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marriage, Renaissance, love marriage, traditional values


Profound changes occurred in the institution of marriage during the Renaissance. Love was gradually replacing fiscal and dynastic considerations as the foundation considered crucial for a binding union. The love marriage was largely a middle-class phenomenon, born of the changing relationship between the family and the state, articulated and refined by Protestant divines, and diffused through aristocratic society. Drama of the period is much concerned with this shift. The bourgeois conjunction of love and marriage triumphs in the aristocratic societies of many a romantic comedy. The weddings at play's end promise a new social order. The disintegration of the old order, traced in the upheavals produced by the arranged marriage, is the subject of a number of Jacobean tragedies that, like many of the comedies, rely on female protagonists. The Duchess of Malfi is a unique amalgam of thematic features from both genres: the love marriage that releases and shapes the dramatic action brings the Duchess in conflict with the traditional values and entrenched power of her brothers. As one of the crucial themes of the play, the old and new concepts of matrimony help determine its action and characterization.