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image of Journal of Early Modern History

Early modern tales of seduction and abandonment, and of legal proceedings to redress the moral and social balance, are not that rare. But this case, with its pathos and wry twists, is rich and interesting, both for the abundant detail, and for the picture it offers of female agency; both the girl and her governess are active players in the courtship and the marriage negotiations. The tale also illustrates uses of literacy, central to both the seduction and the legal prosecution, where the suitor's home-grown poetry, in the girl's mouth, helps crack his resistance to a match. The paper argues that a reading through Bourdieu's notion of "sense of play" helps explicate the blend of impulse and calculation that led the players through the several intrigues: the seduction, the marriage negotiations, the shambling betrayal, the court-brokered settlement. The essay contends that, when, as here, fields of play join awkwardly, ironies and odd twists abound. Such circumstances invite microhistories such as this, that explore the boundaries of routine behavior and the stresses that arise when scripts and roles collide.


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