'Looke in the place where he was wont to sit / See see his blood it is too manifest': Domestic Space and Patriarchal Authority in The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham (1592)

Iman Sheeha


Drawing on early modern theorisation on the domestic, I argue in this paper that the identity of the household master is performed through the space of the household in the anonymous domestic tragedy, The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham, reinforcing patriarchy at a time when it was experiencing a crisis. The space of the household, thought by contemporary commentators on the domestic to be presided over by the figure of the household master, is what reveals Master Arden’s murder to inspectors — the floor of the house to which the master’s blood sticks stubbornly, despite the household mistress’s, her maid’s and lover’s frantic attempts to clean it, announces the murder and frustrates the accomplices’ attempts to conceal it. Organically fused with the master’s body, the floor of the house acts as the master’s tongue in this play, revealing truths the man can no longer speak. Throughout the play, the household is fused with its master’s identity. It is not only the space in which he performs his authority. It is also the space whose violation echoes the violation of the master’s conventional exclusive ownership of his wife’s body. In the play, violation of the space of the household by Mosby, Mistress Arden’s lover, foreshadows his violation of the marital bond and, more importantly, tropes the violation of the master’s body literalised in the thrust he delivers to Arden in the murder scene. The identity of master Arden is closely linked to his household —violation of one predicts that of the other, and it is the house that has the final word.


Early modern drama; domestic tragedy; Arden of Faversham; early modern gender

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