This will obviously need the discussion of the works of some significant figures in British literature of that epoch.
First of all, it would be natural to start with John Milton, the author, which to a significant extent, revolutionized British literature and notably traditional views on many aspects of human life, especially religious ones, but who actually failed to break historical stereotypes concerning marriage and relationship between men and women. In fact, it is basically through the relationship of males and females that it is possible to trace the author’s position in relation to marriage. In this respect, it is possible to refer to one of the most popular and significant works of John Milton "Paradise Lost ", the great epic completed by 1667.
At first glance the epic poem basically concerns the religious views of the author and changes traditional Biblical stereotypes dramatically. However, it is hardly possible to say the same thing about Milton’s vies on ht role of women and marriage at large. Basically, the author’s perspective on marriage may be traced through the relationship between Adam and Eve and it is highly important how the author depicts and assesses their behavior.
Adam and Eve are allowed by God to live in Paradise, in the Garden of Eden, as long as they do not eat the apple that grows on the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. In accordance with Biblical legend, Satan persuades Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and to take another one for Adam. As Eve tells Adam what she has done Speechless he stood and pale, till thus at length First to himself he inward silence broke:
“O, fairest of Creation, last and best
Of all God’s works, creature in whom excelled
Whatever can to sight or thought be iormed
Holy, divine, amiable, or sweet!
How are thou lost!
In such a way, John Milton represents quite a subjective view on Eve, as a representative of females, which is actually Adam’s wife. In fact, Eve is probably admired and beloved by Adam to the extent that he can hardly resist her arguments and persuasion:
… Some cursed fraud
Of enemy hath beguilded thee, yet unknown.
And me with thee hath ruined; for with thee
Certain my resolution is to die.
How can I live without thee? How forgo
Thy sweet converse and love so dearly joined,
To live again these wild woods forlorn?
(Milton, nook IX)
As a result, Adams decides to eat the fruit for love of Eve and, as a punishment, God banishes them both to the newly created world, where they have to face the life of toil and woe. At the same time, the author’s representation of a woman is rather negative since she turns to be the major cause of trouble of a man, as Eve violates the rules herself and forces Adam, her husband, to do the same. In contrast to the cunning and disobedient woman, or wife, the man, husband, turns to be quite the opposite he is conscious of the rules, obedient and faithful to God but he cannot resist to his love to Eve and violates the rules. Obviously, such a representation of Eve as a representative of females creates quite a negative attitude to women at large and the marriage, which is actually supposed to be based on love, is a kind of burden for Adam as a representative of males, and the cause of unnecessary troubles.
Nonetheless, Milton underlines that his characters love each other and are ready to meet whatever the earth has in store for them. On the other hand, he depicts the relations between Adam and Eve as highly unequal since the latter turns to be totally subordinated to and dependent on her husband. When they are driven out of Eden, Eve says to Adam:
… but now lead on;
In me is no delay; with thee to go
Is to stay here: without thee to stay
Is to go hence unwillingly; thou to me
Art all things under Heaven, all places thou,
Who for my willful crime art banished hence”
(Milton Book XII)
Consequently, being conscious of her crime, Eve is ready to obey to her husband and relies on him that is actually a typical male view on the role of female in marriage in British literature of the epoch as the ideal marriage was viewed as the marriage in which the husband dominates while the role of wife is minimized, or, what is more, the role of women may be quite negative as they are a potential source of troubles for men.
In this respect, the perspective of Daniel Defoe on marriage is even more radical. In his famous novel, "Robinson Crusoe ", he glorifies individualism and self-sufficiency of a man. Even though, there are no major female characters, it is possible to estimate that such a lack of attention to females indicates at the author’s skeptical attitude to women and marriage at large. In fact, according to Defoe, a man can live by himself comfortably and make all the things he needs with no other humans. No wonder that the years spent by Robinson Crusoe on the deserted island he recalls as the best years of his life. At this point the male perspective on marriage and women has probably reached its peak in British literature of 1660-1800s since, unlike Milton, for instance, who is quite skeptical about women and views them as a source of troubles in marriage, Defoe simply annihilates marriage as well as the role of women who turn to be simply unnecessary for a happy life of a man.