How to be a good wife in the Renaissance: a man's perspective
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
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Document TypeMasters Research thesis
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© 2015 Shari Blanck
Women’s role in Renaissance Florence was defined by their marital status, and most women were married by their twentieth birthday. Finding a virtuous wife was a priority for those of elite status, and a number of texts written for an educated audience discuss the “ideal” or “good” wife. This thesis analyses this good wife in elite Renaissance Florentine families, in the period of 1361 to 1527, the timeframe from which the selected primary texts are from. This thesis also illuminates and evaluates the qualities that a good wife must possess, as prescribed by prominent Renaissance humanists, clerics and literary writers. This thesis draws from a number of Florentine sources that make reference to the good wife, overtly and didactically, or through implication. The sources range from the overtly circumscribable humanist and clerical tracts such as De Re Uxoria by Francesco Barbaro and Regola del Governo di Cura Familiare by Giovanni Dominici, essays written for instruction and circulation. This thesis also uses literary sources, such as Boccaccio’s De Mulieribus Claris and the Decamerone, Leon Battista Alberti’s I Libri della famiglia and Machiavelli’s Clizia and La Mandragola, and his short novella, Belfagor arcidiavolo. It also analyses less formal sources, such as San Bernardino’s 1427 Lenten sermons in order to gain an understanding of the advice given at all levels. These sources provide an insight into the behaviour, demeanour, and especially virtues that were encouraged by leading writers and social norms. There are a number of virtues considered to be ‘feminine’ virtues, all of which are marked by control and passivity. The aim of this thesis is to understand the importance placed on being a good wife, and the prescribed behaviour for married women in the Renaissance, especially in regards to the feminine virtues being encouraged and idealised. There are three virtues which are consistent across the nine sources studied, which this thesis focuses on in detail; obedience, chastity and love.
KeywordsRenaissance; humanism; Machiavelli; Boccaccio; Dominici; women; Bbarbaro; Bernardino
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