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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: February ::
A Wedding Ring Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0055  Monday, 20 February 2006

[1] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Feb 2006 12:48:31 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question

[2] 	From: 	David Basch <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Feb 2006 13:10:59 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question

[3] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Feb 2006 21:10:50 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question

[4] 	From: 	John Briggs <
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	Date: 	Sunday, 19 Feb 2006 00:14:03 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Thursday, 16 Feb 2006 12:48:31 -0500
Subject: 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question

Jack Heller <
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 >

 >Upon reviewing the wedding service in the 1559 Book of Common
 >Prayer, I find the groom bestowing upon the bride a ring with the
 >pledge "with my body I thee worship." But nowhere do I find in
 >the service that the groom himself receives a ring. So, in relation
 >to The Merchant of Venice, where does the idea arise that
 >newly-married men have rings that signify their wedded states?
 >The vulgarity of Gratiano's concluding lines seems intensified if
 >"Nerissa's ring" is only her genitals and not a ring-jewel that
 >signifies legal marriage bonds.

There is no need to posit a male wedding ring; we see Portia give 
Bassanio her ring in III, ii.

                         and even now, but now,
    This house, these servants and this same myself
    Are yours, my lord: I give them with this ring;
    Which when you part from, lose, or give away,
    Let it presage the ruin of your love
    And be my vantage to exclaim on you.

Of Nerissa's ring, we know only, from IV, 2, that she will

         see if I can get my husband's ring,
    Which I did make him swear to keep for ever.

but old William of Ockham tells us we must not assume that this ring is 
any different.

At any rate, the action of the play makes it plain that the rings are 
unambiguously material items of jewelry, pertinaciously persisting in 
their phenomenal ontology, all independent of any possible bawdy on 
Gratiano's part.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <
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 >
Date: 		Thursday, 16 Feb 2006 13:10:59 -0500
Subject: 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question

Since grooms receiving rings are not part of a usual English wedding at 
Shakespeare's time, Jack Heller seems disturbed that in the story of the 
Merchant of Venice the women give rings to their husbands and demand 
they wear it. This is not part of the wedding ceremony in the play as it 
is mentioned that the couples will be going elsewhere to take their 
marriage vows. Why can't this be accepted as part of the story as a not 
unusual demand made by these women?

Also, Shakespeare is full of puns, so why not a pun on Nerissa's ring in 
this comedy type play, which would have amused the audience, coming 
after the comedy of the scene where the men sweat at their infidelity to 
their vows to keep the rings forever?

My view is that Shakespeare, in the latter pun, was by this hilarity 
misdirecting his audience from contemplating the fact of the seriousness 
of the vow breaking that sheds light on the character of Bassanio and 
Gratiano, which has reverberations that extend into the play when it is 
contemplated that Portia cited how alike she is to her husband, Bassanio.
Here is Portia stating this:

         PORTIA
         I never did repent for doing good,
         Nor shall not now: for in companions
         That do converse and waste the time together,
         Whose souls do bear an equal yoke Of love,
         There must be needs a like proportion
         Of lineaments, of manners and of spirit;
         Which makes me think that this Antonio,
         Being the bosom lover of my lord,
         Must needs be like my lord. If it be so,
         How little is the cost I have bestow'd
         In purchasing the semblance of my soul
         From out the state of hellish misery!
         This comes too near the praising of myself;

Here she shows her identity with Bassanio - a significant fact! Hence we 
must ask, is she too a vow breaker? What vow did she break? Is 
Shakespeare subtly telling by this that she broke her father's vow? If 
so, how did she do it?

David Basch

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Thursday, 16 Feb 2006 21:10:50 -0000
Subject: 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question

Why does Jack Heller assume Nerissa gave Gratiano the ring during their 
wedding ceremony?  When Portia gives Bassanio his ring, they are in a 
room in Portia's house, with no priest present ...

"This house, these servants and this same myself
Are yours, my lord: I give them with this ring"

Peter Bridgman

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Briggs <
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 >
Date: 		Sunday, 19 Feb 2006 00:14:03 -0000
Subject: 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0041 A Wedding Ring Question

Jack Heller wrote:

 >Upon reviewing the wedding service in the 1559 Book of Common Prayer,
 >I find the groom bestowing upon the bride a ring with the pledge
 >"with my body I thee worship." But nowhere do I find in the service
 >that the groom himself receives a ring. So, in relation to The
 >Merchant of Venice, where does the idea arise that newly-married men
 >have rings that signify their wedded states?

Don't get too excited - Shakespeare was no doubt aware that in many 
European countries it was the custom for bride and bridegroom to present 
each other mutually with rings as a pledge of fidelity (the origin of 
the modern custom, mostly unknown in England until the late twentieth 
century.)  Before the "Shakespeare was a Catholic" crowd jump in, I 
would point out that the Rituale Romanum only specifies a ring for the 
bride, as did the various medieval services.  The wedding service in the 
Book of Common Prayer closely follows that of the Use of Sarum - as did 
the practices of the English Catholics.

John Briggs

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