[Milton-L] Generalizations about marriage; x-post ficino

Dan Knauss daniel.knauss at mu.edu
Tue Nov 9 21:38:20 EST 2004



Thanks Professor Schwartz--This does help; it certainly confirms my
sense that the generalizations I posed are not very good ones. On the
other hand, Dr. Barton's mention of the Wife of Bath supports the idea
that popular opinion may not have put much stock in the definition of
marriage promoted "by the book." Alisoun, like Milton, may be the kind
of exception that proves the rule of orthodoxy. Yet Chaucer and Milton
might not have been too far off from what many others might contemplate
or say in private. Is the 1662 prayerbook a reasonable measure of common
belief about marriage? The 1979 isn't, unless you already know the
context that directs its meaning.  

> -----Original Message-----
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Dr. 
> Carol Barton
> Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 7:31 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Generalizations about marriage; x-post ficino
> 
> 
> Dan, I would add two more thoughts to Prof. Schwartz'
> comments and reading list, below: first, that as early as 
> Chaucer, the Wyf of Bath challenges the Pauline injunction to 
> maintain celibacy ("it is better to marry than to
> burn") -- see her Prologue -- and then, that one of the 
> clearest expositions of Milton's views on marriage is 
> contained (if ironically) in _The Doctrine and Discipline of 
> Divorce_, which boasts some beautiful passages about what 
> marriage *should* be, and well as on what it *shouldn't*.
> 
> Best to all,
> 
> Carol Barton
> 
> 
> 
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Schwartz, Louis" <lschwart at richmond.edu>
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 5:11 PM
> Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Generalizations about marriage; x-post ficino
> 
> 
> > Dan,
> >
> > The literature on marriage in the period is vast and varied, but a
> > good place to start might be David Cressy's chapters on the 
> subject in
> > *Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in
> > Tutod and Stuart England*.  He's primarily interested in 
> the rituals
> > surrounding marriages, but he uses a study of those rituals to make
> > some general observations about marriage itself as a social 
> > institution, or more bluntly as a thing people did in a number of 
> > different ways and for a complex and varied set of reasons.
> >
> > As far as your questions are concerned, it is his (and my)
> > understanding that throughout the period we're discussing 
> most people
> > thought of marriage as "for" three things (as the B of CP
> more or less
> > lays it
> > out):  1) procreation, 2) as a way to keep people from the sin of 
> > fornication by giving them a way to have sex in a
> sanctioned manner, and
> > 3) for mutual society, help and comfort.  None of this is
> particularly
> > "new" or "unique" to Protestant England (see Cressy 296-7
> for a brief
> > discussion).  What differences emerged over the course of
> the 16th and
> > 17th Centuries in England have to do with how much
> *emphasis* particular
> > groups or individuals (those who left some record of their
> thoughts or
> > wrote treatises, handbooks, or sermons on the subject)
> tended to put on
> > that last category.  It is true that some "Protestants" and
> "Puritans"
> > tended to elevate the last category to a higher place of
> dignity than
> > was common in earlier periods--Milton certainly did.  For some, this

> > emphasis on mutual comfort tended to also suggest that
> sexuality itself
> > should be thought of as having a higher dignity than that already 
> > suggested by its procreative function alone (Milton is, again, an 
> > obvious example).  Not all, however, would even have gone
> that far, and
> > certainly very few would have gone so far as to make mutual
> solace the
> > whole show.
> >
> > In other words, the way you put it in your first question
> is in some
> > ways correct, but it overstates the case (the radical nature of the
> > shift in thought and practice) and oversimplifies a complex 
> and varied
> > reality.  The way you put it in your last question
> certainly goes too
> > far.  There were some sects, perhaps, and some individuals
> willing to
> > think of marriage as exclusively the "solemnization of love between
> > two people" (there were some, for that matter who wanted to 
> get rid of
> > marriage altogether!), but for most all three purposes
> would have been
> > held to be more or less equally important, and even
> interdependent.
> > On the more radical sects, I think the best introduction is still
> > Christopher Hill's *The World Turned Upside Down*, but I'm 
> sure there
> > are more recent things as well.
> >
> > I don't know the answer to your question about when
> marriage became a
> > sacrament in Catholic practice, but in England by the time of the
> > revolution the question of the sacramental status of marriage was 
> > certainly up for grabs, and during the interregnum (after 
> Marriage Act
> > of 1653) there were no church-sanctioned marriages at all
> in England
> > (at least not legally). For a good discussion of that see
> Christopher
> > Durston, "'Unhallowed Wedlocks':  the Regulation of Marriage During
> > the English Revolution," *The Historical Journal*, 31, I (1988), 
> > 45-59.
> >
> > I think it's at least safe to say that over the course of
> the period
> > the idea that celibacy was a higher path than marriage
> tended to wane,
> > but more in terms of its real relevance to people than in
> an abstract
> > sense. People still took personal vows of celibacy (some
> people think
> > Milton took one for a period in the 1630's), and this might seem to
> > some a dignified and holy thing to do, but it no longer had 
> the kind
> > of social and institutional status that it had when there was a
> > celibate clergy they could join.  Most people married, and this 
> > conferred on them a special social status.  Those who didn't had no 
> > special status comparable to it, and this certainly affected what 
> > celibacy meant to people, even if it still retained some 
> more abstract
> > sense of holiness.
> >
> >
> > I hope that helps.
> >
> > Louis
> >
> > ===========================
> > Louis Schwartz
> > Associate Professor of English
> > University of Richmond
> > Richmond, VA  23173
> > (804) 289-8315
> > lschwart at richmond.edu
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> > [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Dan Knauss
> > Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 3:16 PM
> > To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
> > Subject: [Milton-L] Generalizations about marriage; x-post ficino
> >
> > Dear Listmembers--
> >
> > A few questions arising from that rich source of inquiry--the broad
> > claims of eminent scholars who supply neither argumentative nor 
> > citational support. References to secondary literature where this 
> > stuff is considered in detail will be much appreciated.
> >
> >
> > 1) Is it a reasonable generalization to say that "Puritans" or
> > "Protestants," in constrast to "Catholics," thought of an ideal 
> > marriage as being based in companionship in some new sense, 
> especially
> > a more "inward" intimacy--a "sharing of selves?"
> >
> > 2) Is it meaningful or accurate to say that by 1667 marriage in
> > England was *no longer* thought of as being inferior to celibacy? 
> > (When did marriage become a sacrament in the Catholic 
> church? Prior to
> > that, hadn't it achieved a quasi-sacramental status over a
> long period
> > of
> > time?)
> >
> > 3) What basis is there for claiming that by the late 17th
> century--in
> > contradiction to the prayer book from Cranmer's to the
> 1662--marriage
> > was neither a doctrinally approved way of avoiding
> fornication nor an
> > institution centered on procreation but rather a
> solemnization of love
> > between two people? More specifically, what significant groups of
> > people would have thought this way?
> >
> >
> >
> >
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