Mariana Starke

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The Widow of Malabar: A Digital Edition


Mariana Starke’s The Widow of Malabar (1791) is a tragedy set on India’s Malabar Coast. The play depicts a widow reluctantly preparing to commit sati (the practice of a widow immolating herself on her husband’s funeral pyre). She becomes the point of contention in a conflict between a Hindu Brahmin and her former lover, the general leading an invading British force. Throughout the play, the Brahmins are portrayed as vicious barbarians, the British as noble harbingers of a more civilized way of life. The Widow of Malabar thus provides a valuable look into British views of India (and of its own empire) at a key moment in British imperial history, as it began to shift away from a laissez-faire approach to imperial expansion to a more assertive approach, justified under a pretense of “civilizing” the world. To date, no modern edition of the play suited to undergraduate use has been published. To make the play more widely available, the instructor and students of a course on early British imperial literature at Lindenwood University worked together to create this edition. It includes an introduction with details about Mariana Starke, eighteenth-century Britain-India relations, and European perceptions of the practice of sati. A textual note explains the changes made to the play’s text to render it more accessible to undergraduate students. Footnotes throughout the document draw upon the Oxford English Dictionary and other sources to define words and clarify obscure lines and references.

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This text was edited by the students and instructor of Fall 2022 Lindenwood University course, ENGL 35703 "Topics in British Literature: The Rise of the British Empire": Ashleigh Beckring, Geremy Carnes, Eleanor Christie, Cayley DuBray, Alison Fetter, Katie Gerhardt, Max Hoffman, William Hultz, Elizabeth Jones, Emma Leach, Nicholas Mana, Justin Ortiz, Amanda Sciandra, Brenden Stock, and Trisha Tamblyn.



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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License