“The Convent of Pleasure” and “Why I Still Want A Wife”

            The play “The Convent of Pleasure” touches on a variety of issues in relation to this class. Themes of sexuality, femininity, independence, and a woman’s right to choose a life alone over marriage permeate the play. 

            Lady Happy, the protagonist, comes into a large sum of money after the death of a family member. With this money, Lady Happy is expected to marry one of the suitors presented later in the play and become a simple wife. This speaks to the time period and what was expected of women. With money, Lady Happy is very eligible to marry. It is not expected of her to keep the wealth herself, but rather to marry and to give control of her estate to whoever her husband was. She decides to reject this future and live in a convent amongst other women, as Lady Happy believes the root of all women’s troubles are men.

            Another idea presented in the play was that marriage was not the key to women’s happiness, as many believed. Lady Happy rejected the idea of marriage being the ultimate fulfillment, which reminded me of many of the ideals of second wave feminism. Many of the treatises and articles of this era showed the disconnect between marriage’s portrayed happiness and the reality of the potentially unfulfilling life of a wife.  An article in particular, Judy Brady’s “Why I [Still] Want a Wife” (http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/everythingsanargument4e/content/cat_020/Brady_I_Want_a_Wife.pdf) embodies the idea that marriage is not fulfillment at all, but rather a large amount of work that simply causes the objectification of the woman.

            One of the quotes from the play shows this:

“Dick.

Because Women never think themselves happy in Marriage.

Takepl.

You are mistaken; for Women never think themselves happy until they be Married.

Dick.

The truth is, Sir, that Women are always unhappy in their thoughts, both before and after 

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Marriage; for, before Marriage they think themselves [25]  unhappy for want of a Husband; and after they are Married, they think themselves unhappy for having a Husband.”

This portion of the play shows the large disconnect between what men and women think of marriage. Many of the main male characters of the play believe that marriage is what gives a wife happiness and fulfillment. Comparing this to Judy Brady’s piece, she is a wife who ponders the reasons why she herself would want a wife. A wife does everything in this article, “I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. “ (Brady 1) All of these tasks are supposed to bring one fulfillment, while Brady shows that this is not the case.

            What Brady’s piece satirically shows is the expected duties of a wife and how that is supposed to lead to fulfillment, yet does not. “The Convent of Pleasure” also seeks to show this point, showing that women’s fulfillment does not come from marriage.

           

 

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