The Idea of Romantic and Marital Relationships

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The idea of romantic and marital relationships has changed and evolved over time into a much different concept than it used to be. In the Elizabethan Era, the concept of love and marriage was much different than the typical marriage between two people in today’s age. Not only marriage, but the relationship between a parent and their child has also adapted significantly over time. In the playwright William Shakespeare’s time, fathers chose their daughter’s husband for them. This decision that the father made did not depend upon the idea of love, a concept which marriage relies heavily upon today.

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Rather, it was considered foolish to marry for love in that time period.

In the Elizabethan Era, marriage was reliant on the decision that the father made. In that time period it was believed that parents knew best in all assets. Those who were of higher class were treated more strictly in regards to arranged marriage, while those of the lower class were managed with more lenience. In the Shakespearean tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, both Romeo and Juliet were infolded into families of nobles, therefore making it more challenging for them to persuade their parents to let them marry a person of their own choosing (Love and Relationships). As of 2019, the idea of arranged marriages has mostly subsided. Arranged marriages today are most commonly seen in Inida. However, in present day, marriages are less of a forceful act when compared to the Shakespearean Era. Instead, “In most families, the procedure is for the parents or a mediator to vet potential spouses for their marriage aged child. Once a promising candidate is found, the parents will talk, often before the prospective bride and groom are introduced”. They then have time to get to know each other, and while family pressure most certainly plays a role in their decision, they get all the time they need to make this decision (Arranged Marriages).

All men and women were expected to get married, and if they did not marry then they were looked down upon by society. As for men, they need to marry in order to become the “legal head of household” (Love and Marriage). This being said, the man of the house would take complete control of the house and their family within. In other words, “Wives [were] the property of their husbands” (Love and Marriage). In modern times, women are much more independent in most places around the globe. In the Shakespearean Era, “Family and Home life depended on the skills of the women in relation to good house keeping, and the health of the family was determined by the ability of Elizabethan women to produce medicines from the herbs available to them” (Elizabethan Family Life). Today, in most relationships it is typical and ideal for both parents to contribute to caring for the home and children. Today women are also given the opportunity to provide for their family as opposed to being forced to only do housework due to the slim amount of careers open to women. Their main purpose was to produce children, “preferably male heirs” (Elizabethan Family Life). In the Elizabethan Era, “Marriage was an economic arrangement, and love and emotional support came second or perhaps not at all” In present times, these roles are swapped, and marriage is extremely dependent upon love and affection (Independent Women).

Not only do wives have to suffer the idea of being treated as inferior beings, but children as well. Most married couples wanted and expected to have children, due to the fact that as they grew older, they were useful towards the family. “Boys were educated to take over for their fathers”, and would later help with family trade, and “girls were taught skills to help then run their own households and please their husbands” (Martin). Girls would also help their mothers to “cook, clean, and look after their young ones” (Childhood). Girls were not educated, for there were no schools available to them. This being said, most girls were illierate. Children were the property of their parents, and were to give them the “respect a servant gives his master”(Childhood). During the 1500s infant mortality was immense, therefore children were cherished. “Even though an average woman was pregnant six times in her lifetime, disease was commonplace with one fourth of children dying before their tenth birthday” (Childhood). However after infancy had passed children were strictly taught to obey their parents and a great deal was expected of them and their behavior. “If the child did not preform in such a way, then the parents would discipline the child with physical punishments. Misbehavior, for example, was cause for an immediate spanking or a cuff on the back of the head” (Childhood). This is not occurent in most places today. In present times, children are treated with much more respect and less physical punishment. A time-out, for example, can be used when children aren’t acting accordingly to their parent’s orders. Many teens today are disciplined through the act of getting their phones taken away, or not being able to go out and spend time with friends. This is a clear contrast to the treatment of children in the 1500s compared to children and milennials in 2019.

While many differences can be identified between relationships in the Elizabethan Era compared to modern day, there are a number of similarities as well. These similarities are heavily dependent upon the usage of similar ideas which were used in the 1500s and are still executed today. Some of the basic principles of childhood from the past are reflected into today. These elements consist of the idea to always respect the parents and provide proper manners, asking the parents’ blessing, and having table manners (Peterson). Also, the concept of cherishing and protecting the children of the Shakespearean Era has emulated into the present. In the Shakespearean Era, they would cherish their children due to the fact that most children would die before the age of 10. Today, children are cherished and protected out of sheer love and compassion. Another likeness is the fact that children will help their parents with labor or housework once they’re old enough to do so. Like today, most of the time, the boys would help their father with physical labor while girls will help their mothers with housework, or what we refer to today as “chores”.

Comparisons can also be drawn from present day and from the Elizabethan Era regarding marital relationships. For example, as exhibited in the 1500s, both men and women are expected to be married today. As of 2018, an average of 61.24 million couples have gotten married, and about 2 million marriages take place per year (Number). However in today’s age, couples in most places around the world are not looked down upon if they do not marry as they were in the past. Secondly, in the Shakespearean Era, “Family and Home life depended on the skills of the women in relation to good house keeping”(Elizabethan Family Life). As of 2016, nearly 10 percent of fathers work inside the home, or are, in other words, “stay-at-home” fathers, and nearly 30 percent of mother’s are “stay-at-home” moms (Collins). This displays the fact that more women today are left to care for the house while their husband works and provides for the family. As in the Elizabethan Era, the condition of a family’s home then and today does rely heavily upon the care of the mother.

Over time, the concepts of marital relationships and parent-child relationships have grown and developed. While some of these notions have remained over time, it is for the better that most concepts have changed to form what we know as a “loving relationship” today. Through time and the accumulation of new ideas, the Shakespearean Era will always serve as the base of the evolution of a true relationship between wedded beings and between a child and their parent.? 

Works Cited

  1. “Arranged Marriages, Past and Present.” Owlcation, Owlcation,
  2. “Childhood – Elizabethan England.” Google Sites,
  3. Collins, Lois M. “In the Last 25 Years, Who’s Working and Who’s Staying Home with the Kids?”, Deseret News, 2 Oct. 2018,
  4. “Elizabethan Family Life”,
  5. “Independent Women.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report,
  6. “Love and Marriage.” Life in Elizabethan England 54: What Every Schoolboy Knows,
  7. “Love and Relationships.” Elizabethan Era vs. Modern Day,
  8. Martin, Kathryn. Gender Roles of Women in the Renaissance,
  9. “Number of Married Couples in the U.S. 1960-2018.” Statista, Statista,
  10. Peterson, Scott. The People of the State of California,
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The Idea of Romantic and Marital Relationships. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved from