I've spent a lot of time learning about Shakespeare and establishing a basic understanding of his life as a play write and more specifically a son, husband, father, lover and active participant in a family-based society.This week I am focusing on the marriage & love aspect of familial Shakespeare.I turned to the book Family Life in the Age of Shakespeare by Bruce Young to research historical information about marriage in the Elizabethan era.
Bruce Young introduces the topic of Elizabethan marriage with the finding that "Most historians conclude that love and friendship were essential elements of English marriages throughout the entire early modern period [Renaissance]" (44).
Men and women mingled with relative freedom and there wasn't usually a wide gap between husbands and wives.
Most brides & grooms were in their twenties, although the age of consent was 14 for boys and 12 for girls.
The average age of marriage in aristocracy was 19-21 women, 24-26 for men, but for most classes is was higher.
The average age of marriage in England through the 1500-1600s was 25-26 for women and 27-28 for men (41).
There were formal courting standards of getting the approval of a woman's parents before trying to "woo" her, but was also much like it is today--meeting through friends, getting acquainted over dinner, going out to social gatherings. Young states that both men and women were active in choosing a spouse.
Falling in love was a "common precursor to marriage". Wealth was a factor but "virtue, shared belief and a capacity for harmony and love were supposed to be given greater weight" (38) The or "betrothal" was taken almost as seriously as marriage.
There were ceremonies of betrothal much like the marriage ceremonies of our days: taking each other by the hand, making promises and even sometimes exchanging rings.
Marriage was religiously based--as most aspects in life were during this time--so divorce was non-existent.