1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8 : 9 : 10
- 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
- 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).
- The account of marriage customs in More's Utopia (NAEL 8, 1.521–89)
- Mary Astell's Some Reflections upon Marriage (NAEL 8, 1.2285–88)
and Daniel Defoe's Roxana (NAEL 8, 1.2289–94)
- Writings on the Victorian
Doris Lessing's To Room Nineteen (NAEL 8, 2.2544–65)
- 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
- 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.)?
- 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?
- 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,
- Spenser's Amoretti (NAEL 8, 1.903–07) and Epithalamion (NAEL
- Donne's Songs and Sonnets and Elegies (NAEL 8, 1.1281–84)
- Jonson's Celebration of Charis (NAEL 8, 1.1437–38)
- Mary Wroth's Pamphilia to Amphilanthus (NAEL 8, 1.1457–61)
- While Milton
never penned an advice book, his works present
images of heavenly and hellish states of
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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
- The anti-cross-dressing
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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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