Marriage a La Mode

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Coursework Assessment James Ward Kathryn Ward 18th Century and Restoration How far do you agree with the view that Restoration and eighteenth-century representations of marriage tend to exclude happiness and focus on infidelity, inequality and immorality? Your answer should refer to any two or more of the following: The Country Wife, The School for Scandal, Marriage A-la-Mode, Pamela.

The secret of a successful marriage was one of the most hotly debated topics in the public houses and coffee shops of 18th-century England, and the outcome of this fascination with finding the perfect formula set the tone for our modern-day Western approach to marriage based on the ideal of a harmonious, intimate partnership founded in mutual love. This shift in ideas about marriage was ground-breaking. At the beginning of the 18th century most marriages among rich or high society families were essentially business deals, founded by the desire to cement powerful alliances, to increase social standing, to be financially beneficial or in order to exchange or acquire land and property. Although in most ways, the richer in society had more freedom, when it came to choosing their marriage partner, the working class had the freedom. Although many of the plays at the time presented the idea that marriages were commonly seen as a form of business transaction or lift up the social ladder this was not entirely true for society, as a the freedom to choose one’s own marriage partner became more and more of a reality, although this luxury was mostly confined to the lower classes. ‘Although people in working-class and agricultural communities were more or less free to choose their own partners for life—albeit generally within the same narrow economic group and geographical area—the vast majority of marriages among aristocratic, wealthy, and middle-class families were arranged by parents with the prospective bride and bridegroom having little or no say. ‘1...
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