayas 344), states Federico as he physically "overcomes" Beatriz. This assertion, as well as the situation, is an exaggerated microcosm of the inherent perils of the patriarchal love system. Federico's yearning to dominate Beatriz and her rejection of such initiatives clearly outline the downfalls of romantic gender relations.

"Heaven itself has not the power to free you from me!" Federico says as he attempts to sexually violate Beatriz (Zayas 344). However, he could not be more inaccurate. The instant he utters such blasphemous words, the Virgin Mary appears and reveals herself as Beatriz's protectress. Federico is banished for his evil doings and Beatriz, freed from the patriarchal love system, "retires to a convent . . . where she live[s] . . . in happy devotion . . . until she [is] very old" (Zayas 364).

This "disenchantment," or tale, as well the whole of María de Zayas's The Disenchantments of Love, demonstrates the dangerous aspects of the patriarchal love system. In seventeenth-century literature, female characters "often served as the object[s] of masculine desire" (Boyer 1) rather than as agents and subjects. To temper this inequality in Zayas's contestatory work, women control the telling of the "disenchantments" and "the disgruntled [male characters] are not allowed to tell stories" (Boyer 3). The Disenchantmentsbucks the misogynist tradition by showcasing bold female protagonists who "through telling [their] stor[ies]," impart their experiential wisdom on the toxic patriarchal love system and "take control over [their] own destinies." Zayas's "tales of innocent women victimized by masculine cruelty" present a sensationalized and hyperbolic depiction of the harsh realities of love in order to warn female readers of its inevitable danger (Boyer 21).

The dangers of love are multitudinous and effect women physically, emotionally, and mentally. Those who embrace love become inevitable victims of its wrath, and those who attempt to deny love are often overwrought with confusion and sickness, as we observe in Madame de Lafayette's The Princess of Clèves (1678). Madame de Clèves desperately attempts to preserve her fidelity and deny the affections of the Duke of Nemours, only to find that, despite her best efforts and enviable restraint, resistance is futile; the patriarchal love system devours and corrupts even the most resilient and best-intentioned participants. The tragic tale ends with the lovesick death of her jealous husband, Monsieur de Clèves, the rejection of her faithful suitor, the Duke de Nemours, and the Princess's disenchanted confinement in the convent. The story is a dramatic rendering of the dangers of the patriarchal love system and an endorsement for the convent as the most effective means of escaping such danger.

Bold women who actively pursue love are transformed either into wicked pawns-vehicles of the patriarchal love system-or are victimized by their male lovers and wicked female conspirators. Hence, love can either destroy or transform women. It can victimize them or drive them to victimize others. Love also poses a toxic danger to the female self, as we will witness in Zayas's and Lafayette's tales which depict rational women given over by lovesickness to the throes of insanity and malady. Few women in these seventeenth-century novellas survive the system's torment, but those who do harbor the experiential knowledge of the toxicity of courtly love that drives them to seek refuge in the convent. The Disenchantments of Love and The Princess of Clèves boldly acknowledge the dangers of love and, through fictitious example, offer women a respite from such peril. Moreover, in Margaret Lucas Cavendish's The Convent of Pleasure (1668), we will find an emphatic depiction of the convent as a safe haven from the outside world, only to see that it too is vulnerable to the penetration of patriarchal initiatives.

In order to better understand the dangerous romantic climate of seventeenth-century Europe and the development of fictional depictions of such dangers, we must explore the revolutionary work that illumined the dangers of the patriarchal love system a century before. Marguerite de Navarre's magnificent Heptameron (1558), is a collection of stories gathered under an engaging frame story. Ahead of its time, the Heptameron was modeled after Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, and embraced the classic novella form which was popularized by the legendary lais translator, Marie de France. In her stories, Navarre illustrates the "antagonism between female intelligence, love . . . [and] masculine aggression" (Chilton 13). The Prologue of the Heptameron introduces five men and five women who have suffered dangerous adventures and tragedies. Interestingly enough, they "find refuge in a Pyrenean abbey" (Chilton 17), and decide to pass their confinement by telling stories. The stories&' emerging notions of love and marriage are portrayed "negatively, by . . . examples of infractions . . . ambivalences and unresolved contradictions" (Chilton 17). In other words, the love system of the sixteenth century, just as it emerges in the seventeenth-century, is portrayed as inharmonious and unmerciful to women.

