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Marriage

Shakespeare and the Casting Couch

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Stories about women summoned as supplicants to the portals of men with the power to grant their wishes, for a price, are common across professions, across countries, across millennia. Shakespeare dramatized the dilemmas some of these women faced in more than one of his plays.

In both Henry VI Part 3 and Measure for Measure, for example,
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Wives and Troubled Husbands

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Lady Percy’s plea to Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1, is similar to Portia’s plea to Brutus in Julius Caesar. In both a wife is pleading with her husband to disclose the thoughts that seem to trouble him deeply. A difference, however, is that some psychologists consider Lady Percy’s speech a clinical description of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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Seduction or Harassment?

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Shakespeare delights in the seduction ceremonies of bright men with even brighter women. These dialogues, whether between adolescents like Romeo and Juliet, more mature characters like Henry V and Princess Katherine, or seasoned adults like the widow Lady Grey and the sexual harasser King Edward, in this scene (3HenryVI 3.2.36), give Shakespeare opportunities to employ dazzling webworks of rhetorical exchanges.
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Kneel not, gentle Portia

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Brutus
Kneel not, gentle Portia.
Portia
I should not need, if you were gentle Brutus.Antanaclesis

Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus,
Is it excepted I should know no secrets
That appertain to you? Am I yourself
But, as it were, in sort or limitation,
To keep with you at meals,

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Source:
Act 2
Scene 1
Line 300

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Let me choose, For as I am, I live upon the rack

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Bassanio
Let me choose,
For as I am, I live upon the rack.
Portia
Upon the rack, Bassanio? Then confess
What treason there is mingled with your love.
Bassanio
None but that ugly treason of mistrust,
Which makes me fear th’ enjoying of my love.
There may as well be amity and life
‘Tween snow and fire,
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Now tell me, madam, do you love your children?

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King Edward
Now tell me, madam, do you love your children?
Lady Grey
Ay, full as dearly as I love myself.
Anadiplosis & EpistropheKing Edward
And would you not do much to do them good?
Lady Grey
To do them good I would sustain some harm.
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Marry, my child, early next Thursday morn

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Lady Capulet
Marry, my child, early next Thursday morn
The gallant, young, and noble gentleman,
The County Paris, at Saint Peter’s Church
Shall happily make thee there a joyful bride.
Juliet
Now, by Saint Peter’s Church, and Peter too,
He shall not make me there a joyful bride!
I wonder at this haste,
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Source:
Act 3
Scene 5
Line 117

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Tomorrow is the joyful day, Audrey

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Touchstone
Tomorrow is the joyful day, Audrey. Tomorrow
will we be married.
Audrey
I do desire it with all my heart, and I hope it is
no dishonest desire to desire to be a woman of the world.

It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no

 Enter two Pages.
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Source:
Act 5
Scene 3
Line 1

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I’ll have no father, if you be not he

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Rosalind, to Duke
I’ll have no father, if you be not he.
 To Orlando.
I’ll have no husband, if you be not he,
 To Phoebe.
Nor ne’er wed woman, if you be not she.

Whiles a wedlock hymn we sing,
Feed yourselves with questioning,
That reason wonder may diminish
How thus we met,
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Source:
Act 5
Scene 4
Line 126

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