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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: January ::
Re: Claudius' Incestuous Marriage
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0118  Friday, 24 January 2003

[1]     From:   Nora Kreimer <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 12:54:53 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

[2]     From:   Edward Brown <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 11:39:45 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

[3]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 11:23:48 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

[4]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 16:50:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

[5]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 18:58:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

[6]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 19:21:54 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

[7]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Jan 2003 08:44:02 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nora Kreimer <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 12:54:53 -0300
Subject: 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

I'd suggest reading about Roman Church legislation on the issues of
affinity and consanguinity. I apologize for any cross-posting from
another list, but I think it is very pertinent and enlightening to quote
an important contribution that was made to Medieval-L

Quote:
consult James Brundage's _Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval
Europe_, whose footnotes alone are worth the price of admission.  Pages
334-35 talk of Pope Alexander III's legislation which saw the sexua;
consummation of a marriage as a defining act establishing a new bond of
relationship: "Sexual intercourse created a bond that precluded
subsequent marriage between either party and members of the other
party's immediate family."  His footnotes for this statement reference
_Compilatio prima_ 4.4.4 and the _Liber Extra_ 4.1.12, 13; 4.7.3,
4.13.2; 4.14.1, as well as Alexander's epistle 880 in PL 200:789-90.  On
p. 356, he writes of Pope Celestine III's continuation of this legal
tradition:" Pope Celestine III held that sexual relations between two
persons created a legal affinity that barred subsequent marriage between
either party and any close relative of the other - the affinity was
similar to that created by acting as godparent to a child."  See _Liber
Extra_ 4.13.5 and Jaffe's JL 16, 643.
Ruth Karras

Please email me privately if interested in some bibliography on the
subject.

Regards,
Nora Kreimer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Brown <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 11:39:45 EST
Subject: 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

But see Leviticus 18:16 -- "Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of they
brother's wife..." and Leviticus 20:21-- "And if a man shall take his
brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's
nakedness; they shall be childless." The latter verse was frequently
cited by Henry himself as moving him to question the validity of his
marriage to Katherine.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 11:23:48 -0600
Subject: 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

David Friedberg offers some worthy comments on the Gertrude-Claudius
alliance but has left out the most important part.

Thus saith Leviticus 20, 21:  " 'If a man marries his brother's wife, it
is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be
childless."

If he will look up the Divorce Question, he will find that the Leviticus
scripture had determinative importance to it, and that it led directly
to the Reformation in England and the reign of Elizabeth I.

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 16:50:19 -0500
Subject: 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

David, this is a gross misinterpretation of the scriptures you have
read.  Claudius is his brother's MURDERER----and part of his motive is
appropriating his brother's queen---this is both quite different from
the Biblical injunction that a younger brother should marry his elder's
widow, and quite different from Henry's situation, in that Arthur's
illness lent credibility to Catherine's claim to virginity ---to
unconsummated marriage--despite her husband's rumored and rather cadlike
boast, when asked the morning after how the wedding night had gone, that
he had "been in Spain." (She was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella,
of Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria fame . . . a Spaniard.)

Here, for example is the text of Leviticus 20.21: "And if a man shall
take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his
brother's nakedness; they shall be childless" (A.V.)

And here is a gloss of Deuteronomy 25:5-10, from _The Interpreter's
One-Volume Commentary on the Bible_ as follows:

"Levirate Marriage. When a married man dies without a son, the
*husband's brother* (_levir_ in Latin -- the word 'levirate' has nothing
to do with 'Levite'!) living on the same estate is expected to marry the
widow. The *first son* born of the union is to take the *name* of the
deceased man; any further offspring are presumably reckoned to the
living brother . . . . [And therefore the firstborn son of Er would have
"counted" as the son of Onan, per the quotation you cite below from
Genesis 38.] The aim of levirate marriage was not primarily to provide
for the widow since other means were available for that purpose, but
rather (a) to secure the survival of the deceased's line (the only form
of immortality known to ancient Israel) and (b) to keep in the family
estate property which might otherwise be sold to pay debts. This is the
only biblical stipulation of the practice, but it is presupposed in the
account of Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38), and the story of Ruth and Boaz is
based on an extension of it to the nearest consenting relative when no
brother is available (Ruth 4:1-8) . . . ."

Thus (as the colleague with whom I originally discussed this remarked)
what had been an obligation for Jews became a sin for Christians.

Hamlet is at least a pseudo-Christian (in that he is not Jewish, though
he is not quite Catholic, and certainly not seventeenth-century C of E,
either).

No, Hamlet is NOT a play about the seventeenth century. Please check any
standard collection (Arden or otherwise) for Shakespeare's sources.
Saying he staged it because it had resonances for the seventeenth
century (as Hamlet stages the Mousetrap because it contains parallels to
what has gone on in the Danish court) is NOT the same thing as saying it
is "about" either the court of Elizabeth I, or the court of James I.

