16 April 2008
“A Married State”:
Single women are better off than married ones.
Katherine Philips’s “A Married State” addresses that marriage is not merry and that the ones who can should stay single for as long as possible. Just as Elaine Hobby writes, “Where romantic love appears in writings of this period…it is rarely noble or devine, and marriage does not of itself bring life’s ‘real satisfactions’” (71), Philips writes about love in “A Married State” but does not believe it is a positive factor in life. Philips believes that marriage is the road to damnation for women, but wives know how to hide their suffering well, as she expresses in the poem: “A married state affords but little ease: / The best of husbands are so hard to please. / This in the wives’ careful faces you may spell, / Though they dissemble their misfortunes well” (1-4). This quote also shows how Philips uses iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets to make the poem more appealing to the reader. According to the poem, women are better off being single. As Philips writes: “Turn, turn apostate to love’s levity. / Suppress wild nature if she dare rebel” (14-15). This quote represents Philips view that single women should ignore the natural thrive for love and remain single for as long as they can. These ideas lay the foundation for “A Married State”, since marriage may seem a joyful and lovely experience, but in reality it is merely a painful burden. Philips believes that a “virgin state” (5), meaning a single woman, is always happy and innocent. She explains in the poem the reasons for the discontent of a married woman: “No blustering husbands to create your fears, / No pangs of childbirth to extort your tears, / No children’s cries to offend your ears, / Few worldly crosses to distract your prayers” (7-10). The repetition of “No” in three consecutive lines makes the reasons Philips is giving sound more powerful and...
Cited: Hobby, Elaine. “An Introduction to Women’s Writing.” Usurping Authority Over the Man: Women’s Writing 1630-1689. Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1998. 65-93.
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