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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Who Got to a Nunnery?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0128  Monday, 24 January 2005

From:           Todd Pettigrew <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 21 Jan 2005 08:54:09 -0400
Subject:        Who Got to a Nunnery?

Teaching Hamlet, I recently pointed out that nunneries are often
mentioned in Shakespeare as places for women who are imagined to be
unsuitable for marriage. Apart from Hamlet's famous remark to Ophelia,
of course, Friar Laurence offers to deposit Juliet with holy nuns;
likewise Hermia has to choose among Demetrius, death, and a nunnery and
so on.

But a question was then raised: how often did early modern women
actually get sent off to nunneries? Does this dramatic convention
correspond to any real practice? If so, how common was it? Though I'm
thinking of more than England, I must admit that I'm not entirely
certain how many such English institutions, if any, remained after Henry
VIII.

I would be grateful for any insights the learned group may have to offer.

Todd Pettigrew
UCCB

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