Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/386

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


portant kinds of merriment. It was, in accordance with a tradition of long standing, incumbent upon the bride to dance with each and every guest present. In the Christian State of Matrimony (1543) we read: "Then must the poor bride keep foot with all dancers, and refuse none, how scabbed, foul, drunken, rude, and shameless soever he be."

Readers of The Taming of the Shrew recall how necessary it was to marry Katharine first so that her younger sister might decently and in order approach the bridal altar. In rare cases, however, a younger sister was permitted to marry first. On such occasions, the older unmarried sisters were compelled to mingle barefoot in the dancing that followed the ceremony. It is to this custom that Katharine refers so angrily in the words:

"She is your treasure, she must have a husband:
I must dance barefoot on her wedding day,
And, for your love to her, lead apes in hell."

If the elder sister refused to perform this ceremony, she would die an old maid; and for such the Elizabethans could imagine no more profitable occupations during the long years after death than to lead apes in hell. In weddings among those of great wealth and position the masque, which is elsewhere described, formed one of the principal