Defoe's Roxana and the Discourse of Marriage

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Roxana: The Unfortunate Mistress and the Discourse of Marriage

“...I thought a woman was a free agent, as well as a man, and was born free, and cou’d she manage herself suitably, might enjoy that liberty to as much otherwise as the men do; that the laws of matrimony were indeed, otherwise, and mankind at this time, acted quite upon other principles; and those such, that a woman gave herslef entirely away from herself, in marriage, and capitulated only to be, at best, but an upper-servant, and from the time she took the man, she was no better or worse than the servant among the Israelities who had his ears bor’d, that is, nail’d to the door-post...” (p. 187).

In a patriarchal age when it was a husband's role as governor of his …show more content…

Thus she is in no threat of returning to an impoverished lifestyle. She states that “My greatest difficulty is securing my wealth, and to keep what I had got”. She also reminds herself that she cannot remain his mistress forever therefore it was her responsibility to make sure she was taken care of. The affair ends when the Princes' wife dies urging her husband to be faithful to his next wife even though he has not been to her, inducing him to repent his degeneracy and give up his mistress. With the ending of this relationship Roxana then decides to return to London and she seeks the assistance of a Dutch merchant in moving her considerable financial assets. The Dutch merchant introduces her to a Jewish appraiser, who recognizes them as stolen an tries to have Roxana arrested. The honest Dutch merchant assists in helping Roxana to escape the grasp of the Jew and transfers her fortune to Amsterdam. When she goes there to collect it, he proposes marriage. Roxana persistently refuses marriage because she will not give up her freedom. She offers to sleep with him to repay him for his kindness, but states that marriage is the one thing she cannot give him. Roxana argues, “I thought a Woman was a free Agent, as well as a Man”, that “the very Nature of the Marriage-Contract was, in short, nothing but giving up Liberty, Estate, Authority, and every-thing, to the Man”, rendering

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