Marriage and Land Law in Shakespeare and Middleton
Fairleigh Dickinson Univeristy Press, Madison, 2014, 278 pp.
Marriage and Land Law in Shakespeare and Middleton examines the dynamics of early modern marriage-making, a time-honored practice that was evolving, often surreptitiously, from patriarchal control based on money and inheritance, to a companionate union in which love and the couple's own agency played a role. Among early modern playwrights, the marriage plays of Shakespeare and Middleton are particularly, though not uniquely, concerned with this evolution, observing the movement towards spousal choice determined by the couple themselves. Through the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period, the role of the patriarch, though often compromised, remained intact: the father or guardian negotiated the financial terms. And, in a culture that was still tied to feudal practices, land law held a primary place in the bargain. This book, while following the arc of changing marriage practices, focuses on the ways in which the oldest determination of status, land, affects marital decisions. Land is not a constant topic of conversation in the twenty-one theatrical marriages scrutinized here, but it is a persistent and omnipresent truth of family and economic life. In paired discussions of marriage plays by Shakespeare and Middleton -The Taming of the Shrew/A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, All's Well That Ends Well/A Trick To Catch the Old One, Measure for Measure/A Mad World, My Masters, The Merchant of Venice/The Roaring Girl, and Much Ado About Nothing/No Wit, No Help Like A Woman's- this book explores the attempts, maneuvers, intrigues, ruses, and schemes that marriageable characters deploy in order to control spousal choice and secure land. Special attention is given to patriarchal figures whose poor judgment exploits inheritance law weaknesses and to the lack of legal protection and hence the vulnerability of women-and men-who engage the system in unconventional ways. Investigation into the milieu of early modern patriarchal influence in marriage-making and the laws governing inheritance practices enables a fresh reading of Shakespeare's and Middleton's marriage comedies.
Introduction: Patriarchal marriage, companionate marriage
Cap. 1: Thwarting the enterprising patriarch: The taming of the shrew and A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
Cap. 2: Absent patriarchs and present guardians: All's Well that ends well and A Trick to Catch the Old One
Cap. 3: Marriage against the grain of social order: Measure for measure and A Mad world, My masters
Cap. 4: Assertive women broker themselves: The merchant of Venice and The Roaring Girl
Cap. 5: Companionate marriage: Much ado about nothing and No wit, No Help Likke a Woman's
Nancy Bunker is associate professor of English at Middle Georgia State College.
Cambridge University Press, 2003, 276 pp.
This interdisciplinary study combines legal, historical and literary approaches to the practice and theory of marriage in Shakespeare's time. It uses the history of English law and the history of the contexts of law to study a wide range of Shakespeare's plays and poems. The authors approach the legal history of marriage as part of cultural history. The household was viewed as the basic unit of Elizabethan society, but many aspects of marriage were controversial, and the law relating to marriage was uncertain and confusing, leading to bitter disagreements over the proper modes for marriage choice and conduct. The authors point out numerous instances within Shakespeare's plays of the conflict over status, gender relations, property, religious belief and individual autonomy versus community control. By achieving a better understanding of these issues, the book illuminates both Shakespeare's work and his age.
1. Making a valid marriage: the consensual model
2. Arranging marriages
3. Wardship and marriages enforced by law
4. Financing a marriage: provision of dowries or marriage portions
5. The solemnisation of marriage
6. Clandestine marriage, elopement, abduction and rape: irregular marriage formation
7. The effects of marriage on legal status
8. Marriage breakdown: separation, divorce, illegitimacy
9. 'Til death us do part An afterword on method
B. J. Sokol. Goldsmiths, University of London
Mary Sokol. University College London