The Good Wife's Guide

Macy Halford posted a great review of The Good Wife's Guide on the New Yorker's Book Bench website. Translated by Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose, The Good Wife's Guide is a fourteenth-century instruction book for a young bride, written by her husband. It's a primer on the fine art of male dominence.

The dinner menu the husband offers up goes to prove that real men did not eat quiche in the Middle Ages. Green eel soup or black hare stew, anyone?

As the 17th century specialist that I am, the book reminded me--of course--of Moliere's Arnolphe in The School for Wives. The wiley Arnolphe offers up a list of "maxims" for his young bride, whom he plucked from a convent. Of course, in the great Moliere tradition, the canny Agnes ends up showing what a nut job her husband really is.

Maxim 1. The woman who intends to be married ought to remember, that the man who takes her, takes her only for himself, notwithstanding the vast numbers of admirers which other women have in these our days.

Maxim 2. She ought to consult her husband about her dress; it being for him along should she take care of her beauty, and regardless whether other people think her handsome or not.

Maxim 3. She must lay aside the practice of ogling, and must use no paints, pomatums, beauty washes, nor the numberless ingredients that are made use of to set off the complexion. These are always mortal poisons to honour, and the pains bestowed to appear beautiful are seldom for the husband's sake.

Maxim 4. When she goes abroad, she ought, as honour requires, to prevent the wounds her eyes might give, by concealing them under her hood: for she should study to please her husband, and no one else.

Maxim 5. Decency prohibits her from receiving any friends whatever, except such as come to see her husband: those people of gallantry that have no business but with the wife, are very disagreeable to the husband.

There are five more maxims. But you get the point...oh, the things history has done to quiet women.

You might want to head over to a post on Silence and the Scold's Bridle. Miranda Garno Nesler offers some details about the muzzles that were used to restrain women's speech in the Renaissance.

Wendy Moore also explores 18th Century Domestic Violence.

More things change, the more they stay the same. Regrettably.

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