Shakespeare, W - Much Ado About Nothing (Arden, 2006).pdf

Softe tongue betokens modestie but quicke and loud

Info icon This preview shows pages 54–56. Sign up to view the full content.

softe Tongue betokens Modestie, / But, quicke and loud signes of Inconstancy. / Words, more than swords, the inward Heart doe wound / And glib'd-tongu'd Women seldome chaste are found' {Blazon, sig. Gl v ). An ideal Renaissance woman was one seen but not heard, one who, in every sense, doesn't give anything away. We can sense in such statements the tenacity of medieval Christianity's idea of women as the heirs of Eve, that disobedient and fleshly creature who is punished for her disobedience with the arduous task of painfully peopling the world ('sure, my lord, my mother cried', 2.1.308). While the play ultimately repudiates many of these notions of female identity - Benedick readily decides to love his intellectual and verbal equal they do inform both its jokes about the male distrust of women and the psychological grounds of the slander plot. Indeed, while Benedick has no share in the slander of Hero, he is the voice of the play's most misogynist commentary: 'That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks; but that I will have a recheat winded in my forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me' (1.1.223-7). The idea of woman as subordinate to man was a stereotype with biological as well as theological and political dimensions: even as women were thought inferior to men in reason and intellect, so they were considered a somewhat more primi- tive life-form, whose blood, according to Galenic physiology, was colder, and whose metabolism more sluggish in nature than a man's. 1 In the humoral vocabulary which describes the Renaissance physique, the body is ruled by the four humours of blood, phlegm, choler and bile, and women were considered more phlegmatic than men. When Beatrice tells Benedick that 1 One anatomical theory of the period held that the ovaries and the uterus were an inverted penis and testicles that had not been conceived at a temperature high enough to expel them, right side out, of the foetus. See Thomas Lacqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, Mass., 1990). 32
Image of page 54

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Introduction she too loves none, and 'I thank God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that' (1.1.123—4) (note that she vows not to love until a 'hot January', 1.1.89), she calls attention to her phlegmatic and thus essentially feminine nature. Disdain Beatrice, for her part, recalls in her alleged shrewishness the bane of much misogynistic writing, although the extent to which she fulfils descriptions of her as a 'harpy' (2.1.248), 'infernal Ate' (2.1.234) or 'my Lady Tongue' (2.1.252) has varied with the times and turns of productions (the eighteenth century tended to no-holds-barred shrew, whereas the nineteenth preferred the heart over the head). But this emphasis on Shakespeare's invoca- tions of the Renaissance conventions of male suspicion of women should not obscure the fact that Much Ado portrays the resist- ance to marriage as characteristic of women as well as men. The characters of both Beatrice and Benedick draw on the convention of
Image of page 55
Image of page 56
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern