Monday, September 28, 2015

Court Marriages and Daddy Rules

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Egeus, the father of Hermia threatens to kill his own daughter or force her to be a nun if she does not marry the man he wants her to marry. (This might suggest other "court" issues that I mentioned in my previous post where the Queen or a female ruler is more suited to rule anyway, but we won't focus on that here). This absolute rule by Kings and males was a definite aspect of Renaissance culture at the time (and fear of female rule), but probably more so in the court, where riches, land, etc were on the line. This reminded me of our class discussion about arranged marriages and how it might seem like a more reasonable choice. It makes sense that arranged marriages and parental rule is dominant in Renaissance and court culture. I found an article that cited Rudolph M. Bell, in which he says, 

"The idea of 'roles' in Renaissance marriages was clearly defined. There was no question to the fact that fathers, meaning males, should rule (Bell 220)." 

I thought this was interesting because it highlights two major ideas of male roles, in The Tempest: a father and just a dominant male in general. Prospero, for example, says that he used to be a Duke, which places high court authority upon him. His dominance is shown over characters like Ariel and his own daughter Miranda. Like Egeus, Prospero wants his daughter Miranda to marry someone that he sees fit to marry her, for financial and political purposes that would most benefit his "court." In the play, Prospero puts Miranda to sleep by simply using magic, which can suggest this absolute fact that a father rules. I also think that because Prospero acts as a Kingly figure in the play, his dominance over female characters represents a prominent aspect of court culture and marriage within the court. 

Bell, Rudolph M. How to Do It: Guides to Good Living for Renaissance Italians. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999


  1. Which is especially interesting, given the scene where Ferdinand and Miranda are playing chess together - evidence of Miranda's education and natural intelligence (both of which affirmed her value in a courtly setting and threatened the male hierarchy ruling over her) - and Ferdinand's servitude to Miranda in earlier acts. Miranda seems to walk a careful line between obedience to her station and conspicuously rising above it.

  2. Miranda knows how to play that courtly game, and I think that she knows her father well enough to obey just enough to be able to do what she wants to do without him holding her back. She lept at the chance to be with Ferdinand, and says that he is very handsome, but Prospero indicates that he is no better looking than most men. Perhaps Miranda is simply using infatuation with Ferdinand as a tool to get out from under her father's power.