48. North’s Marginalia in “Arden/Shrew” Chapter: The Battle of the Sexes.

In this very same chapter on how to deal with Shrews of North’s Dial that North, himself, marked in the table of contents –what we call here the Arden/Shrew chapter (see posts 43-6) –North underscores the last line in a passage stressing the contrarian nature of women. This is in Aurelius’s speech to his wife, Faustine, who as we have seen and will continue to see, was often used as a model for the strong-willed women of the canon.

Naturally women have in all things the spirit of contradiction, for … if he will laugh, they will weep If he be sorrowful, they will be merry. If he desire peace, they would have war. If he would sleep, they will watch, and if he will watch, they will sleep. Finally, I say that they are of so evil a condition that they love all that we despise and despise all that we love.

–The Dial (144v)

This is clearly the origin of several passages on the contrarian nature of women in Shakespeare’s plays, including Rosalind’s in As You Like It and several lines in Katherine’s final, controversial monologue in Taming of the Shrew. In fact, as we shall see in future posts, Katherine’s entire monologue is constructed from ideas and lines underlined by North in this chapter.

North’s Passage in his Arden/Shrew
Battle-of-the-Sexes Chapter:
Shakespeare passages: As You Like It, Taming of the Shrew, Arden: Battle-of-the-Sexes Passages:
Naturally women have in all things the spirit of contradiction, for … if he will laugh, they will weep
If he be sorrowful, they will be merry.
If he desire peace, they would have war.
If he would sleep, they will watch,
and if he will watch, they will sleep.
Finally, I say that they are of so evil a condition, that they love all that we despise and despise all that we love.
–The Dial (144v)
Rosalind: I will weep when you are disposed to be merry; I will laugh … when thou art inclined to sleep.
As You Like It 4.1.146-49
 
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe…
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace
The Taming of the Shrew,  5.2.155-6, 166-7

If thou cry war, there is no peace for me…
If I be merry… (see next table)
–Arden of Faversham, 8.114
if he will laugh, they will weep
If he be sorrowful, they will be merry
and if he will watch, they will sleep.
I will weep when you are disposed to
be merry; I will laugh… and that when
thou art inclined to sleep.
Women;
if he will watch, they will sleep;
If he desire peace, they would have war
Women;
To watch the night… Whilst thou liest,
To offer war, where they should kneel for peace

EEBO confirms that no work other than North’s Dial and Shakespeare’s As You Like It places “will laugh” within 30 words of “will weep” within 30 words of “be merry.” This is an exclusive link. The playwright was recalling this passage.

A few pages later, Aurelius continues in this same vein to Faustine, still noting the problems men have with women: “If he doth love them, they account him for lightIf he laugh, they say he is a fool; if he laugh not, they say he is solemn” (148r). But elsewhere in The Dial, North writes that women face precisely this same difficulty, using this same kind of language to discuss the eternal dilemma of women, and especially widows, who can never win in the eyes of others no matter what they do:

If she laugh a little, they count her light.
If she laugh not, they count her an hypocrite.
If she go to the Church, they note her for a gadderIf she go ill appareled, they account her a niggard(300)[1] 

This was clearly the inspiration for the lament of Alice in Arden of Feversham that she can never win in her husband’s eyes no matter what she does: 
If I be merry, thou straightways thinks me light;
If sad, thou sayest the sullens trouble me;
If well attired, thou thinks I will be gadding;
If homely, I seem sluttish in thine eye.  (Arden 13.108-11)

This too would appear to be a unique correspondence. Both passages make precisely the same points about the problems faced by women in a series of if-then statements listed in the same order and in the same sing-song manner. Both begin with essentially the same line: If she be merry (or if she laugh a little), then others will think or count her light. Second line refers to if she is sad or glum. The third notes that if she goes out or dresses up, others will think she is gadding or a gadder. In the last lines, the if-well-attired string from the tragedy corresponds to the if-ill-appareled string in North’s Dial—and, in each, a humble appearance is associated with a niggard or homely and sluttish. Women just cannot win. Though it is difficult to ascertain because it does not contain rare phrases, a search of EEBO for a similar speech containing either gadder or gadding has so far turned up nothing. Once again, it is clear the dramatist was basing Alice’s speech on The Dial. Indeed, this is less an echo or parallel than a seeming effort at memorial reconstruction or a full paraphrasing.

Of course, the dramatist has made a few verbal substitutions, but even these changes are Northern and link back to the Arden-Shrew chapter. For example, the playwright has substituted “If I be merry” for “If she laugh a little,” but this conflates the passage with North’s “Ifbe merry” (as in North’s earlier passage that was also repeated in As You Like it.) The playwright also uses sullens to oppose merry, and in his Plutarch’s Lives, North also uses this same merry-sullens antithesis: “that no man was of so sullen a nature but he would make him merry” (225).[2] The playwright also opted for the peculiar phrase “straight ways thinks” for North’s “they count her.” And elsewhere in The Dial, North writes “straight way … thinketh” (594) in a line that conveys the same meaning: to immediately form a new opinion. In other words, by using, if-be merry, merry-sullens and straight ways thinks, the playwright has substituted peculiar Northern wording and phrases into an undeniably Northern passage that links to both a passage and chapter that North himself underscored in North’s own Dial of Princes and placed them in the mouth of North’s half-sister.


[1] Unfortunately, at this point, I do not have access to this particular page of North’s personal 1582 edition of The Dial, but 300 is likely the page.

[2] Again we find that North was not following his source—Jacques Amyot’s French version of Plutarch’s Lives—but employing his own language. Amyot has “qu’il n’y avoit moeurs si austeres qu’elle n’acoucit: ny nature si farouche qu’elle ne prist & n’amolist.” See Jaques Amyot, Les Vies des Hommes Illustres Grecs et Romains Comparees l’une Avec l’Autre par Plutarque de Chaeronee (Paris: Charles de l’Ecluse, 1571), 118v.

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