The Series Philosopher

Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn

S01E08: Do love and marriage go together like horse and carriage?

1x08 Love and Marriage - Margaret (Allison Janney) singing along "Love and Marriage" while serving breakfast.

MASTERS OF SEX: 1×08 Love and Marriage – Margaret (Allison Janney) singing along “Love and Marriage” while serving breakfast.

Love is in the air. In many airs, actually, and not only those by Sinatra. It occured to me that there are more songs about love than there are about nitrogen molecules, that are in the air too. When you reach a certain age, you realize how people more and more equate love with marriage.

Do we have to be in love to get married?

In the eighth episode of Masters of Sex (Showtime), Margaret Scully (Allison Janney), an adorable well-behaved devout Christian wakes up in the bed of her young, cute, sweet and talentuous boyfriend, Dr. Ethan Haas (Nicholas D’Agosto, The Office, Heroes, Gotham). She is totally in love with him, and as he is still asleep, we see her in his kitchen, walking on air and preparing breakfast, while humming the following song by Sinatra:

MARGARET: “Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage.
This I tell ya, brother, you can’t have one without the other.

Love and marriage, love and marriage,
It’s an institute you can’t disparage.
Ask the local gentry and they will say it’s elementary.

Try, try, try to separate them, it’s an illusion.
Try, try, try and you only come to this conclusion:

Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage.
Dad was told by mother you can’t have one
You can’t have none.
You can’t have one without the other.

Well, can’t we? For centuries, love was neither necessary nor sufficient in marriages.

In the Homeric Greece, the most valorous marriage suitors had to battle for the young lady they wanted to marry. They would have had to go through successive trials as a test of their valiance. The freedom to choose one’s future spouse is subjected to the evolution of the women’s condition: the more the woman is free and respected, the more her feelings will be taken into account in her marriage.

Actually, pharaonic Egypt is the only ancient civilisation that gave women the same status as men: they were raised with the boys, they were free to move, to study, to inherit or to bequeath, and it appears that they were also free to decide of whom they would marry. Most of the other ancient civilisations went by the basic rule that the Greek poet Naumachios put this way: “Take as spouse the one your parents want”.

In the Roman civilisation, women were not as lucky as in Egypt. They were directly placed under the crushing power of the pater familias.  Their first duty was to obey. They were expexted to obey their fathers and husbands. Love would come later on, with time, maybe. But most of the time, the Romans would have simply avoided falling in love: feelings showed weakness and the men in love were ridiculed. Moreover, until the Carolingian time, parents had to give their consent, otherwise the marriage would not be valid. The lovers would have to wait until their 30th birthday to free themselves from that rule, but they would also run the risk of being disinherited, if their partner choice displeased their parents.

In the VIIIth century, so many people were fooling around in Europe that the Church decided to christianise marriage. Marriage became sacred and the mutual love of the spouses was enough to make it valid. Parents did not have a say any longer. Love would rule until the comeback of the Roman right in the XXIIth century in Italy and in the XVIth century in France.

Obviously, love and marriage did not always go together like horse and carriage. But if love were a horse and marriage its carriage, I guess the carriage would stand still and deperish without the horse. But I also guess that the horse would rather remain free, to go much further, without any burden. Do we have to get married when we are in love? Is love the reason why people get married? Do men and women get married for the same reasons?

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The Series Philosopher is a blog by P:S • Arts & Entertainment

The Series Philosopher is a woman in her late 20s. Not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

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