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Keywords:

  • domestic violence;
  • fatherly violence;
  • patriarchal violence;
  • servants' resistance;
  • wives' passivity

This essay explores the significant roles played by non-relatives who function as mother-surrogates to endangered children. The essay introduces the non-relatives, including servants, who intervene on behalf of passive mothers to confront violent masters/ fathers. The essay challenges the Renaissance dichotomy between loving biological parent and dangerous non-biological parent by taking up various literary examples of violent fathers, passive mothers, and active non-relatives who serve as the only protector/ guardian of the child in danger. The essay also points out the Renaissance addition of the active servant as a way to show a changing social environment. The resistance on the part of non-relatives is a Renaissance addition to the medieval representations of famous stories of patient Griselda: Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Chaucer, focusing on the silent mother who easily succumbs to her husband's child murder, do not provide any equivalent to the Renaissance creation of non-relatives as an active guardian of the child in danger. By focusing on the need for non-biological parents who provide safety to children from their biological parents' violence, this essay explains why surrogate parents emerge as a necessity in Renaissance England and why tyrannous patriarchal violence is legitimately resisted.