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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Troubles of the Marriage-Bed
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1059  Tuesday, 3 June 2003

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 14:05:40 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1050 Re: Troubles of the Marriage-Bed

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 17:19:20 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1030 Troubles of the Marriage-Bed


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 14:05:40 -0400
Subject: 14.1050 Re: Troubles of the Marriage-Bed
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1050 Re: Troubles of the Marriage-Bed

>On 'troubles of the marriage bed' cf. Ben Jonson, the Barriers in
>Hymenaei, where Opinion defends the state of virginity in a memorable
>critique of the ideals of matrimony.  This is the relevant extract:
>
>Untouched virginity laugh out to see
>Freedom in fetters placed, and urged 'gainst thee.
>What griefs lie groaning on the nuptial bed?
>What dull satiety? In what sheets of lead
>Tumble and toss the restless married pair,
>Each oft offended with the other's air?
>From whence springs all-devouring avarice,
>But from the cares which out of wedlock rise?
>And where there is in life's best-temp'red fires
>An end set in itself to all desires,
>A settled quiet, freedom never checked;
>How far are married lives from this effect?
>
>Needless to say, Opinion loses the contest, and Truth, her adversary and
>supporter of marriage wins.

I'd agree with David's broader interpretation (especially at a time when
more marriages were arranged than entered into willingly: cf. the Wyf of
Bathe's "wo that is in mariage"): it's a metonymy for the entire
institution of wedlock, and all the unhappiness (and boredom, and
frustration, and stress) pertaining thereto. Just ask any divorcee . . .

:o)

Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 17:19:20 -0400
Subject: 14.1030 Troubles of the Marriage-Bed
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1030 Troubles of the Marriage-Bed

>Here is a line that has always given me trouble and in production, I
>felt that we never found an adequate gloss in relation to the scene.
>From The Comedy of Errors:
>
>ADRIANA
>This servitude makes you to keep unwed.
>LUCIANA
>Not this, but troubles of the marriage-bed.
>ADRIANA
>But, were you wedded, you would bear some sway.
>LUCIANA
>Ere I learn love, I'll practise to obey.
>
>What does Luciana mean, "troubles of the marriage bed"?  Our director
>used "inability to find a husband" assuming that "this" is the servitude
>that Adriana criticizes although I know the actress used "fear of the
>physical act."  Any thoughts?
>
>Charlie Mitchell

I certainly would rule out inability to find a husband. Her unwedded
state is clearly a matter of choice. Since you're only asking for any
thoughts, I might suggest that the problems are religious. According to
some Christians, marriage was a necessary evil, the ideal state being
chastity. Margery Kempe blessed her husband for acceding to her request
to abstain from the physical act. Shakespeare's use of the term "married
chastity" in The Phoenix and the Turtle seems to refer to a Kempe-like
arrangement, as it produced "no posterity." Such a marriage might cause
the husband to "start some other where," and the same religious ideal
would dictate that the wife "forbear" "till he come home again." As the
theme of the play is the resolution of social contradictions, the
interrogation of contradictory positions of Christianity toward sex and
marriage by the Reformation seems an appropriate subtext.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY

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