Sunday, February 01, 2009

The problems of being the weaker sex

Last weekend I watched The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, two of my favorite thespians.

I think a lot of girls will love the movie for its fashion and crazy hairdos--it's certainly interesting to see how the rich threw their money away. But it reminded me again of why I would never want to travel back in time (besides the knowledge that I would be considered quite dumb because of my hearing loss): women had very little say over their circumstances. They married, and tried to marry well, because that was often the only way to avoid poverty, even if they were born into well-to-do families. Love was usually not a consideration for the matchmakers, only strategic alliances and keeping the family name pure.

The more I learn about the history of marriage, the more I understand the prevalence of affairs among the aristocracy. If you marry a man who is only interested in producing a male heir, and continues his dalliances with his maids, and eventually takes up with your own best friend, in your own house (The Duchesss is based on the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire), is it any wonder that you would fall in love with a man (Charles Grey) who actually appears to fancy you too?

What I found touching in the movie: Georgiana gives up Charles Grey to stay with her children (the Duke of Devonshire may have had no problems being a philanderer, but did not want it known that his wife was stepping out on him and told her she would never see her children again if she continued her dalliance with Mr. Grey).

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