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Adultery in literature and film

Parents: thematic literary criticism

Word relations: adult

Related: cuckold - intercourse - jealousy - marriage - sexuality - trust

In literature: Madame Bovary (1857) - Gustave Flaubert - Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928) - D. H. Lawrence - The Scarlet Letter (1850) - Nathaniel Hawthorne - Anna Karenina (1877) - Tolstoy - Ethan Frome (1911) - Edith Wharton - The Canterbury Tales (1470s) - Geoffrey Chaucer - Doctor Zhivago (1956) - Boris Pasternak - Liza of Lambeth (1897) - William Somerset Maugham - Awakening (1899) Kate Chopin - Ulysses (1922) - James Joyce - most of the work by Alberto Moravia

In film: Jules et Jim (1962) - François Truffaut - sex, lies, and videotape (1989) - Steven Soderbergh - Eyes Wide Shut (1999) - Stanley Kubrick

Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange in the 1981 film adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice

In real life, adultery is consensual, extramarital sexual intercourse. Some legal jurisdictions define it more broadly to include varying levels of extramarital sexual relations. Most often, it is distinguished from sexual relationships between two people both of whom are unmarried, which is known as fornication. Historically, and in some places still, adultery has been defined as consensual sexual intercourse between a married woman and a man other than her lawful husband. [1]

Adultery in literature

The theme of adultery features in a wide range of literature through the ages. This is hardly surprising, as the fact of adultery has been a part of the human existence for as long as there has been marriage. As a theme it automatically brings its own conflict, between the people concerned and between sexual desires and a sense of loyalty; it brings intense emotions into the foreground, and has consequences for all concerned.

In the Bible, incidents of adultery are present almost from the start. The story of Abraham contains several incidents and serve as warnings or stories of sin and forgiveness. Abraham attempts to continue his blood line through his wife's maidservant, with consequences that continue through history. Jacob's family life is complicated with similar incidents.

Shakespeare wrote two plays in which the perception of adultery plays a significant part. In both Othello and The Winter's Tale it is the (false) belief by the central character that his wife is unfaithful that brings about his downfall.

In The Country Wife by William Wycherley, the morals of English Restoration society are satirised. The characters treat adultery as a game, the object being to commit as much of it as possible without losing ones reputation, and while preventing one's spouse from committing any.

The following works of literature have adultery and its consequences as one of their major themes. (M) and (F) stand for adulterer and adulteress respectively. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adultery_in_literature [Jul 2004]

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