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Setting The Scene: Discourses Of Passivity And Violence

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Chapter Summary

The rules of coverture have dominated discussions of women’s history in the past few decades. Historians have explored extensively the vulnerability of women under a law that fictitiously considers husband and wife as one person represented by the husband. In terms of marital disharmony, the disadvantages women suffered because of the rules of coverture are immediately apparent. A victim of abuse might not desert or abandon her husband easily, because she lacked free access to support. The expectation of female passivity when faced with marital violence should not come as any surprise. The image of the passive wife was far more common than Chobham’s interpretation of the good wife who corrects her husband’s moral failings. In terms of spousal abuse, some of the ecclesiastical literature from the period even spelled this out.

Keywords: coverture; marital disharmony; marital violence; passivity; women’s history

10.1163/ej.9789004156340.i-287.8
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