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"'Fashioned in the image of the devil': Murderess Maria Manning as 'The Lady Macbeth of the Bermondsey Stage'"
chapterposted on 21.12.2017, 00:00 authored by Nicole AnaeNicole Anae
In this chapter, Nicole Anae examines the social construction of the evil woman by centering on the so-called “Bermondsey Horror” committed by Maria Manning, who, along with her accomplice husband Frederick, was accused of the premeditated killing of Maria’s former lover Patrick O’Connor in 1849. The murder fascinated contemporaries, including Charles Dickens and sensation novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddon, both of whom used Manning as a prototype for literary constructs of the evil woman. One of the most potent narratives emerging in reports of the murder was one literally combining fact and fiction in constructing Maria Manning as the real-life incarnate of one of Shakespeare’s most formidable women: Lady Macbeth. Maria Manning’s representation in press accounts as “the Lady Macbeth of Bermondsey” makes possible a treatment of her personification as an evil woman that differs significantly from traditional accounts of nineteenth-century women and violence. Anae argues that the intense resentment in narrative accounts about Maria Manning rested on conceptualizing the two-fold nature of her crime: her societal transgressions against deeply entrenched codes of Victorian feminine subjectivity, and her domicile transgressions with respect to the laws of hospitality and implicit laws of feminine conduct traceable to the Elizabethan mores of Shakespeare’s age.