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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare
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What did the Elizabethans' view on marriage represent? Who made the decision about getting married?

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To the Elizabethans, daughters were considered the  property of their fathers. This was not just an attitude. This was accepted, legal fact. It was the prerogative of fathers to choose a marriage for their daughters, just as, today, breeders choose with whom to mate their animals. The daughter's choice was...

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To the Elizabethans, daughters were considered the  property of their fathers. This was not just an attitude. This was accepted, legal fact. It was the prerogative of fathers to choose a marriage for their daughters, just as, today, breeders choose with whom to mate their animals. The daughter's choice was irrelevant, and, if a daughter rebelled against her father's choice, as Hermia does in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, this act of rebellion was punishable by death, or by a life sequestered in a convent. This was done by royalty to create favorable alliances for the good of the kingdom, and by the rest of society for the advancement of the family's fortunes through marriage. It is interesting that in both of the above-mentioned plays, Shakespeare, who never really takes sides, seems to have a soft spot in his heart for true love over the dehumanized mating prevalent in his time.

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