The ladies of the Heptameron suffer great injustices, subjugation, and brutality at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them most: their husbands, suitors, and male relatives. Despite the obvious influence of the Reformation's "evangelical critique of Franciscan theology" (Chilton 21), the Heptameron still depicts lovesick and traumatized characters who "transgress [the patriarchal love system's] rules and resolve their conflict with such rules [by] entering the inner mystical world" (Chilton 21). While the characters rarely "console themselves with the cloister," they do cede their involvement in the patriarchal love system for religious harmony (21). The Heptameron testifies; in a more tactful, less sensationalized way than its successors; that women have long been the casualties of courtly love and that the only effective relief from such unforgiving torment is found in religion.

Not surprisingly, María de Zayas models her unapologetic Disenchantments of Love after Navarre's template-with a few embellishments. Some of Zayas's stories blatantly pull and pervert plots from the Heptameron in order to reinforce the historical tradition of women's sentience of the unfair patriarchal love system. However, Zayas goes a step further to hyperbolize and sensationalize the senseless brutality that women endure in the love system. The gore, explicit detail, and crudeness of her works seem to transcend an authorial desire to sell books. One might wonder why Zayas screams an agenda that Navarre confined to a whisper. A possible explanation for this literary tactic is that the seventeenth century ushered in a new era of silencing women. Female initiatives were overlooked, pleas to end domestic brutality went unheard, and women were again muzzled puppets of the courtly love cycle. Estefanía, the cross-dressing male in Zayas's "Love for the Sake of Conquest," questions at the end of her "disenchantment": "You who struggle against them all . . . how can you defend yourselves?" (Zayas 357). Her answer is as clear as Zayas's agenda: "Stand up for your selves!" (Zayas 357). The mission is simple. Zayas begs women, through literary example, to assert themselves. Interestingly, "it has been claimed that in periods when women show signs of assertiveness there is a corresponding preoccupation with violence against them" (Chilton 16-17); thus, Zayas's approach exaggerates the danger of love to sober her readers.

Now that we have examined the literary trailblazers and the historical climate of the patriarchal system both in the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, we may effectively analyze, categorize, and seek out means of amelioration for the types of danger that the patriarchal love system poses to women. The most evident and evidenced entrapment of love is the threat of incredible, almost unfathomable, physical violence towards women. This bodily violation is portrayed intensely and perversely in The Disenchantments. The female protagonists of Zayas's frame story-the storytellers-display a remarkable awareness of the injustices dealt to their sex. As the slave girl Zelima states before telling her "disenchantment": "So bad are the times in which we live and so unfortunate are we" as women to endure constant danger (Zayas 42). Estefanía also attests to the commonality of the dangers that love poses to women: "You have all seen a relative deceived, a friend ruined, a lady dishonored, a woman beaten, a wife murdered by her own husband's hand, a daughter killed by her father, a sister by her brother, a lady by her suitor" (Zayas 357).

In the fourth "disenchantment," "Too Late Undeceived," the internal narrator, don Martín, is a man whose immersion in the love system makes him "morally flawed, totally mad, and unable to accept responsibility for his blindly precipitous actions" (Boyer 7). His character epitomizes lethal masculine appetites and their profound effects on innocent females. After a female servant falsely attests that his wife, Elena, is having an affair, don Martín blindly acts to protect his honor. Like most women in the Disenchantments, Elena is given no opportunity to appeal and is brutally punished. Don Martín burns Elena's supposed adulterous lover alive and locks Elena in a tiny kennel. For over two years, he treats her "worse than a dog, forcing her to drink from the cup of her lover's skull and eat only scraps from the table, so that she will suffer the pain he feels" (Boyer 8). The plot borrows directly from Oisille's story, the thirty-second of the Heptameron, in which a woman is enslaved by her husband, forced to drink from her lover's skull, and atone for her infidelity in monstrous ways. The difference between the two depictions is that Elena, like most of Zayas's women, is innocent.

