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The Widow and Widowhood in the Elizabethan Era

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Megan Bauer

on 28 January 2014

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Transcript of The Widow and Widowhood in the Elizabethan Era

By: Megan Bauer
The Widow
and Widowhood
in the Elizabethan Era

• English tradition encouraged widows not to remarry or even move into a married child's home.

• They were to remain head of either their late husband's home or to become head of a new home.
The Tradition of Widowhood in Early Modern England
Negative Feelings Towards to Widows at the Time
Why All the Negativity?
They were 'un-headed' and therefore unable to be controlled, causing much mistrust and fear.
William Page's Three Types of Widows
Come to the place of desolation and find joy within

Pray, attend Church services, etc.

Do the works of the Church (i.e. Help the needy even if poor, etc)
Page's Advice to Widows
They were said to have unquenchable sexual appetites

They were also said to advise young married women on how to "undermine their husband's control."
Two Different Approaches to Widowhood
They either considered themselves still under the power of their husband and should act in ways that he would have approved.
Or they would become "self-controlled" or independent, learning how to take on the responsibilities of a man.
The detestable or evil widow (lives for pleasures)
The miserable or worldly widow (either poor and comfortless or 'liveth honestly and intendeth not to marry')
The good widow or the 'widow indeed' (the one who in spite of her freedom manages to find the most desolation or emptiness)
Widows were sought out as marriage partners by many men in early modern England.
Who Were These Widows?
It was most often widows from the "middle class" that were likely to receive and accept a marriage proposal.

Poor widows were considered financial burdens while rich widows were less likely to want to give up the independence they received after their husband's death.
Who Were These Men?
1/3 of men aged 30-34 married widows from 1598 - 1619.
Elizabethan London widows were about 4.5 years older than the men they married.
(This is in stark contrast to the impression that is gotten from the popular culture of the time.)
Negative Feelings Towards Remarriage of Widows

This was partly because in the early modern period, it was popular (even in the church) to marry for love.

Remarriages were considered to be based upon monetary gain (for men) or sexual satisfaction
(for women).
"He that woos a maid, must fain lie and flatter, But he that woos a widow, must down with his breeches and at her."
"Let him that is poor and to wealth would acquire, get some rich old widow and grow wealthy by her."
-Thomas Dekker
Why Not Remarry?
Many believed it was not for the correct reasons (as previously stated)
Many feared that if a widow remarried she would neglect her children.
Many thought that the marriage would automatically be unhealthy.
Marriages of the time most likely faced the same problems that remarried couples face today.
It's That Time Again!
Cavallo, Sandra, and Lyndan Warner.
Widowhood in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
. Harlow, Essex, UK: Longman, 1999. Print.
Time to Play!!

That ...

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