Katharine Cleland'sIrregular Unionsprovides the first sustained literary history of clandestine marriage in early modern England and reveals its controversial nature in the wake of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, which standardized the marriage ritual for the first time. Cleland examines many examples of clandestine marriage across genres. Discussing such classic works as The Faerie Queene, Othello, and The Merchant of Venice, she argues that early modern authors used clandestine marriage to explore the intersection between the self and the marriage ritual in post-Reformation England.
The ways in which authors grappled with the political and social complexities of clandestine marriage, Cleland finds, suggest that these narratives were far more than interesting plot devices or scandalous stories ripped from the headlines. Instead, after the Reformation, fictions of clandestine marriage allowed early modern authors to explore topics of identity formation in new and different ways.
Thanks to generous funding from Virginia Tech and its participation in TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem), the ebook editions of this book are available as Open Access volumes from Cornell Open (cornellpress.cornell.edu/cornell-open) and other repositories.
Introduction: Making a Clandestine Match in Early Modern English Literature 1. Reforming Clandestine Marriage in Spenser's Faerie Queene, Book I 2. "Wanton Loves and Young Desires": Marlowe's Hero and Leander and Chapman's Continuation 3. Sacred Ceremonies and Private Contracts in Spenser's Epithalamion and Shakespeare's A Lover's Complaint 4. "Lorenzo and His Infidel": Elopement and the Cross-Cultural Household in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice 5. "Are You Fast Married?": Elopement and Turning Turk in Shakespeare's Othello Conclusion: Incestuous Clandestine Marriage in John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore
Katharine Cleland is Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Tech.
Cleland's book represents an important step forward in contextualizing early modern English literature. This book enriches that scholarship by providing a deeper understanding of the many types of marriages portrayed in early modern literature and how they reflect the social anxieties of the period. Clearly written and tightly argued, the book should be of interest to scholars of literature and history.
~Renaissance and Reformation