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  1. While writers in every era have laid down rules for matrimony, ideas of what constitutes a good marriage have changed radically and continue to change. Compare the seventeenth-century beliefs about marriage collected on this site with one or more of the following texts from other eras:
    1. Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale" (NAEL 8, 1.257–84) and The Book of Margery Kempe (NAEL 8, 1.384–97).
    2. The account of marriage customs in More's Utopia (NAEL 8, 1.521–89)
    3. Mary Astell's Some Reflections upon Marriage (NAEL 8, 1.2285–88) and Daniel Defoe's Roxana (NAEL 8, 1.2289–94)
    4. Writings on the Victorian Woman Question
      Doris Lessing's To Room Nineteen (NAEL 8, 2.2544–65)
  2. In the seventeenth century, both the household and the state were described as divinely ordained systems with the husband and monarch, respectively, at the top. At the same time, the language of contract was used to describe both marriage and the relationship between a monarch and his subjects.
    1. To what extent do the texts on marriage and the household gathered in this section seem to rely on and refer to ideas about the proper governing of the state? Conversely, how do the texts devoted to Politics, Culture, and Religion make use of the image of the family? In each case, what is the nature of the relationship suggested between the family and the state (metaphorical, analogical, natural, etc.)?
    2. What similarities and resonances can you see between Milton's views on marriage expressed in The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce and his views on government expressed in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates?
  3. The marriage ceremony, English law, and advice books all sought to define strict gender norms and proper social roles. How are these doctrines reflected in some of the following literary works, and how do these works reveal more complex understandings of courtship, love, and marriage?
    1. Spenser's Amoretti (NAEL 8, 1.903–07) and Epithalamion (NAEL 8, 1.907–16)
    2. Donne's Songs and Sonnets and Elegies (NAEL 8, 1.1281–84)
    3. Jonson's Celebration of Charis (NAEL 8, 1.1437–38)
    4. Mary Wroth's Pamphilia to Amphilanthus (NAEL 8, 1.1457–61)
  4. While Milton never penned an advice book, his works present images of heavenly and hellish states of matrimony.
    1. To what extent do Adam and Eve before the Fall represent the ideal state of gender relations? Does Milton see their marriage as a model to be emulated? Compare this version of matrimony to Dod and Cleaver's Godly Form of Household Government.
    2. What image of matrimony, and what "advice," emerge from The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce? How would the various authors of advice books respond to Milton's Doctrine?
  5. What light do advice books such as Braithwaite's English Gentlewoman shed on the sexual and social dilemmas explored in Webster's The Duchess of Malfi (NAEL 8, 1.1462–1535)? Which characters in the play echo the teachings found in the advice books, when do they do so, and why?
  6. While we can learn much about noble households from diaries, letters, and pictures, a different perspective is offered by a peculiar seventeenth-century genre: the country-house poem.
    1. Compare Jonson's presentation of Penshurst and the Sidney family in his poem To Penshurst (NAEL 8, 1.1434–36) with the representation of that household in pictures and letters. How much does To Penshurst tell us about the Sidney household, and how much does it tell us about Jonson?
    2. How does Lanyer's representation of Margaret and Anne Clifford in The Description of Cooke-Ham (NAEL 8, 1.1319–24) sort with the reality of their lives, as recorded in pictures and in Anne's diary?
    3. Does Marvell's Upon Appleton House (NAEL 8, 1.1716–36) seem to idealize the Fairfax family in terms comparable with what we find in Jonson's and Lanyer's poems?
  7. What ideas and assumptions about domestic life in Robert Sidney's letters and Anne Clifford's diary correspond with what we find in contemporary advice books? Are there points where they conflict? Try composing a chapter of an advice book as if it had been written by Sidney and/or Clifford.
  8. The education of women in the early seventeenth century presented a challenge to restrictive gender norms and often led to tensions within the household as well as in the wider society.
    1. What challenges did Lucy Hutchinson and Elizabeth Cary face in their education, and how did they overcome them? How do Hutchinson and Cary's daughter perceive the value of learning, and how do they display their learning in these texts?
    2. Compare these accounts of female education with the descriptions of male education in Bacon's Of Studies (NAEL 8, 1.1561–63) and The New Atlantis (Solomon's House) (NAEL 8, 1.1569–73), Robert Sidney's letters, and the autobiographical section of Milton's Reason of Church Government (NAEL 8, 1.1811–16). What do you find different and what similar in the means and the goals of male and female education?
    3. Milton's Paradise Lost can be read as an account of the education of Adam and Eve. Describe what they learn both before and after the Fall, and also how they learn. What differences do you see in the ways the first man and first woman receive their education?
  9. The anti-cross-dressing pamphlets Hic Mulier and Haec Vir attack a practice which was common in this period, both on the streets of London and, more particularly, upon the stage, where women's roles were played by men.
    1. Why might the practice of male actors playing female roles have provoked anxiety in people such as the authors of these pamphlets? Have these pamphlets led you to think about the conventions of the Renaissance theater in a new way?
    2. In several of Shakespeare's plays, including Twelfth Night (NAEL 8, 1.1077), female characters (played by boys) disguise themselves as young men. What do Hic Mulier and Haec Vir contribute to your understanding of cross-dressing in Shakespeare?
  10. Compare Margaret Fell's defense of women's speech in church with the sixteenth-century martyr Anne Askew's views on the same subject. What does the comparison between these two women's words and their fates suggest about religious and social changes in the intervening century?

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