Marriage In Hume's Restoration Plays

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Restoration plays, specifically comedies, show marriage not only in a negative light but also as a flawed institution. With few exceptions, most couples in the comedies either fall apart or, if they are not yet official, their promise to marry is broken. As Hume states in his essay “Marital discord in English Comedy,” Restoration Comedies were not hostile to marriage but “[they] increasingly exhibit an awareness of the drawbacks and possible pitfalls of matrimony,” and so these plays focus on the problems women have in a marriage and the problems that come from marriage that is used either for financial, social, and/or political gain (183). Ultimately, the characters are rewarded for marrying out of love rather for their fortune
Margery’s marriage
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Once married, and to prevent this from happening, Pinchwife keeps Margery locked in the house and away from the city. This is not only difficult for Margery who, as a country girl, would have been able to roam about as she pleased, but it also exhibits the control that husbands have over their wives. Hume likens women to slaves in his essay, remarking that, “a wife might be lucky in her owner but more likely might not, in which case she was essentially helpless.” During this time period, it was almost impossible for a divorce to occur as women were considered to be one with their husband and when divorce was allowed it was only at the will of the husband not the wife. By exhibiting his control over his new bride Pinchwife is ultimately punished by having his worst fear confirmed and presumably continued. The infidelity of Margery may punish …show more content…
When asked why she married MacHeath, Polly responds with “I did not marry him (as ‘tis the Fashion) cooly and deliberately for Honour or Money. But, I love him,” which then causes Mrs. Peachum to retort “Love him! Worse and worse! I though the Girl had been better bred” (179). The Peachum’s who know of the risks of marriage for a woman, mainly that she will lose control of her goods, care naught for Polly’s claim for love and the play suggests that this ends up being in Polly’s best interest since MacHeath is ultimately using her for sex. While this may seem to suggest that marriage for love is perceived as wrong, it seems to take more of an issue with this problem of marriage benefiting the husband more than his wife than disputing a love marriage. MacHeath is by no means a saint or a good model for a human being, but his idea of marrying Polly is just taking advantage of the rules of the game. He lusts after Polly and thus does not appear to have much to lose by tricking her into marriage. Meanwhile, naïve Polly mistakes his lust for love and causes herself pain and trouble. If both had been in love then the question of Polly’s dowry may have come up but it would not have distressed her family as much as it did. Yet, as marriage ends up being a contract that puts the husband in complete control of the wife the family is rightly concerned that the thieving MacHeath will ruin their daughter. Mrs. Peachum’s

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