The Meaning of Marriage

THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE, NOTES


Abbreviations: F: Frederick J. Furnivall; MS: British Library MS Sloane 1983 B, leaf 13.

1 with. MS: wt. The scribe abbreviates three words: "with," "that," and "sir." F has added the missing letters, as have I.

2 understanding. MS: undestanding. F has provided the missing consonant.

4-7 The husband's lack of sexual interest which sets up the joke constitutes a denigration of conjugal duty; in medieval marriage both partners are obligated by their vow of consent to pay the conjugal debt even when the other is unwilling. See Chaucer's The Parson's Tale on the second cause of "assemble": "Another cause is to yelden everich of hem to oother the dette of hire bodies, for neither of hem hath power of his owene body" (X[I]940).

6 the2. MS: te.

7 wanted. MS: wnted.

10 let us be pairted. The marriage could be annulled for one partner's neglect of the other's sexual needs. Sexual abstinence between spouses (spiritual marriage) needed to be mutually agreed upon as in the case of Cecilia and Valerius in Chaucer's The Second Nun's Tale or the marriage contract between Mary and Joseph in the Corpus Christi plays.

10-11 taiken it ill to me. That is, "you would think ill of me if I satisfied nature in the wrong way."

11-12 pillar of repentance. A public means of humiliation for allegedly unfaithful wives.

14 could. MS: ould. F's emendation.

16-17 The three goods of marriage - procreation, satisfaction of nature, and avoiding fornication - are named as evidence of the extent of the husband's neglect. Compare The Parson's Tale (X[I]939-42) on the three goods of marriage, the first two of which are chaste.

21 they. MS: the.

22 forgoing. MS: forging. I have followed the emendation made by F to maintain sense and syntax.

MUSSHO VETICH. This phrase may be understood as it is translated in the narrative, i.e., doe this way. It is also quite possible that it is nonsensical, a phrase meant to implicate the Irish. It appears in the printed edition in capital letters.

25 Vale. A Latin term meaning "farewell."

26-27 McBaire. F: Mr Baire. Whether this is a narrative originating in Scotland and attributed to someone named McBaire is unclear. The ellipses replicate those found in F's edition.

 
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The Meaning of Marriage

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    Ther was an old batchleor maried to a young girle, and efter maried he went to bed with
the girle everie night for six months time togither, never minding nor understanding what
he ought to doe to his wife at night, bot fell asleep when he went to bed at night, and got
up in the morning, and went abroad to his busines; and all the time understanding that he
hadd nothing to doe with a wife but for dressing his victuals and keeping a clean house and
his back wearme all night, bot never minded the onlie and cheif thing the poor young girle
wanted. So efter long times patience, or rather impatience, the poor girle went to the preist
of the parosh, and compleaned on her housband John, and sayes, "God forgive yow, Sir,
for marieing me to a man that understands not mariadge! Therfor, pray, Sir, tell him what
he ought to doe, or let us be pairted, for I cannot comand natur longer; and ye wold taiken
it ill to me to gon and satisfied nature the wrong way, and mad me sit on the pillar of
repentance." The preist replyed that he wold be at her dwelling the nixt day, and speak to
John; and acordingly cam, and asked John how he cam to be so unkind to his wife; who
replyed that, "Non could be kinder to wife nor he was; never had he disobeyed her, or
given her a froward word." "Bot John," say the preist, "ye ar wanting in another thing of
greater consequence;" and tell that mariadge was ordained for procreatione of children,
for satisfieing nature, and avoiding of fornicatione, with a great manie more arguments:
bot, by all, he culd not come to understand what he ought. So the preist says: "Poor girle,
I pittie thy caise! for this man is verie dull; bot I think it best yow and I go to bed, and I will
shew him how and what to doe." Who replyed she was willing with all her heart; and to
bed they went. And the preist got on the top of her, and spok in Irish tongue (as all the rest
of the forgoing storie was) MUSSHO VETICH, that is to say, doe this way. So when the
preist had don what he was able to do, the poor girl was so weel pleased with the game,
that she says, "Oh, Sir, our John is verie forgetful! Pray doe it over again!"
Vale.


        [on the back is written]
        scottch stor. . .
        McBaire . . .
Bibliography
The Meaning of Marriage, Select Bibliography

Manuscript

British Library MS Sloane 1983 B, leaf 13 (seventeenth century ?).


Edition

Furnivall, Frederick J., ed. Jyl of Breyntfords Testament . . . and Other Short Pieces. London: Printed for private circulation by Taylor & Co., 1871. Pp. 40-41.