In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet became so very desperate about love when her parents tried to force her into marrying Paris. As we discussed, Paris seemed like a nice guy. He didn’t know that Juliet didn’t want to marry him because arranged marriages were normal in that society. “Renaissance marriages were not simply personal matters; they were crucial to the network of alliances that underlay a family’s prosperity and prospects and that, in turn, formed the fabric of loyalties, affection, and obligation that supported civic institutions” (Italian Renaissance Learning Resources).
Juliet’s age was even right on target. “Brides, especially in Florence, were typically much younger than grooms. Women as young as fourteen were often married to men in their thirties” (IRL). Arranged marriages aren’t just customs of centuries past, though. According to statistics provided by UNICEF in 2015, around 50% of marriages worldwide are arranged. In fact, one of my former students just a few months ago told her parents that she did not want to participate in the marriage they had arranged for her. A story on the Huffington Post tells of some more modern perspectives on arranged marriage.
Now, imagine that your parents were choosing your husband or wife. What type of person would they choose for you? What type of dowry would they give for you you (if you’re female), or what would they demand on your behalf (if you’re male)? Would you go along with it? Why might your parents choose the type of person you’re imagining they would choose– or that they might actually have chosen if your family participates in an arranged marriage.
As always, I’ll start us off. First, my mother did not like Carl when he and I started dating. He was not what she would have chosen for me– At. All. My family is very conservative. I was raised strictly Southern Baptist. I even spent years traveling with my family as a member of The Partons (my maiden name), our musical group, singing in churches throughout the Southeast. In fact, we were voted the Buckeye State (Ohio) Singing Convention’s Group of the Year once! I played keyboards and sang soprano, my mother sang alto; while my baby brother played bass. I have always loved music and singing, and this was a lovely part of my life. My parents would have chosen for me a life-long Southern Baptist who would join the group. He would have been a straight-laced, suit-wearing, bass-singing preacher man with strong earning potential. Just as in many arranged marriage cultures, my spouse would have been chosen to propagate our religious beliefs and secure economic prosperity. For the right man, I think my parents would have offered up four or five of their adjacent acres for our house.
I would have been miserable with such a somber person; I’m basically whimsical and a bit sarcastic (if you haven’t already noticed), and I’m pretty sure I would have driven such a man insane. Can you imagine me with a mini-van full of rug rats heading off to the covered-dish? Right. And you don’t even know me that well.
But I met Carl, and it was Love at First Sight. (You can read a 100 word essay about our meeting at the link ;.) Carl was a Beatles fan with a white-boy ‘fro who didn’t even own a suit. At the time, he was an Art major, and if you don’t already know it, you should know now that the fine Arts do not exactly spell JOB SECURITY. So, he was almost the exact opposite of what they would have chosen. But he is my soulmate. We have been blissfully married over 20 years now, and my parents like him. For the record, they gave us the two acres on which we built our house as a wedding present.
Respond in a comment below for up t0 30 points, 40 if you’re really into the conversation. The DEADLINE is October 26, 2015.