By William Shakespeare
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Additional resources for Antony and Cleopatra (The Pelican Shakespeare)
33 Other Victorian sources point to the ‘‘moon-age’’ or lunar month as the typical duration of the honeymoon phase of the relationship, and thus as a directive about the length of the ideal trip. ’’34 While the OED cites Johnson, it also includes references that define the ‘‘honeymoon’’ as an early and ephemeral period in marriage. Clearly, until the nineteenth century, the honeymoon was defined in terms of time; by the Victorian period, place also became an important component as the initial period of marital bliss began to coincide with the expectation of travel.
The wealth of knowledge we have about Ruskin and his family might, ironically, cloud or at least skew the picture in a variety of directions. If we knew as much about the details of other wedding nights as we know (or think we know) about the Ruskins’, would we find that many of them, like the Ruskins’, did not conform to normative narratives of consummation? Or does the fact that John Ruskin was in many ways a remarkable figure – and of course this has much to do with how much we know about him – make his wedding night so exceptional that it tells us only about his proclivities and nothing about the culture that he helped to shape?
Throughout the first half of the century, parliament tinkered with Hardwicke’s provisions, finally ensconcing the idea of secular (civil) marriage in the Marriage Act of 1836. These changes had the effect of shifting the meaning of marriage in two opposite directions: while, on the one hand, the legal power to define marriage moved toward the more impersonal realm of the government, on the other hand, the power to define it in day-to-day terms became the provenance of the married couple, that community of two that replaced larger and more mobile communities of friends, neighbors, and relatives.