The hyperbolic misogyny of don Martín is demonstrated when he justifies his actions: "Elena was a woman, and being a woman, she brought about her downfall and my own" (Zayas 156). Don Martín's machismo introduces a disturbing phenomenon, as it "universalizes" the violence against women and shows that there is a "deep seated hatred of women as women" (Boyer 15). The hopelessness of the story comes to fruition when the lying servant confesses her deception on her deathbed. The confession comes too late; Elena dies before don Martín can verbalize his forgiveness. The story dramatically presents "the destructive impact of phallocentrism and its cult of masculine honor on innocent women's lives/bodies" (Boyer 9). To intensify the injustice of this tale, don Martín is never held responsible for Elena's death. Instead, don Martín, for lack of a female subject to direct his ruinous tendencies, becomes self-destructive and goes insane.

It is clear that the dangers facing women in the patriarchal love system go beyond those of physical abuse and torture. As seen in "Too Late Undeceived," there is also the danger of being silenced. While Zayas gives women the opportunity to voice themselves through storytelling, Elena-like most of the females in the cursory stories-dies before she has the opportunity to defend herself and, more importantly, before she can relate and purge the damaging emotional and mental effects of her torture. Zayas depicts a romantic world that stifles women's voices. Silencing leads to physical violence and signifies the intense danger of involvement in the patriarchal love system.

In The Disenchantments-as in real life involvement with courtly love-women who are victimized are so disenchanted or so unlucky that they die. The rare few who do not perish deploy their experiential wisdom in their stories and, in most cases, escape to a convent. Inés, a pious married woman from Zayas's tale," "Innocence Punished," represents the latter outcome. Don Diego, the epitome of insatiable male desire, lusts for Inés even though she is married to don Alonso. This predicament shows that even married women are not safe from the dangers of unattached men. In an effort to possess her, don Alonso enlists the help of a Moorish magician who crafts a magical candle resembling Inés's nude body. Every time don Alonso lights the candle, "Inés comes to him and does his will" (Boyer 10). Thus, the possessed Inés flits "down the street [to don Alonso's abode] in her nightgown" (Boyer 10). Despite the fact that her innocence is eventually proven by the Mayor, her family decides to confine her to "a tiny chimney hole for more than six years" (Boyer 10). The conditions are brutal and the walls are "enslimed with all of her body wastes," the description of which acts as an "emblem of the effects of patriarchy upon the female body" (Boyer 10). Inés is eventually rescued, enters a convent, and regains her beauty. Unlike the other "disenchantments," Inés's tormenters are eventually brought to justice, but similar to the other female victims in Zayas's stories, Inés bears the unmistakable scars of inhumane masculine treatment: her years of dark confinement render her permanently blind.

While the women in The Disenchantments suffer greatly, Zayas portrays the cycle of danger as formulaic, to inform readers of its consequences:

A man of ungoverned appetites desires a woman at all costs, often despite some element of the forbidden . . . The man succeeds in possessing her body through trickery, which unleashes the fury of her protector-husband, father, brother. The protector makes the innocent woman pay for the man's crime while the offending man usually gets off with impunity. (Boyer 11)

The elements of physical danger are explicitly exposed and exaggerated to intensify their imposition on and influence over the reader. Love is dangerous to women. Most females die from their involvement in the patriarchal love system and those who do not harness the wisdom to cloister themselves. It is as if Zayas were advising her readers to avoid the torture, as it is inevitable when involved in the system of courtly love, and to skip straight to the refuge of the nunnery.

This notion of bodily danger is also illustrated in Margaret Lucas Cavendish's work, The Convent of Pleasure. The protagonist, Lady Happy, has chosen the convent over the evils of the outside world. Lady Happy also remakes the traditional notion of the convent and tailors it to her needs and desires. In other words, Lady happy creates her haven. Although she has not endured the explicit physical harm that Zayas's females undergo, she is well aware of the looming danger that surrounds matters of the heart: "Men . . . make the Female sex their slaves; but I will not be so enslaved . . . [I] will live retired from their company" (Cavendish 101). Lady Happy discreetly, but effectively, alludes to the perils of the patriarchal love system. Since "Marry&'d life" is a curse and imposes "crosses and sorrows," Lady Happy rejects an "uneasie life," by avoiding the danger that assails a lovelorn female (Zayas 99).

