Monday, November 04, 2013

Gertrude's Levirate Marriage

This morning I learned what a "levirate marriage" is.  From the wiki page:

a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother's widow.
Interesting.  Now, who do we know who married the brother of her deceased husband?  Gertrude is even referenced in the Wikipedia page as a popular culture reference.

Any connection, or purely a coincidence?  I expect the latter.  The technical definition of the term suggests that only *childless* widows count, and Queen Gertrude is not childless ... is she? :)  While some folks like to argue that perhaps Claudius is Hamlet's real father, I don't think anybody argues that Gertrude is not his real mother.


JM said...


As the Ghost insists and as I noted on my blog in Sept.of 2009,

it's considered incest:

The Trial of Bastardie (London, 1594)
The Triall of Bastardie: that part of the second part of Policie, or maner of Gouernement of the Realme of England: so termed, Spirituall, or Ecclesiasticall. Annexed at the end of this Treatise, touching the prohibition of marriage, a Table of the Leuitical, English, and Positiue Canon Catalogues, their concordance and difference. By William Clerke.
Table of prohibited marriages.

[Listed in the same tables as the abomination of marrying your own aunt, daughter-in-law, grand daughter, sister, mother, or daughter, along with several other possible "incestuous" unions.]:

A man may not marrie his
{Sister., Wife's Sister.,Brother's Wife.
}The equall collateral line, and first degree.

30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinances, that ye doe not any of the abominable customes, which have been done before you.

Duane Morin said...

I figured as much, I just wanted to trot out my new word of the day. :)

But, I do like to bring up the "Shakespeare in the Bush" story, where the natives saw things a bit differently :)

"...The dead chief’s younger brother had become the great chief. He had also married his elder brother’s widow only about a month after the funeral.”

“He did well,” the old man beamed and announced to the others, “I told you that if we knew more about Europeans, we would find they really were very like us. In our country also,” he added to me, “the younger brother marries the elder brother’s widow and becomes the father of his children. Now, if your uncle, who married your widowed mother, is your father’s full brother, then he will be a real father to you. Did Hamlet’s father and uncle have one mother?”

JM said...

"Within a Moneth..." That *is* coincidental.

"Did Hamlet’s father and uncle have one mother?”

ABSOLUTELY!!! least according to director Gregory Doran of the David Tennant Hamlet. How else could king Hamlet and Claudius be carbon-copy starship captains??? :-)

JM said...

Fun story, Shakespeare in the Bush. Another coincidence--these guys always seem to be 'carousing to the Heavens' as well.