Point, counterpoint, needlepoint: the tapestry in Margaret Cavendish’s The Unnatural Tragedy

HOPKINS, Lisa (2013). Point, counterpoint, needlepoint: the tapestry in Margaret Cavendish’s The Unnatural Tragedy. Women’s Writing, 20 (4), 555-566.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.1080/09699082.2013.786884


This essay explores the mention of a set of wall-hangings showing the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in Margaret Cavendish’s play The Unnatural Tragedy. It relates this to the prominence of actual tapestries and other hangings in the Cavendish family houses, following a tradition established by Bess of Hardwick. Cavendish herself had no interest in needlework, and tapestries in particular might have been a difficult topic for her because she associates them with pregnancy and childhood, matters on which she was sensitive because she was childless and aware that Newcastle had married her partly because he desired more sons. In The Unnatural Tragedy, however, these associations are put to good use by providing thematic echoes of both the play’s main plot and subplot and also of Cavendish’s own situation. Probably alluding to a set of tapestries in the royal collection, the Hagar panel speaks of the continuity of the royal line and by implication tropes dynastic continuity more generally, and thus forms an interface between the private space of the house and the public space of the world outside, underlining the extent to which this is a play with a public resonance as well as a purely private one.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: 27 Mar 2013.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Humanities Research Centre
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1080/09699082.2013.786884
Page Range: 555-566
Depositing User: Lisa Hopkins
Date Deposited: 21 May 2015 15:58
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 15:52
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/9770

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