Friday, January 23, 2009

The Woman's Part

Could I find out
The woman's part in me—for there's no motion
That tends to vice in man, but I affirm
It is the woman's part; be it lying, note it,
The woman's; flattering, hers; deceiving, hers;
Lust and rank thoughts, hers, hers; revenges, hers;
Ambitions, covetings, change of prides, disdain,
Nice longing, slanders, mutability,
All faults that name, nay, that hell knows,
Why, hers, in part or all; but rather, all;
For even to vice
They are not constant, but are changing still . . .

Cymbeline Act 2, scene 5, 19-30 - William Shakespeare

In this soliliquy by Posthumus in the second act of the play, it quickly becomes apparent that Posthumus blames "the woman's part" of himself, or his mother's contribution, for all of his faults and weaknesses. The idea that all women were lustful and deceitful was common in Early Modern England because of the fear surrounding the possibility of deceit in regards to conception. The fear was that a man could easily be fooled by his wife and lose face within his community, becoming known as a cuckold and even unknowingly raising another man's child. Many literary works from the period incorporate this idea because it was a common fear. As Posthumus also points out in the this play, an unfaithful act on the part of one woman often casts doubt on them all, leaving the impression that no woman can be trusted.

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