Beyond Renaissance Marriage

Traditionally, marriage played an extremely important role in the life of people. It is particularly interesting to trace the changes in people’s attitude to marriage, especially concerning the reasons that made people marry each other. In this respect, the Renaissance period seems to be particularly worthy to analyse because it was a turning point in the development of western civilization, including not only technology, economy, politics, but also culture. Naturally, the dramatic changes that affected practically all spheres of life could not fail to influence marriage. This is why it is necessary to look beyond marriage in order to better understand motives and reasons that made people marry that would help better understand the Renaissance culture and main socio-cultural trends on the basis of analysis of the situation in Renaissance Italy.
First of all, it is necessary to point out that, despite great changes that have started to progress in Italian society in the Renaissance period starting from 15th century till late 17th century, some Medieval trends were still quite strong. For instance, religion was still important, especially in question of marriage since “the Church remained a formidable political, social and economic force during the era” (1). Furthermore, it is worthy to mention that the origin and social status of individuals played an extremely important role. Moreover, often the social status played a defining role on the decision whether to marry or not. Practically, it means that individuals from different social classes could hardly marry each other because it would be practically unacceptable for society and could deteriorate public position of one of the spouses or even that of both of them.
Naturally, it should be said that certain positive changes have been initiated in the Renaissance Italy, as well as in other countries where Renaissance trends spread from this country, but they were obviously too weak to change totally traditional stereotypes. Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that if the extreme points of the Renaissance epoch in Italy are compared, i.e. early and late Renaissance, than it would be clear that at the beginning nobility was one of the key factors that not only indicated at a social status of an individual but also defined the choice of a potential spouse. In other words, in early 15th century, the noble origin of an individual prevented him/her from marriage with representatives of lower classes.
On the other hand, as Renaissance progressed, so did socio-economic relations. As a result, nobility gave its leading positions in the defining of the social status of an individual to wealth. Such a shift in social hierarchy naturally influenced people’s consciousness and in late Renaissance, i.e. late 17th century, wealth played the “defining role in the individuals’ decisions concerning marriage” (2). Practically it means that difference in the level of income could prevent marriage between people whose income was absolutely different. Thus, money separated people and made any serious relations between rich and poor, for instance, practically impossible.
Consequently, by the end of the Renaissance period wealth had started to play an important role in marriage and in some cases it was even possible to speak that it is not people that marry but their wealth that made them marry. Obviously, this was one of the main changes in the attitude to marriage and it actually changed the reasons for marriage. It means that, unlike in early Renaissance in Italy, two individuals, could easily marry each other on the condition that they were practically equally rich or poor, regardless the origin and nobility.
Obviously, in conclusion, it is possible to say that a shift in factors influencing marriage still left little room for real feelings, such as love, but the progress was still obvious since in late 17th century in Italy, marriages between ex-feudals and ex-vassals became a normal practice, naturally if they both were rich or poor enough.

1. Overview of the 16th Century. Retrieved April 27, 2006, from
2. Seiferth, Michael S. The Renaissance. Retrived April 27, 2006, from

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