Before embarking on a study of William Shakespeares literary work The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, I decided to look at the nature of marriage and courting in their period the Elizabethan era. Understanding the wedding customs of this time acts as a foundation for understanding the reasons leading to Romeo and Juliet's tragedy.
The Elizabethan era was quite different from the marriages in modern times. Several facts pertaining this era are outlined below:
Marriage was designed to bring wealth into the grooms family.
Both families with expectations of benefiting from this matrimony arranged marriage.
Women in Elizabeths time rarely had a choice in deciding their preferred husbands.
Most couples first meeting would be on their wedding day.
Weddings were solemn especially to a woman it was the most important day of her life.
An unmarried woman was perceived as a witch in those times (Alchin, 2012).
Women were placed in second place in society.
The law at that time outlined that a man had full rights over his wife.
Women and their families paid a dowry to the grooms family.
After marriage, a woman out rightly became her husbands property (Bell, 2010).
Clothes were made from cotton, flax and wool and presented in various colors.
During this period, a woman was expected to cover most her body with a beautiful gown and a kirtle.
A cloak was the outer dress of a womans outfit.
Married women were expected to hide their faces under a bonnet.
Unmarried women, however, were allowed to let their hair loose (Kelvin, 2010).
On a womans wedding day she was adorned with flower all over her body.
Bridegrooms on their wedding day wore breeches, doublet, box pleated neck ruff, hose and a codpiece.
Men at times wore cloaks and boots with a variety of colors too.
The wedding was arranged at the local church.
A minister always conducted marriage ceremonies.
Before performing weddings, there was a process called Crying the Banns, which was used to announce a couples marriage intentions.
Crying the Banns would be conducted on three consecutive Sundays (Ros, 2008).
If marriage was done before Crying the Bann, it was considered illegal because the sole intention of this process is to allow anyone who has any objections to coming forward.
Also, a faster route was supposed to be shown to the bishop that the marriage was lawful.
A marriage bond was necessary especially in cases where a couple was not yet of legal age to consent to the wedding.
A girls age of marriage was 12 years but with parental consent included. Notably, marriages at this age occurred quite often
For a boy, he could marry at 14years, but parental consent was expected on such an occasion.
Nonetheless, the right age of marriage was 21years for both sons and girls, and boys usually waited to that age while girls rarely got to their 20s before getting married (Prasad, 2015).
For the wealthier in society, the brides mini-picture was presented to her husband to be like a sneak peak of how his wife would resemble.
Nonetheless, pictures on occasions were misleading for instance when Hans Holbein disregarded Anne (King Henry VIIIs fourth wife) and instead displayed her kind personality (Ros, 2008).
The food was carefully prepared, planned, and served as attractively as possible.
During this time, people drank ale instead of water because it was regarded as unclean.
The Elizabethan era in regards to marriage and courtship demonstrates that people married not because of the emotional connection but for a particular benefit especially money wise and social status. Therefore, Romeo and Juliets marriage became tragic because their society did not care about an individuals emotional concerns. Instead, their families cared for the gains that would come from marrying their son to a woman from a wealthy family.
Alchin, L.K. (2012). Elizabethan Era. Retrieved from www.elizabethan-era.org.uk
Bell, I. (2010). Elizabeth I: the voice of a monarch. Palgrave Macmillan.
Cook, A. J. (2014). Making a Match: Courtship in Shakespeare and His Society. Princeton
Kelvin, L. (2010). The role of Women Love and Marriage.ppt. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Prasad, M. (2015). Courtship Marriages and Divorces during Elizabethan Era. (n.d.). Retrieved
Ros M. (2008). Life in Elizabethan England 10: Love and Marriage. (n.d.). Retrieved from
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