44. North’s 2nd Marked-Chapter Relates to “Taming of the Shrew” and “Arden of Faversham”

As noted earlier, in 1591-2, North marked up his own copy of The Dial of Princes, using it as a workbook for plays he was either revising or writing at that time. For example, North only marked three of the 177 chapters in the table of contents. All three chapters and their titles are relevant to his plays –and and two of them, which focus on indomitable wives (often in a sexist way not uncommon in the 16th century), are chapters especially significant to The Taming of the Shrew and Arden of Feversham (which also focus on indomitable wives). We looked at the second of the marked-chapter in the prior post, which had a subtitle that North underlined and repeated in the margin. This subtitle, underlined and written down by North in 1591-2 — Wherein is expressed the great malice and little patience of an evil woman–was then reused with little change in the subtitle of the publication of Arden of Faversham, a tragedy about his half-sister that was published in 1592: Wherein is shewed the great malice and dissimulation of an evil woman. Both EEBO and Google confirm that no one else has ever written something like this line, except for Thomas North and the author of the anonymous tragedy about his half-sister.

But the relevance of the first of the three chapters that North underscored may be even more obvious to Shakespeare-enthusiasts, for it gives advice, in effect, on how to tame shrews (or shrowes, in North’s spelling).

In the table of contents, North writes, “Rules for married men” next to the chapter and underlines the subtitle: “certaine rules for married men, which if they be matched with shrowes [i.e., shrews] & do observe them may cause them [to] live in quiet with their wives.” As with the other subtitle, this also deals with problematic wives, and it certainly seems to recall The Taming of the Shrew, in which the married men were indeed looking for instructions in how to tame shrews. Also, the First Folio edition of the comedy frequently uses North’s spelling: shrow. Even the penultimate line is “thou hast tam’d a curst shrow.” Finally, in The Taming of the Shrew, Baptista says the following about marrying off his daughter, Katherine, the titular shrow: “The gain I seek is quiet in the match” (2.1.326). That again matches the subtitle: shrowquietmatch in the context of married men trying to cope with difficult wives.

This chapter appears within a series of similar chapters, all describing how to deal with quarrelling wives. And North started making notes about certain passages in the margins –notes that were then relevant to the plays.

Consider as an example this marginal note: “An evil husband likened to the devil; an evil wife, to hell itself.

Elsewhere in The Dial, North also writes a relevant line:

I know not what man is so very a fool that in the world doth hope for any perpetual thing?…  (269)

This passage and that line clearly inspired the following in The Taming of the Shrew:

Hortensio. Marry, sir, to get a husband for her sister.
Gremio. A husband? a devil.
Hortensio. I say a husband.
Gremio. I say, a devil. Think'st thou, Hortensio, though her father
be very rich, any man is so very a fool to be married to hell?

North’s Dial of Princes
(isolated correspondences):
Taming of the Shrew
(isolated correspondences):
Husband, a devil, married, to hell;
man is so very a fool
Husband, a devil, married to hell;
man is so very a fool

As North wrote in the margin, the husband is compared to a devil, and the wife is compared to hell. And the play passage even repeats North’s “man is so very a fool,” also from The Dial.
A search of both EEBO and Google indicates that the line man is so very a fool is unique to North and Shakespeare as of 1623. Moreover, both Google and EEBO indicate the phrase appears in only one other known work at any time, a 1653 sermon by Jeremy Taylor (and Taylor may have been borrowing from Shakespeare.)

As clear from the last two posts (and as we will continue to show over the next five), North is using his copy of The Dial of Princes in the 1590s as a workbook for plays that Shakespeare would later stage. In the next post, we will show a passage from the “shrowes” chapter that he used for Arden of Faversham.

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