Good The Concept Of Marriage In Medieval Era Essay Example
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The concept of marriage was quite different in the medieval period than today. It was complicated because of overlapping influences of culture, religion, social and political aspects. Additionally there were geographical variations with norms in Eastern Europe were more stringent(concerning age and women decision-making) than the Western part. However, the paper discusses the concept in general without delving too deeper into geographical variations.
Culturally speaking, women were at the disposal of men, even those who had property. Historical records reveal that girls had no choice in marriage. More often than not they even did not know the the man they were going to wed. It was a social arrangement and children were betrothed into a binding union unless one or other of them repudiated it around the age of 14. Nevertheless, the repudiation was only a choice of papers as marriage contracts also contained the nominations of second, third, and fourth choice partners. A close analysis of the medieval practices reveal that marriage occurred in two stages, betrothal and wedding. Betrothals were marriage contracts that families drawn on the behalf of their children.
With this arrangement it is obvious that neither a boy nor a girl had much say in marital arrangements. Conversely, the condition of girls has been still identified inferior to men. As medieval records put it, a young widow, holder of a famous castle, dared to remarry without a license. At this attempt, all of the lands was confiscated and the couple was not allowed to cohabitate. Women at all levels of the society would pay fines to be allowed to select their husbands.
Marriages were made with the prior permission of father's lord and peers irrespective of the social status. It reflects that the basic structure in medieval England was patriarchal with most of the decisions were taken by an authoritarian father. Additionally, marriages for love was a rare affair, rather they would be solemnized to bring prestige to families. Law further demeaned the position of women by imparting a complete control of the husband on his wife, irrespective of whether she was a commoner or a Noble woman.
Marriages, in addition to being a social practice, were also influenced by politics of the feudal world. For Lord as well as vassals, it was useful if his daughters married his vassals. As such, marriages were seen as an activity that fostered the binding between lords and vassals.
The role of women in marriage was defined by Church ideals, and the Church regarded them as a lesser sex. They were considered dependent on men. Even Church held the views that their bodies belonged to their husbands. It, directly or indirectly , meant that women roles in marriage were limited to bearing the children , and they would not have a say in reproductive rights.
A close study of the social structure and marital arrangements reveal that the marriage was more a political bargaining chip, used to break or make peace with powerful neighbors. As both men and women had little say in selecting the partner, it cannot be concluded that the concept was biased towards male genre, particularly when it came to the selection of a spouse. Though post-marriage practices have profoundly reflected the male-domination and women -subordination.
Regarding social scales, there have been different views though. Some have identified same practices across society while some have mentioned a bit of difference. Amongst the peasantry though, at least in England, women had more freedom to marry and inherit than their upper scale counterparts.
Medieval marriage practices, though somewhat fascinating, highlight the religious influences too. The perspective found its way through Biblical times Adam and Eve. The concept that "woman's body does not belong to her alone", was found in Biblical letters of Paul. Church viewed a wife's primary duty as serving the husband. It was only in 20th century that the notion of partnership emerged in the marriage.
Marriages were both a secular or sacred. It was secular because it involved the property transfer. Marriage served the property transfer to continue the family line. Considering that marrying in a higher status than own was acceptable, marriage also paved the way to improve social standing of a family. The sacred tinge appeared because it was considered a bond between mankind and the Divine.
Despite all odds, English women had inheritance rights. They could do their business, incur debits, and challenge the will of their deceased husband. Based on the will, she could gain financial independence in life. However, if the women were under a man's guardianship, the land was to be managed by him.
Succinctly, the concept of marriage traversed economic, religious, cultural and political interests, but was not based on the love affair. Women had little say in decision-making and selection. Some scholars have hinted that women belonging to peasantry had more freedom in the choice, but there are no confirmed records proving that. Because marriages in upper classes were made for dynastic reasons, it is obvious that Noble women had less say in spouse selection. However, Karras has highlighted an interesting facet concerning social status and gender.
The lower the status of a woman to man, greater the possibilities that they would not have been considered married. It peeps into the prevailing gender inequality at that time. Marriages in medieval ages, thus, contained several incoherencies particularly because of the religious influences of Roman law, German traditions, and biblical texts.
A study of the concept is significant in understanding how socio-political aspects may affect a bonding that should ideally be an emotional affair. We cannot say that these aspects are entirely missing in present-day marriages, the influence is much lesser. Now, love factor is also important that was missing in the medieval era. Ironically, medieval marriages aimed to foster the bonding between lords-vassals, mankind-divinity, not between bride-bridegroom.
Classen, Albrecht. Handbook of Medieval Studies: Terms-Methods-Trends. Walter de Gruyter, 2010.
Jeremy, Goldberg. "The Right to Choose: Women, Consent, and Marriage in Late Medieval England." History Today (2008): 16-21.
Searle, Eleanor M. Women and Marriage in Medieval Society. 1981. 13 April 2015 <http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/583/2/Searle.pdf>.
Thaxter, Britanny. "An Examination of Women's Rights in England." Mount Royal Undergraduate Humanities Review (2013).
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