He's Not in Your League, Honey.Polonious tells Ophelia that Hamlet is "out of thy star."  As much as we would like to pretend that everyone is the same, can marriages of highly disparate...

He's Not in Your League, Honey.

Polonious tells Ophelia that Hamlet is "out of thy star."  As much as we would like to pretend that everyone is the same, can marriages of highly disparate social standings/income levels work?  More importantly, how do you think Shakespeare felt about unequal matches?

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jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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There is much proof in the poetry and plays of Shakespeare that points to his support of marriage for love and not for advancement in society or the marriage of two wealthy families in a community.  However, with that in mind, it seems that he is urging caution because so many of the marriages in his plays end up unhappily.

 

I am not convinced that Shakespeare advocated love marriages or any other social philosophy.  To me, Shakespeare acts as an observer of cultural phenomena more often than not. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

There is much proof in the poetry and plays of Shakespeare that points to his support of marriage for love and not for advancement in society or the marriage of two wealthy families in a community.  However, with that in mind, it seems that he is urging caution because so many of the marriages in his plays end up unhappily.

 

Shakespeare may have favored love for love's sake, but did he practice it? Or would he have been allowed to practice it? We don't have the same class-conscious society he lived in. Sure, we have "old money" and "new money" and "rednecks." But we have nothing like Shakespeare's time. Heck, when Anna Nicole married Howard What's-His-Name, people weren't shocked because she was a stripper and he was a billionaire. What made people talk was their age difference.

The Elizabethans had laws governing how many suits of clothing they could own. Do you really think someone from the nobility could have married someone from a lower status?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

There is much proof in the poetry and plays of Shakespeare that points to his support of marriage for love and not for advancement in society or the marriage of two wealthy families in a community.  However, with that in mind, it seems that he is urging caution because so many of the marriages in his plays end up unhappily.

 

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Anything is possible, especially in today's society, although I think it's easier to get a divorce now if it isn't working out than anyone in Shakespeare's time could have imagined so perhaps it's easier to test the waters now than it might have been then (just a side note: I think it's sad that so many in today's society enter marriage so cavalierly). Maybe that's what Shakespeare was trying to get across- he thought that even if true love existed, it was destructive even to try and jump classes. He made that very apparent in this play, but he made it apparent in other plays too. Perhaps Shakespeare's lesson here is that marriage is based on much more than just love and in order to last that has to be understood- essentially, love isn't enough.

malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I suppose that marriages between people of vastly different social classes can work, as long as the main interest between the couple isn't the difference between their social class.  In other words, if a poor person is only marrying a rich person for their money and to get into the higher class, then it's not going to be a happy marriage.  But if the people truly love each other and can respect their different backgrounds (and can manage to get along with their in-laws), then I would think it could work.  It just depends on the people.

What did Shakespeare think about it?  It would appear that he did not think they would work.  But would they not work because of the couple involved, or because of the manipulation of the people around them?  I think he's showing us how tragic it is when two people are torn apart by the garbage in their families (see "Romeo and Juliet" for the extreme example of this).

Other than Hamlet and Ophelia and Romeo and Juliet, are there other couples in his plays that are kept apart because of family weirdness?  Initially Miranda is kept from Ferdinand because of Prospero's manipulations, but they eventually are allowed to be together.  Desdemona and Othello, of course, but they're destroyed by Iago rather than family.  Anyhoo...just my two cents!

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