A Married State

A Married State

By Katherine Philips

A married state affords but little ease
The best of husbands are so hard to please.
This in wives’ careful faces you may spell
Though they dissemble their misfortunes well.
A virgin state is crowned with much content;
It’s always happy as it’s innocent.
No blustering husbands to create your fears;
No pangs of childbirth to extort your tears;
No children’s cries for to offend your ears;
Few worldly crosses to distract your prayers:
Thus are you freed from all the cares that do
Attend on matrimony and a husband too.
Therefore Madam, be advised by me
Turn, turn apostate to love’s levity,
Suppress wild nature if she dare rebel.
There’s no such thing as leading apes in hell.

Summary of A Married State

  • Popularity of “A Married State”: “A Married State” is a realistic poem composed by Katherine Philips, an Anglo-Welsh royalist poet, translator, and woman of letters. Since its first appearance in 1646, the poem has touched public hearts. The poem speaks about the difficulties a woman faces when she starts her journey after marriage. The speaker highlights how life takes a dramatic turn once a woman gets into a conjugal relationship. The stark comparison between free and married life and a realistic description of the responsibilities a woman shares after marriage is what lends this poem a unique touch.
  • “A Married State” As a Representative of Reality: The poem revolves around the dangers awaiting women if they marry. The poem begins where the speaker tells the readers that it is not easy being married, and she supports her argument by providing relatable examples. She believes that one cannot please even the best husband and those who try, end up in despair. It is because people start their journey having fictional views about marriage, but when they come out of this imaginative bubble, it becomes difficult for them to manage their discontent. As the poem moves forward, the speaker compares a married woman with a virgin lady, believing a virgin lady enjoys more freedom as compared to the married one. For instance, they do not tend to please their aggressive or annoying husbands, and they do not face the pain-staking and childbirth experiences. To her, a virgin is blessed with a special kind of freedom. Therefore, she advises single women to abandon the idea of marriage and live their lives according to their wills. Keeping the afterlife in mind, she states there will be no marriage in hell.
  • Major Themes in “A Married State”: Unmarried versus married life, sufferings, and ideal life are the major themes of the poem. The speaker does not present a sugar-coated version of married life. Instead, she sketches a very realistic picture of marital life, where we have to make sacrifices. Usually, people get married having fanciful dreams in their eyes but when they step into reality, they tend to know where the shoe pinches. The speaker warns her audience about the pain and suffering that come with marriage. She considers marriage a distraction and strongly supports the idea of being single. To her, marriage not only corrodes our happiness but also makes us undergo drastic experiences like childbirth and handling a blustering husband. Therefore, to avoid catastrophe, women should suppress such desires and enjoy the fruits of free life.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “A Married State”

Katherine Philips has used various literary devices to enhance the intended impacts of his poem. Some of the major literary devices have been analyzed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “Though they dissemble their misfortunes well” and the sound of /o/ in “Turn, turn apostate to love’s levity.”
  2. Alliteration: It is the use of consonant sounds in the initials of words falling close to each other such as /f/ in “Thus are you freed from all the cares.”
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. Katherine has repeated the word “no” in the middle of the poem to emphasize the point such as,

“No blustering husbands to create your fears;
No pangs of childbirth to extort your tears;
No children’s cries for to offend your ears.”

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /th/ in “Though they dissemble their misfortunes well” and the sound of /n/ in “No blustering husbands to create your fears.”
  2. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“A married state affords but little ease
The best of husbands are so hard to please.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Katherine has used imagery in this poem such as “No pangs of childbirth to extort your tears”, “There’s no such thing as leading apes in hell” and “This in wives’ careful faces you may spell.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poet has used marriage as an extended metaphor to show the bitter reality of this relationship.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. “Blustering husbands” and “pangs of childbirth” symbolize the grinding realities we have to face once we completely surrender ourselves to married life.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “A Married State”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Couplet: There are two constructive lines of verse in a couplet, usually in the same meter and joined by rhyme. This poem contains eight couplets such as,

“A married state affords but little ease
The best of husbands are so hard to please.”

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Katherine Philips has used end rhyme in this poem such as; “ease/please”, “ears/tears” and “do/too.”
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are sixteen lines in this poem with no stanza break.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful in a speech while talking about the advantages and disadvantages of married life.

“A married state affords but little ease
The best of husbands are so hard to please.
This in wives’ careful faces you may spell
Though they dissemble their misfortunes well.”

 

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