This essay seeks to understand the assumptions about marriage bequeathed to us by early modern Protestants by exploring the Puritan interest in mandated affection. For Puritans, obligatory love was the foundation for the covenant between believers and God and the reason why the covenant was itself understood as a marriage. Focusing especially on poems by two canonical Puritan poets, Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor, this essay argues that this fascination with the interplay between freedom and restraint — manifest in the form as well as the content of their poetry — produced a distinctive form of relational virtue. The soteriological uncertainty that motivated the Puritans’ restless economic activity (as Weber so influentially discerned) and relentless introspection (evident in works like John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners) thus also inspired a richly relational alternative still valuable for anyone interested in rooting ethics in the rich loam of relational dynamics.

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