In this powerful, wide-ranging study, John Watkins demonstrates how dynastic marriages that attempt to make peace by bridging religions, cultures, and states shift tellingly over the centuries. His touchstone, the wedding of Aeneas and Lavinia with which the Aeneid concludes, helps crystallize a pattern of changes. In the centuries immediately following the advent of Christianity, such alliances promised a welcome fusion of cultures and ethnic groups. Northern European countries subsequently represent dynastic marriages as a form of Christian conversion, mirroring how accounts of those weddings themselves convert classical texts into allusions to the wedding at hand. Medieval representations variously emphasize and problematize how successfully women fulfill the role of peacemaker. The doubts intensify in subsequent French and English writings, notably Shakespeare’s King John and Henry V and the work of Corneille and Racine. Concluding his historical survey with seventeenth-century France, Watkins continues...

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