Procula’s Civic Body and Pilate’s Masculinity Crisis in the York Cycle’s ‘Christ Before Pilate 1: The Dream of Pilate’s Wife’

Kimberly Fonzo

Abstract


This essay argues that in the York cycle, Procula functions as a feminine foil against which her husband, Pilate, can model supposedly masculine traits. Positing that traditional exegetical revisions of Procula’s dream were always a means of dis- crediting feminine spirituality, this essay contends that the York cycle’s further revisions of its source material construct a triangulation in which an ambivalently gendered Pilate must choose between the feminine influence of his wife and the masculine influence of his beadle. It asserts that the masculine identity Pilate ultimately embraces consists of spiritual scepticism and legal obedience. Noting iconographic similarities between Procula and the Whore of Babylon, whom the religious art of York likewise depicts as an embodiment of sinful civic conduct, the essay concludes that the play presents Procula as a feminine identity to be rejected not only by Pilate but also by the civic body of York itself.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12745/et.16.2.2


Kimberly Fonzo
University of Texas at San Antonio