Allusions to physical female victimization are also found in Madame Lafayette's depiction of hopeless love, The Princess of Clèves. The Princess of Clèves has grown up under the advisement of her mother, Madame de Chartres. Madame de Chartres was experienced and "often pictured love for her daughter . . . in order to give her a better understanding of its perils" (Lafayette 8). She warns her that "love always mingled with politics . . . rivalry, and envy" (Lafayette 10-11) in an effort to prevent her kin from violation by such associations. "You are at a precipice," counsels Madame de Chartres, "a great effort, a violent struggle, alone can save you" (Lafayette 28). This statement foreshadows the corporeal desecration that threatens women and sullies the patriarchal love system.

Despite the mother's best motives, the Princess of Clèves (the once impressionable Mademoiselle de Chartres) spends the duration of the novel falling prey to all of the forewarned perils of love. Her downward spiral represents the futility of fighting the patriarchal love system. Once one is involved, there is no restraint or virtue strong enough to thwart looming danger. The only way to avoid such danger is to "withdraw from the court"-the forum for dangerous love (Lafayette 28). In a prophetic statement, Madame de Chartres professes against the love system as practiced in the royal court: "If you judge from appearances . . . you will often be mistaken; what appears is seldom the truth" (Lafayette 19). This motherly testament sheds light on the dangers of courtly love, and also illuminates a second danger posed by the patriarchal love system: danger of women to self and others.

On her deathbed, Madame de Chartres takes on a suspicious tone that undermines the honorability of her intentions. She explains the intricacies and pitfalls of love so that "its danger can be assessed and avoided" (Kamuf 212), but ironically implants a dangerous yearning in her daughter: a thirst for the wisdom that comes from romantic experience. Moreover, the mother's explanation sparks the daughter's lust for autonomy which then catalyzes a dangerous "gulf between mother and daughter" (Kamuf 218). Once the mother realizes that her daughter is no longer heeding her advice, she too becomes a poisonous force in the Princess of Clèves's life. On her deathbed, Madame de Chartres channels the pain that she feels over being ignored into attributing her unhappiness in the afterlife to her daughter's prophesized carelessness: "If anything is capable of destroying the happiness I hope for in another world, it would be seeing you fall like other women" (Lafayette 28). After this encounter, Madame de Chartres refuses to see her daughter, thus proving that seemingly allied females-even mothers-can be turned wickedly adversarial in the patriarchal love system.

Madame de Chartres becomes dangerous by resenting her daughter's newfound autonomy and by allowing bitterness to color her advice. In turn, her daughter becomes dangerous to herself, thus showing that no one is immune to the victimization of love. In other words, whereas one sector of women becomes true victims-brutalized by physical and emotional abuse-others are manipulated into being pawns of the patriarchal system. Women who are not physically victimized are manipulated and possessed by the system to victimize other innocent women with words or deeds, as Madame de Chartres displays when she misleads and repudiates her daughter. And, if a woman is not brutalized by a man or used as a destructive vehicle to other women, she often poses a threat to herself, as is the result in The Princess of Clèves. The Princess of Clèves's immersion in the patriarchal love system causes her to become consumed by the confusion of her fractured marriage and mental infidelity. Love makes her ill. In turn, those around her are overcome with illness as well. Monsieur Clèves dies from his jealousy. Madame de Chartres dies, most likely, because she cannot bear the pain of being ignored by her daughter. The Duke de Nemours, the Princess of Clèves's most persistent admirer, does not die, but suffers deep wounds when she will not accept his admiration. Lastly, Madame de Clèves falls prey to the desperation and hopelessness of the system and retreats to the convent. To put it simply: nobody wins, everyone suffers.