I print your whole post below because there is a good deal here that
needs correction. I'd suggest a visit to your local reference librarian
as soon as you can make one.

Best to all,
Carol Barton

>Dear Colleagues,
>
>I may have commented before that I doubted the Bible forbade the
>marriage of a man with his dead brother's widow, and posited that the
>proscription that is the underpinning of the story of Hamlet is to be
>found in the Book of Common Prayer.  This Anglican document was
>formulated with the story of the marriages and annulments of Henry VIII
>in mind.  Such remarriage was not prohibited as far as I know in the
>laws of Denmark or the laws of the Lutheran Church, but of course Hamlet
>is a play about England in the seventeenth century, is it not?
>
>I checked out the scriptures and found the following, courtesy of the
>Landover Baptist Church:
>
>Genesis 38:7-10
>
>"And Er, Judah's first born, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and
>the Lord slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's
>wife and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that
>the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto
>his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he
>should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased
>the Lord: wherefore he slew him also"
>
>Deuteronomy 25:5-10
>
>"If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the
>wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger; her husband's
>brother shall go in unto her . . . And if the man like not to take his
>brother's wife . . . then his brother's wife shall come unto him in the
>presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot and spit in
>his face . . . And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him
>that hath his shoe loosed"
>
>It is quite clear to me that Claudius was quite innocent in this matter,
>behaving as the Lord wished.  I don't know if WS would have commented if
>Claudius like Onan had spilled his seed on the ground.
>
>As for Gertrude, I am not so sure. Her o'erhasty remarriage had
>certainly saved the shoes with which he followed my poor father's body
>etc etc  Even more thrift Horatio
>
>David Friedberg

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 18:58:31 -0500
Subject: 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

David Friedberg <
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 > writes,

>I may have commented before that I doubted the Bible forbade the
>marriage of a man with his dead brother's widow, and posited that the
>proscription that is the underpinning of the story of Hamlet is to be
>found in the Book of Common Prayer.  This Anglican document was
>formulated with the story of the marriages and annulments of Henry VIII
>in mind.  Such remarriage was not prohibited as far as I know in the
>laws of Denmark or the laws of the Lutheran Church, but of course Hamlet
>is a play about England in the seventeenth century, is it not?

Not particularly.  But, be that as it may:

Leviticus 18:16:  Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's
wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.

Such a marriage was, in plain fact, forbidden by Roman Catholic canon
law at the time, and still is.  Henry VII had had to arrange a papal
dispensation to allow young Henry to marry his brother's widow.  The key
legal issue was whether the Pope had ever had the right to grant such a
dispensation, which in turn depended on whether the prohibition was of
divine or human origin.  (The current RC position is that _all_
impediments due to affinity are matters of ecclesiastical law only, and
can always be dismissed with.)

>I checked out the scriptures and found the following, courtesy of the
>Landover Baptist Church:

>Genesis 38:7-10

>"And Er, Judah's first born, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and
>the Lord slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's
>wife and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that
>the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto
>his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he
>should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased
>the Lord: wherefore he slew him also"

>Deuteronomy 25:5-10

>"If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the
>wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger; her husband's
>brother shall go in unto her . . . And if the man like not to take his
>brother's wife . . . then his brother's wife shall come unto him in the
>presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot and spit in
>his face . . . And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him
>that hath his shoe loosed"
>
>It is quite clear to me that Claudius was quite innocent in this matter,
>behaving as the Lord wished.  I don't know if WS would have commented if
>Claudius like Onan had spilled his seed on the ground.

Christianity has never accepted the Levirate Law (as it is known).  For
that matter, it has customarily been discouraged within Judaism for a
very long time.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Jan 2003 19:21:54 -0600
Subject: 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

Have I missed something here?  Claudius' marriage to his brother's wife
is forbidden above all by the fact of his having killed her husband to
marry her. (That was part of his motive for the murder is stated in
Claudius' confessional soliloquy.)  That being the motive for the
murder, marriage with this widow can never be either licit or valid.

L. Swilley

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Jan 2003 08:44:02 -0000
Subject: 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0115 Claiudius' Incestuous Marriage

David Friedberg cites Deuteronomy 25:5-10 "If brethren dwell together,
and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not
marry without unto a stranger; her husband's brother shall go in unto
her . . ."; he comments, "It is quite clear to me that Claudius was
quite innocent in this matter, behaving as the Lord wished."

But of course, there is the small matter of "Thou shalt not pour poison
into thy brother's ear". It's difficult to justify this murderous
covetousness (of one's brother's wife and throne) retrospectively in
this way. That's like asking to be excused from the charge of murder
because one gave one's victim a scripturally-endorsed Christian burial.

Perhaps we need to think about the word "incest" in a way that is not
divorced from this fact.

martin

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