Internet Shakespeare Editions


The wife's status

A husband instructs his obedient family.

The husband, in the accepted role as head of the household, gives moral direction to his wife and children--who sit obediently listening.

The wife's subordinate status was based on religious conceptions of hierarchy. The Book of Common Prayer directs the priest to read, to the newly married pair, a homily which quotes the well-known passage of St. Paul (Ephesians, 5: 22-5):

Ye women, submit your selves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the wife's head, even as Christ is the head of the Church, and he is the saviour of the whole body. Therefore as the Church in congregation is subject unto Christ: so likewise let the wives be in subjection unto their own husbands in all things.

More on the concept of "natural order" generally and more on its application to the relationship between the sexes.

The Medieval Feminist Index lists scholarship on women, sexuality, and gender.