5. The politics of disobedient wives

During the Renaissance, a writer could be imprisoned just for claiming that a husband beating his wife should show mercy. It wasn’t that the authorities wanted merciless wife-beatings. The issue was that they understood criticism of a tyrannical husband as criticism of a tyrannical king. English professor Julie Crawford explains how power relations within the home have underpinned political thinking for many centuries.

Bonus clip

In this bonus clip, Julie discusses the balance of duties between husbands and wives. She also explains how in Shakespeare’s play Othello, the villain Iago is “the worst husband ever” – and so his wife is right to disobey him.

Works mentioned

– William Heale, An Apologie for Women

– Giovanni Boccaccio, Concerning Famous Women (original: De Mulieribus Claris)

– Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies (original: Le Livre de la Cité des Dames)

– Thomas Elyot, The Defence of Good Women

– William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties

– William Shakespeare, Othello

Further reading

Julie Crawford at Los Angeles Review of Books – Feminist Utopia, 17th-Century Style

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich at New York Times – Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

BBC radio show In Our Time on Christine de Pizan

Hilary Mantel at London Review of Books – Royal Bodies

Anthony Grafton at New York Review of Books – Scrawled Insults and Epiphanies

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