Determining Marital Suitability

  • Loreen L. Giese


In addition to choosing a spouse, determining suitability was important to the making of a marriage. In 1608, William Hutton, the master of Ralph Yardley, testified that he, along with other friends and family of Ralph, “disswaded” him from a match with Joan Carewe, “she being a wief muche unfitt for him” (DL/C/218/283). While William did not detail the criteria that made Joan an “unfitt” match, many deponents in several different cases identified the specific criteria that made someone a fit or unfit match. In the surviving London Consistory Court depositions for 1586 to 1611 and in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Twelfth Night, deponents and dramatic figures cite a variety of considerations when selecting a mate, such as wealth, status, occupation, personal affection, age, and character.1 The emphasis on individual rather than group interpretation of suitability criteria and the categories of criteria are generally the same between these dramas and depositions. However, within the topics discussed in this study, the widest divergence between the patterns in the depositions and the dramas occurs in regard to the prominence of criteria. That is, worth was the most cited criteria in the depositions, whereas it is a minor consideration in these two comedies. As such, the basis on which dramatic figures select partners in these two comedies is on the whole more romantic and unworldly compared to the depositions.


Suitability Criterion Marriage Partner Romantic Love Profit Motive Personal Affection 
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© Loreen L. Giese 2006

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  • Loreen L. Giese

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