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Shakespeare, Law, and Marriage


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 (ISBN-13: 9780511055690 | ISBN-10: 0511055692)

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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.

• In legal terms this book is much more weighty than the competition: Mary Sokol teaches law and is herself a lawyer • Very complex topic with interest for Renaissance social historians and historians of law as well as literary historians • Insights gained into the age in which Shakespeare wrote will add significantly to the understanding of texts and the connections between texts


Acknowledgments; Introduction; 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; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


'… fresh insights …'. The Times Literary Supplement

'[this book] has great value as a work of reference. Its careful organization, structure, and direct specificity make it a most useful volume … it is worth commenting … on the excellent quality of the index.' Modern Law Review

'… their careful amassing and mastery of evidence makes Shakespeare, Law, and Marriage a fine study of context. … has great value as a work of reference. Its careful organization, structure, and direct specificity make it a most useful volume.' MLR

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