Zayas's Disenchantments also clearly plays out the endangerment of self and others. The flaws of the archetypal male characters are "further exemplified in their complicity with the 'other&' woman" (Boyer 9). Zayas's tales perfectly demonstrate the demonized characteristics that women take on when engrossed in the patriarchal love system. As stated above, if a woman is not the recipient of victimization, she becomes a victimizer of her female peers. This deceptive servant in the aforementioned tale, "Too Late Undeceived," ideally portrays this irony. On her deathbed, the accusing girl confesses that she was romantically rejected by Elena's cousin: "As I saw him always talking with my mistress I thought up the idea of accusing them of being lovers. . . . I lied to you so you&'d avenge me as you did" (Zayas 160). The servant girl's bitter experience with unrequited love corrupts her and makes her act wickedly. Her deception and lies cost the lives of innocent people. Instead of becoming a casualty, she becomes an instrument of the patriarchal love system; she is victimized into becoming the victimizer.

These transformed women saturate The Disenchantments. Their presence warns against the trustworthiness of anyone involved in the system of patriarchal love. In the case of the beautiful Inés, her husband, brother, and sister-in-law conspire to punish her severely. Again, we witness a woman perpetuating and facilitating the unjust torture of women. This formula of two men and one token woman engaging in the horrific torture of another female reoccurs persistently in The Disenchantments. The only female companion who can be trusted and never deludes is the Blessed Virgin: Beatriz's protectress in "Triumph Over Persecution." While women afflicted by the patriarchal love system deceive and victimize one another and themselves, the Virgin Mary-the symbolic embodiment of the convent-liberates women from the wrath of the patriarchal love system. This literary symbolism elucidates the only path to safety.

The convent is presented in all texts as the single space immune to the dangers of courtly love. Cavendish's The Convent of Pleasure pays great tribute to the sanctity of the convent. Lady Happy, creator and prioress of her own convent, and armed with her knowledge of the toxicity of the patriarchal love system, asks: "what is there in the publick World that should invite me to live in it?" (Cavendish 98). As she intends to be "retired from the World," Lady Happy creates a space where she can live "with all the delights and pleasures that are allowable and lawful" (Cavendish 100-101). It is a place of freedom and personally dictated liberty. The only time that her convent is prone to the dangers of the outside world is when amorous men masquerade as women in an effort to penetrate and possess this authentically female refuge. Therefore, the convent that is the depository for so many scorned and victimized females in The Convent of Pleasure, The Disenchantments, and The Princess of Clevès does have its weaknesses and is penetrable.

While women are endangered in the patriarchal love system, once cloistered, they are seen as dangerous to the patriarchy. Naturally, the autonomy exerted by a cloistered female upsets the dynamic of male dominion over the female sex. This shift of power is manifested in men's reactions to Lady Happy's decision to enter the convent. "Whether it was the devil or the gods that perswaded her to it, I cannot tell; but gone she is," states an agitated court of men who plot to remove Lady Happy from her seemingly secure convent and place her back under the yoke of patriarchy (Cavendish 103). They view her dissociation from the system as so "unnatural and dangerous" that her "enclosure threatens the commonwealth" (Bowerbank & Mendelson 17). It is interesting that women who reject the system are met with the same dangers that assail women even when out of the system: "Her [Lady Happy's] Heretical Opinions ought not to be suffer&'d, nor her Doctrine allow&'d; and she ought to be examined by a Masculine Synod, and punish&'d with a severe Husband, or tortured with a deboist Husband" (Cavendish 104). Is there no escaping the perils of the patriarchal love system? Lady Happy's Convent of Pleasure is penetrated by men who threaten that they will "have her against her will" (Cavendish 116)-a statement that attempts to reintroduce misogyny into the sacred female space of the convent.

Zayas's Disenchantments of Love also address the masculine desire to infiltrate and terrorize the supposed safe haven of the convent. In the introduction to the disenchantment" "Triumph Over Persecution," Estefanía explains that "the deceptions of nuns are sought after precisely because of their impossibility . . . the more men think about them and covet them, the more entangled they get" (Zayas 310). Again, Zayas's storytellers unmask the illusory nature of men and the insatiable masculine appetite for the victimization of women. Does this insinuate that cloistered women are just as vulnerable as those engaged in the toxic love system of the seventeenth-century?

