Verse epitaphs and the memorialisation of women in Reformation England

Hyde, Jenni (2016) Verse epitaphs and the memorialisation of women in Reformation England. Literature Compass, 13 (11). pp. 701-710. ISSN 1741-4113

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During the late twentieth century, scholars became interested in the ways in which early modern England adapted to the Reformation and how change was represented in popular culture. In the last fifteen years, there has been a particular focus on how Protestantism affected the relationship between the living and the dead. In 2000, for example, Ralph Houlbrooke’s study Death, Religion, and the Family in England, 1480-1750 identified a failure on the part of the post-Reformation church to replace old funerary customs with new, yet two years later in Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England, Peter Marshall argued persuasively that the Reformation engendered a ‘cultural transformation’ in the understanding of both death and the dead. By 2009, Scott Newstok’s Quoting Death in Early Modern England described a paradox in which a Protestant nation that scorned Catholic death rituals became engrossed in commemorating its own dead through poetic memorialisation. This article surveys 21st century historiographical debates in order to contextualise women’s verse epitaphs during the sixteenth century. In particular, it looks to the broadside literature that was the epitome of cheap print as a means of reflecting popular religious attitudes. It shows how several verse epitaphs of prominent women in Tudor society, such as William Elderton’s A proper new balad in praise of my ladie marques (1569), highlight issues of continuity and change in religious beliefs surrounding the memorialisation of pious women and the role of the supernatural.

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Journal Article
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Literature Compass
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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Hyde, J. (2016) Verse Epitaphs and the Memorialisation of Women in Reformation England. Literature Compass, 13: 701–710. doi: 10.1111/lic3.12336 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
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16 Mar 2016 09:06
Last Modified:
11 Sep 2023 17:47