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Butler, Sara M. (Sara Margaret). "Runaway Wives: Husband Desertion in Medieval England."Journal of Social History 40.2 (2006): 337-59. Print.
During medieval times, women accepted their way of life. The husband in the relationship was the one that provided women with the financial support and the social status backing to succeed in their life. However, this article gives a glimpse into the hopelessness that some women felt in their marriages. Because women who did not follow the biblical definition of a marriage could in no possible way succeed on their own financially, very few women actually left their marriages. Some women did leave however. This paper examined the ways that women left, the repercussions that leaving brought to them, and what the risks involved in leaving in the first place entailed. Women who left their husbands due to a poor relationship were not respected. Because of the gender dynamics that existed, women were not allowed to desert their husbands, no matter how badly he treated her or how much she hated being in her situation. There was just no other way to support a family without a husband.
Women were viewed negatively if they attempted to move on after a failed marriage. Terms used to refer to single women were the same ones used to refer to prostitutes, since at some point the only way women would be able to get money on their own was through the selling of their bodies. Women who deserted their husbands also lost their social status because their status was tied to their husbands. Women who decided to leave would also lose any religious backing because desertion meant going against the values emphasized in the Bible and would even receive threats of excommunication directed at them because of this. However, the worst punishment was in having to return to her husband. A wife who ran away was viewed as property. Just as property that is stolen is returned to the rightful owner, so was a wife. Reasons why women left their husbands was clear in the evidence used in this article. Women were fed up with the form of treatment in many cases. Sexual dissatisfaction was also a major reason why women would leave their husbands, including impotence from him. Husbands also had the opportunity to explain why they thought their wives deserted them, and their perspective was always quite different, since they clearly blamed their wives for the ordeal. The article pointed to all of the possible reasons why wives would leave their husbands during the medieval ages when they would not be able to sustain themselves. Although this was a small amount of women that went through with this, it shows that not all women stuck around in their failing relationships.
This article relates to the theme of gender because it relates to women leaving their husbands as a result of bad treatment or unbearable living conditions. It also deals with the institution of marriage. Marriage was viewed as a sacred vow and therefore, if it were to be broken by women, then they would be punished. Unlike men who would be able to express their sexuality, women were forced to leave their husbands if they wanted a relationship with another person. The theme of class played a factor in the loss of social status once a wife left her husband. This article relates to the others as it covers medieval history from the perspective of a woman, just as the other articles do. This gives a glimpse into the lives of women during that era.
Coleman, Emily R. "Medieval Marriage Characteristics: A Neglected Factor in the History of Medieval Serfdom." The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2.2 (1971): 205-19. Print.
While many historical documents on the institution of marriage were solely based on those presented by the higher social class, sources have been found that provide an analysis on the marriage relationships of those medieval individuals that belonged to the lower social class, or the servile population. This article analyzes a historical document that can be compared to a census that mostly focused on property, but gives a glimpse into the lives of the lower class in terms of their family size. There was clear evidence that women outlived men. Males were more likely to die than women were and therefore, peasant women held a higher status in their community and within their social class than women of a middle or higher social class were accustomed to. Women in the peasant class provided their community with great labor contributions. They were also respected for their ability to bear children and bring a bigger workforce to their community. Because of this, the status of children was not determined by the male in the family, but by the female.
The article also examines marriage that seemed strange or peculiar during the medieval times. Some marriages were made up of couples that stemmed from vastly different social statuses. Men barely married below their social status while the majority of females tended to marry down. Reasons for this were suggested in the article. The fact that children carried on their mother's social status could account for the indecrepencies in the number of women who married beneath them. Another suggestion was that social class may not have been the sole important factor in fixing marriages. However, the explanation that the author agreed upon was that women may have held a higher status because the death rate among men was so high, that it would be less complicated for women to be the bearers of status. This would make it easier on women and her children if the woman were to remarry and had to then restart another life. Since women determined the status, this signified that the children would not have to endure the constant change in status every time the mother became a widow. The evidence analyzed all suggests that it was much easier for the peasant class to move up the social ladder during these medieval times.
The theme of class was evident in this article. The status that women held within their own community was due to their peasant status. Gender dynamics were a bit different as women held more power in terms of how much influence they had over the social strata of their community. Marriage was viewed in a more practical form. Instead of focusing on the dominance of men, the focus was on how to best make a community function. This article resembled the rest in terms of providing a non-traditional glimpse into the lives of medieval women.
Bullough, Vern L. "Medieval Concepts of Adultery." Arthuriana 7.4 (1997): 5-15. Print.
Adultery was viewed negatively during the medieval ages. Although adultery entailed being involved in an extramarital affair by either the husband or the wife, women were punished to a higher degree than men were. Germanic practices of adultery were covered in the article. According to evidence obtained, Germanic customs entitled men to adulterous affairs. It was actually encouraged for men to have relationships with other women outside of the marriage. However, if the men were to ever find out that women acted in the same manner, husbands would have the right to kill their wives. Roman tradition was no different. Men were once again encouraged to participate in sexual acts outside of the marriage. A trial could be set against a wife who would cheat on her husband, however, despite the outcome she could still be killed by her husband. The biblical experience of adultery can be experienced by referring to the repetitious way that adultery is continuously mentioned in the Bible. According to biblical tradition, adultery was seen as being not only impure acts with another individual, but having unholy thoughts about it as well. The Bible encouraged more forgiveness for the sin instead of being harshly punished for it.
The medieval community was more understanding about the double standard that existed concerning adultery in a marriage. Men were punished as well as women for having extramarital relationships. Men were barred from having sex with their own wives for a year as a penalty for betraying his wife. Fines were set up for men who cheated with women of varying statuses. Monetary restitution would be provided from the men if the woman with whom he cheated on his wife with were to get pregnant. Anyone who broke the vows of marriage would have to be subject to and endure public penance for an extended period of time. Canon law was compared to Roman law as being less guided by a double standard. These laws were in fact harsher on husbands who had extramarital affairs because it was seen as the man betraying his wives' virtue. Killing a wife after catching her in the act was not allowed. The article also discussed unconventional views of adultery. It was believed that adulterous sex was more enjoyable and pleasurable than sex within a marriage, leading many individuals to experience this for themselves. It was…[continue]
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