Chastity And Remarriage: Widows In Medieval England

1659 words - 7 pages

During the medieval time period women had specific roles that usually categorized as the daughter, the mother, the sister, the wife—the one who bares all the struggles but still does not receive the same recognition as a man. They are solely recognized by their male counterparts identity—the wife of the man, the daughter of the man, and the mother of the man, etc. So what happens when they no longer have the male counterpart to rely on? What happens when they are no longer their father’s daughter but another man’s wife? And what happens when that man dies and the women has to face society under the title of a widow? What does her role in society become then and what is her title? What is expected of the widow? In certain medieval societies when a woman’s husband died she had zero rights in property and homely matters and she in order to survive in society she had to begin anew and join a relationship with another male. In some societies women were not allowed to remarry, while in others for the woman’s family and betterment she was allowed to remarry. In Medieval England women played many roles in different areas, in many occurrences women had much say in their own lives while in other they lived in the shadow of man. Widows had many expectations and ideals that they had to live up to, they were expected to live virtuous lives as deemed by the bible, take care of the land their deceased male counterpart left behind with the help of administration consisting of married men and women, however if stricken by poverty they were still expected to partake in society through self-reliance and struggling.
The expectations of a woman in Medieval England was to get remain chaste, hold on to their virtue until they were married, give birth to a few heirs (preferably sons), and live life supporting their husbands in all ways possible. However, there are the few unlucky woman who lose their husbands to an inevitable aspect of life; death. When a woman’s husband died in Medieval England society’s expectations of the woman dramatically changed. Now she was no longer someone’s wife, but a widow. A widow by definition is: a woman who has lost her husband by death. What does society expect from her now, now the woman is expected to revert back to her life as a maiden in a sense. However the only difference now, is that she is no longer pure, no longer virginal. Yet she is expected to suppress her urges that were arisen post marriage in order to remain societally acceptable; and by acceptable she was to live a life following the bible and not question the rule of man. “If medieval society pitied the lonely widow, it abhorred the merry one.” If widows showed too much interest in other males she was seen as a threat and was not viewed as virtuous by the church and society. She was seen as a wretched human, one that did not belong in such society, an uncontrollable animal like being. Once a woman could live in her boundaries after her husband died and either...

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