The introduction lays out the book's argument concerning how and why seventeenth-century English writings about marriage promote an intensely personal love that rejects any possibility of replacement. Opening with the example of John Donne's Holy Sonnet 18 allows me to explain how literary writings handle the incoherence within Paul's definition of Christian marriage. I then present the historical argument about why the political upheavals of the seventeenth century give rise to the way of writing about marriage that I study. Next, the introduction describes the book's methodology as it promotes a shift from the discourse of political theology toward a study of affect. A final section provides an example of the book's dual historicist and forward-looking orientations by pairing the role of marriage in Shakespeare's Richard II with Sigmund Freud's account of narcissism within the development of normatively heterosexual subjects.
By reading Edmund Spenser's 1595 sonnet sequence Amoretti alongside the first three books of The Faerie Queene, this chapter details the vocabulary that allows the poet to claim for himself a triumph of individuating love through marriage. This same triumph remains elusive when he writes of the unmarried Queen Elizabeth I. In the Amoretti, Spenser reimagines the myths of Narcissus and of Actaeon to render Petrarchism and Protestant theology fit to affirm the love between two individuals. The second half of this chapter shows how Spenser develops this poetic vocabulary in The Faerie Queene, which never reaches the climactic marriage that should harmonize the poem's allegorical meaning with historical reality. The Amoretti subsequently celebrates marriage's capacity to affirm the poet's own love, but only as it exists at a partial remove from the political prerogative of his queen.
This chapter turns to the way that Shakespeare's Jacobean plays of jealousy portray the destructive form of a love that insists on affective fixity. Both Othello and The Winter's Tale translate an unresolved problem of Christian typology into dramas of intimate feeling. When Pauline theology redefines marriage, it remains unclear the extent to which jealousy has been rendered obsolete by the supposedly inclusive truth claim of Christ's love. In Othello and The Winter's Tale, jealousy exposes a rift between intensely personal experience and shared realities, including the perpetuation of the state. The problem of jealousy is portrayed as one that neither a republican state nor a hereditary monarchy can resolve. This chapter discusses how the presentation of jealousy in these plays helps to pinpoint the distortions involved in Carl Schmitt's attempt to conscript the aesthetic force of Shakespearean tragedy for his view of political and historical reality.
Writing before the civil wars, the royalist William Davenant celebrates royal marriage as a vehicle of cohesion. This chapter examines how Davenant's unfinished poem Gondibert, written in the aftermath of King Charles I's execution, exposes the deficiencies of Christian marriage in promoting stability. Davenant elevates scientific knowledge (especially when it can save lives) over the appeal of religious myths. This matters for the titular hero, who seems destined to marry the princess but then falls in love with Birtha, who heals him after he is wounded in combat. Gondibert works with Birtha and her father, an archivist of knowledge, to flatter and deceive the king in order to seek personal love. This chapter proposes that Davenant's account of science and intimate feeling working together to disrupt political stability can serve as a reminder for us to attend to marriage in our genealogical accounts of modern biopolitics.
In Paradise Lost, John Milton locates a love that rejects all substitutes within Eden, and as an inducement for the original Fall. Adam chooses to sin because he cannot tolerate the option of losing Eve and trusting in God to create a second wife. This chapter argues that Milton elevates this transgressive expression of fixed love rather than condemning it. Paradise Lost does this in a way that alienates a distinctively human feeling of love from God's overarching concern for the legitimacy of his Son as the heir to his throne. Milton orchestrates a conflict between human love and God's insistence on different logics of replacement in order to undermine the mythic bases of hereditary kingship. This chapter concludes by describing how Milton still embeds a form of reproductive futurity within his promotion of married love, even when it should remain distinct from the imperatives of dynastic reproduction.
This chapter reads Lucy Hutchinson's Memoirs of her late husband alongside her unfinished poem Order and Disorder to show that her writings cannot render Pauline marriage compatible with her personal love and her republican politics. In the Memoirs, Hutchinson remembers her husband as a republican hero. To describe his singular and genuine virtues, she avoids imputing to him a Christlike status, as Paul instructs wives to do. By retelling Genesis, Order and Disorder teaches that a Christian interpretation of marriage promotes lifelong fidelity while undercutting the validity of hereditary succession. Yet the poem stops abruptly just when Pauline typology and an interrogation of birthright could have converged in the story of the younger Jacob prevailing over the older Esau. This chapter concludes that Hutchinson's need to uphold the property rights of eldest sons—of her late husband in particular—forms an impasse within her biblical and republican understanding of marriage.
Aphra Behn's debut play, The Forc'd Marriage, or the Jealous Bridegroom revisits the precedents of Othello and The Winter's Tale. Jealous violence within an unhappy marriage drives the play into tragedy, but Behn proposes a new tragicomic resolution—that of remarriage to other people. This chapter pairs Behn's early tragicomedy with her late prose fiction Oroonoko. In Oroonoko, Behn fictionalizes England's slave trade to bring the faithful love between Prince Oroonoko and his wife Imoinda to a tragic end. Jealous delusion is not the problem undermining this royal union. Yet Othello still emerges as a recognizable precedent when Oroonoko concludes that killing Imoinda is the way to safeguard their love against the inescapable realities of enslavement. Behn pits the uniqueness of noble love against human commodification not to decry the slave trade but, instead, to voice her royalist commitment shortly before the Glorious Revolution would unseat James II.
This book concludes by looking ahead, briefly, to the way that the definition of love against substitution matters for the English novel. The epilogue turns to the examples of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, in which marriage shapes the possibilities of uniqueness and replaceability. Both of these novels engage with seventeenth-century writings to explore how religious and literary understandings of marriage continue to exert their influence. In Frankenstein, Victor discovers a way to be revered as a singular patriarch apart from marriage, yet his creature demands a spouse after studying a translation of Paradise Lost. In Daniel Deronda, Eliot engages with Shakespeare's plays of jealousy and also with Milton's poetry. Eliot claims, in a literary expression of early or proto-Zionism, that the fixed love between Jewish characters can recalibrate particularity and universal humanity in a way that Christian marriage has failed to perfect.