Chastity, said one of the early feminists more than a decade ago, is the only sexual perversion. Neither Shakespeare nor any of his contemporaries would have agreed with her. To the Elizabethans, according to Nancy Cotton Pearse, "Chastity … [was] a woman's only honor" (56). And whereas "In the Middle Ages lechery ran a poor and rather venial seventh in the lists of deadly sins," during the Elizabethan period it was second or third after pride." The extreme opposition of chastity and lechery in Elizabethan theory was an outgrowth … of the vigorous idealization of marriage" (59).



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