Measure for Measure Marriage Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.
Thus stands it with me: upon a true contract
I got possession of Julietta's bed:
You know the lady; she is fast my wife,
Save that we do the denunciation lack
Of outward order: (1.2.8)
The nature of Claudio and Juliet's relationship status is pretty fuzzy. When Claudio admits he went to bed with Juliet, he claims, "she is fast my wife, / Save that we do the denunciation lack / Of outward order." Some literary critics think that Claudio and Juliet have made a binding marriage contract but haven't had a religious ceremony (required by the Church) to seal the deal. In seventeenth-century England, a marriage contract was considered legal under common law if the bride and groom got together in front of witnesses and said "I marry you."
Why does any of this matter? Because Claudio has been sentenced to death for sleeping with Juliet out of wedlock.
this we came not to,
Only for propagation of a dower
Remaining in the coffer of her friends,
From whom we thought it meet to hide our love
Till time had made them for us. But it chances
The stealth of our most mutual entertainment
With character too gross is writ on Juliet. (1.2.8)
Claudio claims that he and Juliet haven't yet made a public announcement of their betrothal because they were waiting for Juliet's relatives to cough up a dowry. (A dowry is the money, goods, and/or land that a woman brings to the marriage – it becomes her husband's property once the couple is married.)
She should this Angelo have married; was affianced
to her by oath, and the nuptial appointed: between
which time of the contract and limit of the
solemnity, her brother Frederick was wrecked at sea,
having in that perished vessel the dowry of his
sister. But mark how heavily this befell to the
poor gentlewoman: there she lost a noble and
renowned brother, in his love toward her ever most
kind and natural; with him, the portion and sinew of
her fortune, her marriage-dowry; with both, her
combinate husband, this well-seeming Angelo. (3.1.9)
It turns out that Angelo (the guy who sentences Claudio to death for fornicating with Juliet) was once engaged to Mariana. What's interesting is that Angelo broke off the engagement when Mariana's dowry was lost at sea. A woman's dowry is just as important to Angelo as it is to Claudio. The difference, however, between the two men is that Claudio doesn't abandon Juliet because she didn't bring enough money to the relationship.