The Unfortunate Florinda

The First Part

pp. 220-1. “Castabella, having received this command [into] her care, was next to find out her disconsolate brother, which opportunity fortune very happily gave. For, looking out of a balcony in her lodging, she espied this malcontented lover walking (just like the picture in the frontispiece of Democritus Junior), with his hat over his eyes, as if no object was worthy of his view but his admired Florinda.”


Robert Burton (1577-1640) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

BurtonFrontispiecedetail“Democritus Junior” is the satirical persona of Robert Burton in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). Augmenting the third edition of the work (1628) was a detailed frontispiece by Christian Le Blon featuring the “author” and various images related to the text’s representation of melancholy. Among the figures represented on Le Blon’s engraving is the lovelorn “Inamorato,” the “malecontented Lover” referenced by Pulter. The key affixed to Anatomy’s 1632 edition provides a description of the figure: “Inamorato with folded hand; / Down hangs his head, terse and polite,/ Some dittie sure he doth indite….” See William R. Mueller, “Robert Burton’s Frontispiece,” PMLA 64.5 (Dec. 1949): 1074-1088.

Rachel Dunn


The Second Part

p. 270. “So that now the king found it as difficult to still her complaints as before to persuade her, till the devil or his own cursed nature ([th]e worse devil [of] the two) prompting him, he said, “my dear Florinda, I have so much affection for thee that if thou wilt but conceal this violent expression of my love I will perform more than at first I did promise. But if you still refuse my love, I will immediately fetch up the most deformed Negro slave in my blackguard and make him deflower you and then run my sword through you both [a]nd then [ca]ll up the [k]ing and [q]ueen, who [ca]nnot but [ap]plaud my [ju]stice. So shall you die in horrid infamy.””


Layered onto the main plot of The Unfortunate Florinda are clear references to the rape of Lucretia, perhaps most famously recounted in Livy’s History of Rome, Bk. 1, LVIII-LIX. According to Livy, Lucretia ceases her resistance when Sextus Tarquinius threatens her with death and posthumous shame; the incident precipitates the expulsion of the tyrannical Tarquin regime, catalyzing the creation of the Roman Republic.

Pulter’s clear reliance upon this story—also referenced in Pulter’s poem, “Of a Young Lady at Oxford, 1646” (ll. 6-7) —is evidenced in Roderigo’s threat: The black slave he threatens to call is absent from the account of Florinda’s rape in Pulter’s main source, Sir Walter Raleigh’s Life and Death of Mahomet (1637). Contemporary representations of Lucretia, however, commonly include the figure, as seen in Tarquin and Lucretia by Artemisia Gentileschi (1640s; Neues Palais, Potsdam). The Italian painter (a rape victim herself) had lived in London while her father was a favorite painter at the Caroline court from 1626-1639. See Judith W. Mann, Artemisia Gentileschi: Taking Stock (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2005), plate 6; Gabriele Finaldi, ed., Orazio Gentileschi at the Court of Charles I (London: National Gallery, 1999), 25-7.

Rachel Dunn