The question of whether a fiancee might choose celibacy was closely connected to the question of when marriage began--and answers to that question ranged from the moment of the exchange of betrothal
gifts to the moment of consummation.
The controversy lies not in its explanation of pre-Tridentine betrothal
practices, but in L.
Moreover, the importance of parental consent of betrothal
and marriage, eliminated after Trent, was now reintroduced.
All crucial acts of marriage: betrothal
, parental consent, and wedding, now had to transpire in a church.
Certainly the play needs to stage the betrothals twice because it gets it "wrong" the first time.
With the important exceptions of the trick played upon Phillis and the unilateral financial negotiations by the brides' families, the "ideal pattern" for an early modern betrothal ritual corresponds roughly to the second betrothals performed in The Fair Maid.
At the second betrothals, both Mall and Phillis verbally express their desires to marry, but not with the same urgency or intensity with which earlier, employing their hankies, they had expressed their desires for other men.
Once betrothals had been announced and no impediment to the marriage had been discovered, the priest performed a ritual almost identical to its modem counterpart.
That so many different tribunals heard cases involving broken betrothals is a clear demonstration of the difficulties in regulating behavior which involved both a secular and legal contract as well as a sacramental ritual.
Christian parents were avid to void engagements and betrothals made without their prior knowledge, whatever the circumstances, especially clandestinely.
40) In the Renaissance, the term metaphorically began to be applied to engagements as well as betrothals, and the age limit in the case of the former had begun to blur.
As former landed families entered the urban middle class, their behavior changed in predictable ways: they had fewer children, their women were more likely to become educated and to work, and their children now chose their own marriage partners, usually from outside the clan, in preference to arranged betrothals