Elizabethan dating and marriage rules
Juliet worries that Romeo, having overheard her protestations of love for him, will think she’s ‘too quickly won’ and offers to play hard to get if need be: ‘I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay, / So thou wilt woo.’ Indeed, since men were generally the wooers, the issue of female agency in the process was complicated, as Helena complains in Juan Luis Vives insists that, when it comes to choosing a husband, maidens should keep quiet: ‘it becometh not a maide to talke, where hir father and mother be in communicacion about hir mariage’, 1557.In Shakespeare’s England, the process for getting married could be complex.Smitten couples rarely saw each other without the presence of a chaperone, and marriage proposals were frequently written.Eric Rasmussen explains the complex process of getting married in Shakespeare’s England, and the way this worked for young Will himself.Famously, Shakespeare left his ‘second best bed’ to his wife in his will.It’s not clear whether this bequest was an insult, implying Anne’s subordinate place in his affections, or a tender reminder of matrimonial bliss.
An interested gentleman could not simply walk up to a young lady and begin a conversation.
William Shakespeare’s marriage serves as a fascinating example of an expedited wedding.
In 1582, 18-year-old Will was romantically involved with Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior.
Even after being introduced, it was still some time before it was considered appropriate for a man to speak to a lady or for a couple to be seen together.
Once they had been formally introduced, if the gentleman wished to escort the lady home he would present his card to her.