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The Weeping Woman of the Psalms: Mary Magdalene and the 'Angell spirit' of the Sidney Psalter
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This thesis consists of an essay which examines the psalm translations by Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke. Recent scholarship has examined Mary Sidney Herbert’s treatment of grief in her psalms, as well as her role as Sir Philip Sidney’s literary executor and heir. Working at the intersection of this scholarship, this paper considers Herbert’s translations and editorial decisions in her psalter (called the Sidney Psalter), as well as Sidney’s printed works, in the context of the period’s shift in attitudes about grief. With the emergence of a diminished level of anxiety surrounding female complaint and weeping, the prominent female figure of the Magdalene began to take precedence in early modern print culture, evidenced by a prolific output of work which takes the weeping Magdalene as its subject. Herbert herself is featured in such works by the poet Nicholas Breton. Compared to the Magdalene by these contemporaries, the possibility that the Magdalene may be legible in Herbert’s editorial project needs to be considered. In that context, this paper examines Herbert’s dedicatory poems and translations of psalms 69, 88, 102, and 130, comparing her adaptations to vernacular psalm translations, as well as Mary Magdalene poetry. I argue that in these psalms, Herbert’s poetic and metrical devices heighten the lamentory tone of the psalmist. In these moments, the Magdalene weeping tradition is legible according to contemporary Magdalene depictions. I then consider the potential role that the Magdalene plays in Herbert’s larger aims in promoting a thriving, vernacular literary project as part of the Sidney legacy.
SubjectMary Sidney Herbert
The Countess of Pembroke
Sir Philip Sidney
Campbell, Shawna Michelle (2019). The Weeping Woman of the Psalms: Mary Magdalene and the 'Angell spirit' of the Sidney Psalter. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from