Research Stream


Diana Barnes
The University of New England

Andrew Lynch
The University of Western Australia

Stephanie Downes
The University of Melbourne

Katrina O'Loughlin
The University of Western Australia

Bellicose Passions in Margaret Cavendish’s Plays (1662)

This project explores Margaret Cavendish's plays that centre on England's civil war history. Written in the 1650s, these plays explore women's involvement in the conventionally masculine theatre of war in a time of national upheaval.

Bellicose Passions in Margaret Cavendish’s Plays (1662)

Image: Margaret Cavendish, Plays (1662). Photo by Renate Mesmer, Folger Shakespeare Library N867. 

In the early years of the Restoration Margaret Cavendish published a volume of plays that looked back on England’s recent history of civil war.  They were probably written during the 1650s while she was living in exile on the Continent with her Royalist husband, the retired Army Commander, William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle.  As English theatres were at the outbreak of war in 1642 and not reopened until after the Restoration in 1660, these plays were written (in the first instance) to be read in company rather than performed on stage.  The dramatic form invokes the conditions of the theatres under the Puritans.  The plots concern women’s involvement in the conventionally masculine theatre of war.  Much of Bell in Campo, for example, concerns a women’s army formed to support the ‘masculine’ army.  It also interrogates women’s management of grief through contrasting portraits of bereaved wives.  Women fight in wars, and make heroic orations to rally the troops in Loves Adventures.  These representations were supported by women’s active participation in the civil war rallying troops, bearing arms, defending family property, managing estates, raising funds for munitions, collecting and circulating information, and exacting loyalties from friends and kin.  When the Victoria, the army commander in Bell in Campo, complains that women’s heroic contribution to war is unacknowledged, Cavendish alludes to the experience of war and to its elision at the Restoration.  This is an inquiry into the gendering of war, and the emotive uses to which its history has been put.


Epistolary Community in Print, 1580-1664. Ashgate 2013.
In Press 'Tenderness, Tittle-tattle and Truth in Mother-daughter Letters: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Wortley Montagu Stuart, Countess of Bute, and Lady Louisa Stuart'. Women’s History Review, special issue edited by Professor Barbara Caine.

Barnes, D. G. ‘Remembering Civil War in Andrew Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House”’. In Emotions and War: Medieval to Romantic Literature, edited by S. Downes, A. Lynch and K. O’Loughlin, pp. 185–202. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Barnes, D. G. 'The Public Life of a Woman of Wit and Quality: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Vogue for Smallpox Inoculation'. Feminist Studies 38.2 (2012):330-62.

Barnes, D. G. 'Gender, Genre and Canonicity: Dorothy Osborne’s Letters to Sir William Temple'.  In Expanding the Canon of Early Modern Women, edited by Paul Salzman, pp. 49-65. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010.

Barnes, D. G. 'Philosophy in Familiar Epistolary Form in Margaret Cavendish’s Philosophical Letters (1664)'.  In 'Friendship in Early Modern Philosophy and Science', special issue, Parergon 26.2 (2009): 39-64.

Under Review
Barnes, D. G. 'A Subject for Love'.  In Affecting Authority, edited by Susan Broomhall, volume with Palgrave.

Barnes, D. G. 'Emotional Debris in Early Modern Letters'.  In Feeling Things, edited by Stephanie Downes and Sarah Randles with Oxford University Press History of Emotions series.