Bassil, Veronica. “The Faces of Griselda: Chaucer, Prior, and Richardson.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 26, no. 2, 1984, pp. 157–82, https://www.jstor.org/stable/40754751.
Bassil traces a thematic development of the “Griselda Theme” from Chaucer to Matthew Prior and finally to Richardson. Bassil sees Prior’s poem “Henry and Emma” (1709) as a “missing link” in the development of the “Griselda theme” between Chaucer’s Clerk’s Tale (1393-1400) and Richardson’s Clarissa (1747-1759). Traditionally, the Griselda narrative recounts the “rigorous testing which a virtuous maiden undergoes at the hands of a harsh and deceitful husband or suitor” (157). Each subsequent phase of the Griselda theme more deeply explores the psychological and sexual aspects of the story. Richardson’s Clarissa represents the fullest treatment of this phase, not only as a more detailed psychological account of the virtuous maiden and the wicked suitor, but as a more poignant and extreme depiction of feminine virtue. Bassil specifically notes that Richardson’s insistence not to end the story with a marriage indicates his refusal to trivialize Clarissa’s suffering. In order for her virtue to be pure, she must retain her chastity as well. Contrary to Chaucer’s and Prior’s versions, Clarissa does not conclude with by restoring her to her suitor but with her posthumous restoration to her family.
Thompson, Peggy. “Abuse and Atonement: The Passion of Clarissa Harlowe.” Passion and Virtue: Essays on the Novel of Samuel Richardson, edited by David Blewett, University of Toronto, 2001, pp. 152–69.
Thompson begins by summarizing the critical history surrounding the narrative of relentless suffering in Richardson’s portrayal of Clarissa–specifically its scientific, Sadean, iconographic, and biblical contexts. Her essay, however, focuses on Clarissa as a “Christ-figure,” the inspiration for which can be traced to some of the more popular sermons preached during the eighteenth-century. Clarissa’s Christ-like passion can be interpreted within three different theological categories of atonement: Christus Victor, Substitutionary Atonement, and the Pietist Movement. All three categories have roots in early church and medieval theology. As “Christus Victor,” Thompson notes several places in the text where many of the characters–including Lovelace–recognize that her suffering and death are ultimately triumphant; as “substitution,” Clarissa offers herself as an appeasement to her father’s demands, who Thompson argues is comparable to Anselm’s depiction of God; and as a “Pietist,” Thompson observes the ways in which characters such as Lovelace recognize their own salvation by means of Clarissa’s Christ-like example. Thompson concludes that the analogy between Clarissa and Christ ultimately raises more questions than it answers. Nevertheless, it is the kind of theme Richardson himself had at the forefront of his mind given the popularity of some of the eighteenth-century sermons and his own religious commitments.