Miserable Wife, Renaissance Life

Target Audience and Setting: This lesson on love and marriage during the European Renaissance period would fit perfectly into multiple courses. Because of its diverse nature, it could be easily slipped into a history course that focuses on discusses the renaissance, a course about marriage and gender roles as they change through time, and a course on the religious reformation, as the gender roles within a 16th century family were impacted by the writings and experiences of Martin Luther.

Content: This lesson will include content on renaissance gender roles, the typical process of a legal marriage, a micro-historic case study which gives the students a first hand look at an actual renaissance relationship, Martin Luther’s new take on what it means to be married, and how his own marriage transformed gender roles within both religious and non-religious families in the post-renaissance era.

Process: The students will be given one or two readings which will give them a preview of what 14-16th century marriage would have looked like. Then they would be asked to open class with a partner/group discussion on how the renaissance relationship differs from one today. Then there would be a lecture period, interrupted by another group session where students could use a Google Slide in order to sort relationship characteristics into a Venn diagram. Finally, there would be a second lecture period after which a group/whole class discussion would take place.

Resources for Lesson: Some sources would need to be scanned and shared before class

  • Francesco Barbaro, “On Marriage (1415)” in Renaissance Humanism, An Anthology of Sources, ed. Margaret L. King (United States of America: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2014)
  • Marie Le Jars de Gournay, “The Equality of Men and Women (1622) in Renaissance Humanism, An Anthology of Sources, ed. Margaret L. King (United States of America: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2014)
  • Phyllis Schlafly, “What’s Wrong with “Equal Rights” for Women? (1972)” Link.

Delivery Consideration: With the use of break out rooms and Google Slides, this lesson could easily be delivered via visual platform.

3 Replies to “Miserable Wife, Renaissance Life”

  1. Love this idea, Alex! I actually wrote my thesis on a gender history topic a little after the dates you’re looking at.

    I love that you’ve included the source from Phyllis Schlafly to help connect this to a more modern perspective.

  2. I agree with Nicolas; this is a great idea. I’d be curious to know how you think you would scale this for different grade levels, because I have to do this every now and then for my placement.

    I’m also interested to know how long your class sessions are going to be. My longest class is 115 minutes, but that’s just once a week.

  3. Hi Alex,

    First of all, love the title. This topic is also particularly interesting to me because I did a research paper in the spring for my Italian Renaissance seminar on wet nursing, which involved looking at a lot of love & marriage sources, including Francesco Barbaro’s marriage manual. I actually tried to use it out of Margaret King’s book but since I was using it as a primary source I had to buy the actual transcribed copy of it, a whole $27 on Amazon that I will sadly never get back. But still a great source despite my annoyance with its availability. I’m excited to see how this turns out!

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