April 9 (H)…Hell Hath No Fury…

…like a woman scorned.

While many attribute the quote to William Shakespeare, it actually comes from a play called “The Mourning Bride” (1697) by William Congreve.  The complete quote is “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

Congreve(1670-1729) was an accomplished practitioner of the wit and cynicism made famous by his contemporaries Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. His last play, “The Way of the World,” (1700) is considered a classic of Restoration comedy.

The late 17th and early 18th century is often considered the golden age of satire. Writers took advantage of classical forms to cleverly castigate the royal and aristocratic classes. This was the era when the poet Alexander Pope could sum up his literary competition in a book entitled “The Dunciad,” and Jonathan Swift modestly proposed solving the Irish famine by encouraging them to eat their own children.

Source: Ask Yahoo

Gruesome of coure, but satire is not satire unless it harpoons the object of its scorn, unless there is an underlying truth to the humorous (but nevertheless hurtful)  language.  And even though we laugh…and we do…at the idea that a woman scorned is more damaging that Hell itself, truer words were never spoken.

 …like a mother scorned.

Oh, that this were not true, and that it were not a natural progression of being (already) a woman scorned.  I confess this is conjecture only, but I have often wondered if one of the reasons that weight (particularly my weight) was such a major focus for my mother was that it was also a major focus for my grandmother.  Could it be that my grandmother’s own scornful attitude about excess weight was expressed so often – to her own daughters – and perhaps in criticism of their weight – that it created (or encouraged) a visceral scorn for the very same in them?  Is it possible that their own bodies & weight were critiqued routinely…and imperfections point out?  Could it also be possible that my grandmother criticized my mother for allowing me to be “overweight?”  Is it possible that she made critical, embarrassing comments about me to my mother, which were then passed along to me?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  But I do know this…

…like a daughter scorned.

Indeed, the poem could have very easily read “nor hell a fury like a daughter scorned.”  Put in a situation where she at the mercy of a weight-obsessed mother, largely unprotected, and (because these are private matters, handled where others can not see) backed into a corner of indignation & fury but expected to behave respectfully & properly, the choice is to crumble or fight.  And crumble I did…while choking back the bitterness, frustration & anger because it was expected of me.  And in fact, not learning to (really) fight my way out of that corner until I was past 30 years old.

This happens no longer, and for that I am eternally grateful.  But I am still battling the bitterness.  Some days are good…really good.  Some days aren’t.  My prayer is that as the months and years go by, the good days will outnumber the others to such a degree that this painful part of my childhood and adolescence will be only a memory, no longer bringing with it this emotional turmoil.

…like a friend scorned.

I know that Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, was not speaking of the friendship between women, but he certainly could have and uttered the very same words in reference to a friendship gone awry.  I have marveled many times at the ease with which men carry on friendships, have (major) disagreements, and seem to move past them and forward with their friendship as before, with little change in the tenor of their relationship.  Maybe there are women for whom friendship is that unflappable, but I think it is more rare.  We are emotional creatures by nature.  Our disagreements can, in an instant, turn personal & bitter, and sideline what seemed the most solid of friendships.  Usually temporarily.  Sometimes for years.  Sometimes forever.  When you’re the one doling out the scornful words, with no thought for the repercussions, the backlash is unexpectedly stunning.  Where did the vengefulness come from?  Oh, I did it.  That is a crushing realization, especially so because it can’t be undone.

Looking retrospectively at the friendships I have had over the course of 40ish years, how grateful I am that my hand has tolled the death knell on only a handful.  It is a devastation responsibility to live with, even when done reluctantly and out of necessity.  How grateful I am, too, for those friendships that have weathered a fall out over harsh words and strife, righted and reconciled…and continue on.  And how grateful I am, really truly grateful, for girlfriends who, whatever our past has been, are as close to me as my own heart, and who will always be.


9 thoughts on “April 9 (H)…Hell Hath No Fury…

  1. You are absolutely correct. I have seen members of my family, women, do things that I would never even dream of doing when they are scorned or, worse yet, a family member is scorned. Do not be the one that does one of my mother-in-law’s children wrong. Or at least don’t be the one and stay in town.

    Hell hath no fury indeed….

  2. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog so that I could find yours! Your transparency and the truth of what you have shared touched my heart, especially the one about the furry of a parent. My parents were wonderful, but theirs weren’t and we suffered as well as them. Bookmarked ya!

  3. I am so glad I found your blog through a comment you left at Overcoming Loneliness. (Amazingly I haven’t gotten very far through the AtoZ list of blogs!!) I loved this post today – well written and very thought provoking. Why do we as women allow our insecurities to damage our own hearts as well as the hearts of the ones we love?? I see it. I experience it. And yes, I can be the culprit sometimes. Makes me long for heaven for sure!

    • Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words. The theme has been much on my mind over the years of my life, and now that I’m writing regularly (again), it comes up a lot. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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