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

One should seeke to finde in a woman that he ment to

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one should seeke to finde in a woman that he ment to marry withal, returned him this answere: First, shee must be rich, that thou maist have wherewithall to live in shewe and carrie a port: next, she must be nobly borne, that thou maist be honoured through her bloud: then she must be yong, that she may content thee: then faire, that thou need not to hunt after other game; and lastly, honest and vertuous, that thou maiest not take the paines to provide a spie to watch her. 1 This list demonstrates the conventional quality of Benedick's portrait of the ideal woman in 2.3. Shakespeare's account differs, of course, in the deft stylistic drollery with which it is presented: Benedick begins his meditation by disavowing love ('love . . . shall never make me such a fool', 2.3.25), but cannot resist con- templating what a possible mate might look like. He seemingly concludes his description with another protestation of disdain - 'till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace' (27-8) - but then starts up again, as if he cannot resist 1 Tasso, sig. B2\ Ercole Tasso was contra, Torquato pro. 29
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Introduction Mâirimomum: 3 A man bearing the servile yoke, punishing stocks and effeminizing skirt of matrimony. The fruit on his shoulder is the quince, symbol of fertility. From Henry Peacham's Minerva Britannia (1598) the speculation. Shakespeare thus broaches the stereotype of the misogynist, but he animates it in the personality of one who seems to protest too much, a character who seems to need the convention as a defence against his own impulse to the contrary. In describing a woman who is fair, wise, rich, virtuous, mild, noble and of good discourse, Benedick contemplates a kind of Renaissance fantasy girl, one who is all things to one man. She is not one who appears very often in the more practical-minded literatures of the day devoted to the process of mate selection (see pp. 38-41 - most caution against ambition in the choice of a wife). Even Benedick himself acknowledges the unlikelihood of 30
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Introduction Vh Amris. 4 The emblem illustrating Vis Amoris, from Henry Peacham's Minerva Britannia (1598). Hercules, as the text reads, 'hath throwne his Clubbe away, / And weares a Mantle, for his Lions skinne / Thus better liking for to passe the day, / With Omphale, and with her maides to spinne . . . Loues affection, did disgrace and shame / His virtues partes' (1-10). Much Ado's many refer- ences to the emasculated Hercules recall this iconography. his fantasy coming to fulfilment. More common was the notation of the failure to fulfil the ideal, and man's subservience to female domination brought on by the marriage yoke (see Figs 3 and 4). A chief obstacle to masculine happiness in marriage was a wife's failure to submit herself to being yoked, either verbally or sexually or both. Most of the Renaissance writings against women share the assumption about the link between verbal dexterity and sexual licence, and thus emphasize the threat of female loquaciousness to the security of patrilineal identity: 'A 31
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