Episode 21: The Convent of Pleasure

We’re back after a long, foolish, unplanned hiatus. Did you miss us? We missed you! To celebrate our return, we’re reading the delightful Covent of Pleasure by restoration playwright Margaret Cavendish. This play is notable for being the shortest play we’ve ever discussed on the podcast, and also the latest (published 1668). It’s also only our second-ever episode discussing a play with a woman author (check back in the feed to hear our episode about Elizabeth Carey‘s The Tragedy of Mariam). We both loved this one, and highly recommend that you give it a read.

maggie cavendish
Maggie Cavendish, throwing shade at marriage

Talking Points:

  • Perils of being an early modern woman.
  • Concepts of female freedom and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Competing ideas about nature
  • Is this play the Early Modern Vagina Monologues?
  • Obviously we talk about Wonder Woman.
  • The Poem “A Married State” by Katherine Phillips (full text below)
  • This article by Theodora Jankowski: “Pure Resistance: Queer(y)ing Virginity in William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Margaret Cavendish’s The Convent of Pleasure” Shakespeare Studies 26 (1998): 218-56

Stayed tuned to the end of the episode, where we weight on the controversy about Julius Caesar and Donald Trump. 


“A Married State” by Katherine Phillips

A married state affords but little ease:
The best of husbands are so hard to please
This in wifes Carefull faces you may spell,
Tho they desemble their misfortunes well
A virgin state is crown’d with much content,
It’s allways happy as it’s inocent
No Blustering husbands to create your fears,
No pangs of child birth to extort your tears,
No children’s crys for to offend your ears,
Few worldly crosses to distract your prayers
Thus are you freed from all the cares that do
Attend on matrymony and a husband too.
Therefore, madam, be advised by me:
Turn, turn apostate to love’s Levity.
Supress wild nature if she dare rebell,
There’s no such thing as leading Apes in hell.


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