In a personal response repeated on 21 May 1590 from a suit in the London Consistory Court, Edmund Billwyn explained why he was not married to Margaret Luke. He followed his assertions that “he did never contracte anie matrimonie with her” and “neither hath he had anie comunication or talke with her … of or for marriage” with a comprehensive denial of any actions that might have been understood as supporting her claim: “neither hath he at anie tyme gyven unto … margarett Luke anie guifte or token in respecte of anie contracte,” “neither hath he confessed at anie tyme before anie person or persons whatsoever to his knowledge or remembrance” that he and she “were betrothed or assured togithers in matrimonie,” “neither hath he at anie tyme saied … that he wold shortelye marrie the said margarett,” and “neither doth he beleeve that there is anie publique voyce or fame” that he and she “were or are leafullie contracted or betrothed one unto an other” (DL/C/213/647). Billwyn’s deposition is similar to many from this court in its identification of different kinds of courting and marrying behaviors—to use a phrase that appears repeatedly in the depositions—“in the way of marriage.” This study focuses on these behaviors as identified in “matrimonial enforcement” suits in the London Consistory Court between 1586 to 1611 and in two Shakespearean comedies, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Twelfth Night.1 Detailed readings of these behaviors in these legal and literary texts examine the roles available to women and men within courtship and marriage and probe the ways in which they perceived and contested their behaviors within these processes.
KeywordsLiterary Text Court Record Individual Consent Marriage Contract Detailed Reading
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.