Men's resentment of cloistered females is rooted in the "fear that women may surpass them at everything. . . . Men enjoy all of the powers [over women] . . . and they fear that women will take some of their power away" (Zayas 140). In essence, cloistered women do take a power away from men: the power to victimize them. This acquisition of power and display of autonomy is viewed as extremely dangerous to the patriarchy, but is essential, as it safeguards women from the perils of the patriarchal love system.

Just as a woman of resolute virtue alone cannot combat the patriarchal love system, a woman who is simply cloistered is not completely immune to the danger presented by the patriarchy unless she is resolute in her rejection of the system. In "Triumph Over Persecution," Beatriz-the archetypal female victim-requires more than just her protectress's rescuing. Beatriz, like all women who want to thwart the dangers of the patriarchy, must also have "sanctity, purity, and all other virtues" (Zayas 356-357). Women who are so easily dissuaded from the convent, as is Lady Happy in The Convent of Pleasure, do not concretely employ their previous knowledge of the deceptive male sex and do not have particularly tragic experiences to vilify relations with the male sex. Perhaps the imminent danger of love must actually be experienced in order for the convent to be validated as a refuge. The Princess of Clèves, Inés, and Beatriz all experience and survive the system's perils before joining the convent. Consequently and analogously, Zayas, Lafayette, Navarre, and even Cavendish conceivably make their stories so horrifically palpable in order to endorse a vicarious reformation of their female audience. The Disenchantments wield enough power to sober even the inexperienced Lisis, the main female protagonist of the Disenchantments&' frame story, thus exemplifying the sufficiency of wisdom acquired by vicarious experience. After hearing and, more importantly, learning from the powerful tales, she concludes that "to love without seeing seems frivolity" (Zayas 365) and that the "disenchantments" have given her unparalleled foresight. Lisis wields the experiential potency of the tales and professes her new-found stance in a sonnet: "My love reflects a portion of my soul / And fleeing from the inconsistency of the eye / It has sought to be the eternal ear" (366).

Rescue from love by vicarious experience is enough to deter some women from involvement with the patriarchal love system, which satisfies the agenda of our "Tenth Muses." "We have no worse enemy than men," exclaims Lisis, who ascertains that it's more pleasant to learn from literary example than "from her own misfortune" (Zayas 405). Imbued with the wisdom of The Disenchantments, Lisis rejects her impending marriage, as well as the entire patriarchal love system, and contentedly retreats to a convent. "This end is not tragic but rather the happiest one you can imagine, for although courted and desired by many, she did not subject herself to anyone" (Zayas 405, emphasis added). Taking into account all of the experienced, traumatized women who enter a nunnery and there live harmoniously, it seems that the convent prevails as the most effective means of protection from the dangers of the patriarchy.

Love is dangerous. Love makes men dangerous to women and women even more lethal to themselves and to each other. As substantiated in María de Zayas's The Disenchantments of Love, Margaret Lucas Cavendish's The Convent of Pleasure, Madame Lafayette's The Princess of Clèves, and the earlier insight of Marguerite de Navarre's The Heptameron, courtly love injures all participants. Women and men alike perish and suffer; however, only women experience such calculated, inflicted misery. At times, these vividly evocative texts seem to lead readers to believe that there is no salvation for innocent women of good virtue and strong will. But just as the Holy Virgin rescues Beatriz from the ruthless hands of misogynistic torture, women steadfast in their desire to flee from the patriarchal love system can seek the same successful refuge in the convent. When led by these seventeenth-century literary examples, women can become agents of their own destiny. The convent is not only an actual space of female refuge in these works, but also acts as a metaphor for women's self-determination. While most Protestant countries had outlawed such religious houses by the seventeenth-century, the convent remained a potent literary ideal, a powerful symbol of women's authentic place. As stated by Lady Happy's trusted Mediator in The Convent of Pleasure: it is "with admiration and wonder that one may be so wise" (Cavendish 105) as to dissociate herself from the patriarchal love system. "None in this world could be happier" (Cavendish 106). These sixteenth- and seventeenth-century works serve to teach female readers that even in the midst of incredible peril, such happiness and security is within reach.

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