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Contrary Marys in Medieval English and French Drama

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Although the medieval church encouraged women to emulate the Virgin Mary, images of Mary in late medieval religious drama make such emulation problematic. This study examines two seemingly contradictory depictions of Mary found in English cycle dramas and French Passion plays, and demonstrates how both can restrict women. In the English plays, Mary's near divinity is impossible to imitate, while the French plays depict a weak woman, one hardly worth emulating. This study shows that opposing views of Mary can reinforce identical social and religious ideas about women and serve to preserve patriarchal power.