45. North Marked Passages in his “Dial” That He Used in “Arden”

As we saw in the previous post, 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. With one of the chapters that he marked, he underlined and wrote out a subtitle in the margin that he then reused, with minor changes, for the subtitle of Arden of Faversham. Similarly, another one of these chapters gives advice, in effect, on how to tame shrews. Significantly, North also added a number of marginal comments to this particular chapter, which includes vivid descriptions of troublesome wives and the agonies that they could inflict on their husbands. He then used these passages for his two plays, Arden of Feversham and Taming of the Shrew. After all, as Thomas well knew, his half-sister, Alice Arden, who notoriously conspired with her lover to murder her husband, had been the most troublesome wife of all— far more so than Katherine in Taming of the Shrew.

This “Shrews” chapter in The Dial focuses on a long quarrel between the stubborn Marcus Aurelius and his strong-willed wife, Faustine, and the exchanges between them were then used in the plays.

For example, on one of its pages, North highlighted two passages with vertical lines.

As shown in the picture on the left, North wrote “of the wife and husband” next to the first passage, which begins with an underlined sentence that, as we shall soon see, relates to The Taming of the Shrew . In the second part (in the red-circle on the left), Aurelius complains that in most instances, religious teachings and concern for reputation are often enough to keep women virtuous. But, he says, “if the fear of the Gods, the infamy of the person, and the speech of men do not restrain the woman, all the chastisements of the world will not make her refrain from vice” (149v). Previously, in the beginning of this same chapter, Aurelius counsels Faustine against being “deeply rooted in vices” (147r).[1]

Thus, in the opening of scene 4 of Arden of Feversham, as Arden talks with his friend Franklin about the uncontrollable Alice, he makes this exact same point about his wife and uses the same language: 

North’s highlighted passage in The DialArden, discussing Alice
  If the fear of the gods…and the speech of men
do not restrain the woman, all the
chastisements of the world will
not make her refrain from vice (149v; 232)  
deeply rooted in vices (147r; 229)
 If fear of God or common speech of men
Might join repentance in her wanton thoughts
No question then but she would turn the leaf
But she is rooted in her wickedness…
And reprehension makes her vice to grow (4.3-12)
If the fear of the Gods…and the speech of men If fear of God or common speech of men,  
rooted in vicesrooted in wickedness
chastisements…will not make her refrain from viceReprehension makes her vice to grow

The passages are expressing the same sentiment in the same language, and reprehension is even a synonym for chastisement. In other words, both are making the sexist claim that if a woman does not fear god or what men will say to or about her, then no amount of chastising will help. Clearly, this is a unique parallel. Just an EEBO search for fear of God (or fear of the Gods) preceding speech of men yields no results other than Arden of Faversham and The Dial.[1]

Even more incredibly, Google also only shows Arden of Feversham with no other results. The Dial does not turn up because of its use of archaic spelling–“if the feare of the gods.” In contrast, Arden of Feversham appears because many published editions include modernized spelling. However, when we try a Google search for “feare of” within 10 words of “speech of men,” we find only The Dial of Princes and two older editions of Arden of Feversham:

There is no doubt that this passage that North marked in 1591 or 1592, in his own translation, that appears in only one of three chapters that he underscores in the table of contents, was the origin of the parallel speech in Arden of Faversham, a tragedy about North’s half-sister that was published anonymously later that year (1592).

[1] The only discoverable passage that even comes close on either EEBO or Google is a fiery religious tract from 1609, and the grouping is merely coincidental. The passage is merely preaching about sinners going to hell; and not commenting on the impossibility of dissuading some malicious women from vice. More, it uses “speech of men” in a different way, and it precedes (rather than follows) “the fear of God.” In deed, it precedes it by 15 words so you have to expand the search. See Samson Lennard., An exhortatory instruction to a speedy resolution of repentance and contempt of the vanities of this transitory life (London: Edward Blount & W. Barret, 1609), “For the speech of men and their slanders can∣not deliuer thee from the fire of hell, but the feare of God, and thy iust dealing proceed∣ing from a liuely faith, in the merits of Christ Iesus; whe∣ther thou bee praised or dis∣praised, returne into thy selfe and thy owne conscience.”

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