Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, English and Literary Arts

First Advisor

Eleanor McNees

Second Advisor

W. Scott Howard

Third Advisor

Sandra Dixon


Literature, Religion in literature


This thesis explores the ways in which Desdemona in William Shakespeare’s Othello (1603/4) and Pompilia in Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book (1868) exemplify female characters whose testimonies highlight their souls’ salvation and demonstrate that they ultimately transcend their domestic roles. This thesis engages historical scholars who discuss the tensions between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and the state in early modern and Victorian England, and literary scholars who focus on Desdemona and Pompilia as either submissive or possessing agency. This thesis includes the work of developmental psychologist, Carol Gilligan, to show how Desdemona and Pompilia emphasize care and community. This thesis concentrates on historical and religious backgrounds, with a focus on martyrdom, testimony, equivocation, hagiography, and femininity. Furthermore, it compares Desdemona’s and Pompilia’s speeches to those of their husbands through close readings of the primary texts. Desdemona’s and Pompilia’s adherence to spiritual salvation and relationship, as shown through their use of testimonial and martyrological rhetoric, ultimately reveals they have agency and power over their stories.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Martha Clare Brinkman


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

96 p.


English literature, Literature, Religion