Swetnam the Woman Hater – Act Three, scene three

Return to the previous scene

Enter ATTICUS, MISOGYNOS, Two Judges, Notary, Crier, Two Lawyers, and Attendants; and then LISANDRO, and LEONIDA, guarded.

That equity and justice both may meet,
In parallels, like to Apollo’s twins,
We have ordain’d this session. In the which,
Let all unequal and impartial thoughts
Be laid aside, with such regard of truth,
As not the name of daughter, or the blood
Which we call ours, running in her veins,
May any way divert us. Therefore, go on,
And take your seat, stout champion, and prevail
As it the truth you deal for, in this doubtful,
And much ambiguous business.

So I wish.                                                       [Passes to his seat with trumpets.

Enter to them AURELIA, leading ATLANTA, LORETTA, and two or three more Women.

Brave Amazonian beauty, learned Atlanta,
Now is it time your intellectual powers
Of wit and judgement should advance themselves
Against the forked tongues of slanderers
That pierce the spotless innocence of women.
So on, and take thy seat. It is our trust,
Th’event will prosper, for our cause is just.

That makes me confident.                                                        [Passes to the seat.

Prepare the court.

Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, yes! If there be any man produce—in this honourable court—that can produce—any lawful case—against either of the advocates—why they should not be admitted—let them now speak, or forever hold their peace!

‘Tis well. Now swear the judges.

Ye shall swear by the sacred hand of Atticus, not to respect the person of either of the offenders, but justly and truly to weigh and balance the reasons and arguments of the deputed advocates, and thereupon to determine and proceed in judgement, according to the laws of this land, as you tender the pleasure of royal Atticus.

To this we freely swear.

Now then, to your arguments.

Atlanta, for poor innocent women.

Misogynos, for the men.

It is an honour far beyond my weakness,
Most equal judges, that I am accepted,
I but a woman, before men to plead,
Dumb fear and bashfulness to speak before
Bold orators of state, me grave and wise,
That can at every breathing pause, correct
The slipp’ry passages of a woman’s speech.
But yet withal my hopes are doubly arm’d.

How, doubly arm’d?

Presume not more than reason.

First, that my bashful weakness claims excuse,
And is to speak before such temp’rate judges,
Who in their wisdom will, no doubt, connive
At small defects in me a silly woman.

Smoothly put on.

A quaint insinuation.

Next, that the cause I handle, is so just,
And full of truth, as were corruption seated
Upon your hearts—as who can ever doubt
Wisdom should so decline—I would not fear
But that my pregnant reasons soon should purge
And cleanse your secret bosoms from untruth.

A promising exordium.

The success is all.

I need not tell you what I come to prove;
That rallying woman-hater hath already
With his foul breath belch’d forth into the air,
The shameless cause in question, and doth charge
The supple wax, the courteous-natur’d woman,
As blameful for receiving the impression
Of iron-hearted man, in whom is graven,
With curious and deceiving art, foul shapes
And stamps of much abhor’d impiety.
Would any man, once having fix’d his seal
To any deed, though after he repent
The fact so done, rail at the supple wax,
As though that were the cause of his undoing?
Oh, idle levity! Wax hath’s use,
And woman easily bears the man’s abuse.

Here’s a bi-blow.

How can my fencer ward it? Stay, he comes on.

Hum. Do you wax upon me, as if man
Once having fix’d the seal of arms of love,
On waxen-heartd woman, though another
Came after him, and did adulterate
The stamp imprinted on her, she forsooth,
Must still be held excus’d? ‘Tis weak, and fond,
And womanlike. You fly on waxen wings
That melt against the sun. Therefore, attend,
And I will prove unto this honour’d court,
In all their passions women are impetuous,
And beyond men, ten times more violent.

I grant you that. But who begins the motion,
And is first agent? For as I conceive,
That’s the cause in question.

Deluding woman!

Flatt’ring and perejur’d man.

Did not th’enticing beauty of a woman,
Set Troy on fire?

Did not man first begin
To tempt that beauty with the fire of lust?

Beauty first tempts to lust.

Lust tempteth beauty.
Witness the vows, the oaths, the protestations,
And crocodile tears of base dissembling men,
To win their shameless purpose: whereof missing,
Then but observe their gifts, their messages,
Their wanton letters, and their amorous sonnets,
Whereby they vent the smoke of their affections,
Ready to blind poor women and put out
The eye of reason. But if still they fail,
Then come they on with undermining cunning,
And with our maids, our pages, and attendants,
Corruptly work and make insinuation,
While they at hand with feigned languishment,
Make show as if they meant to due for love,
When they but swelter in the reek of lust.
But here’s not all: for if this all prevail not,
Then they are up again, and with pale cheeks,
Like some poor starveling, or some mimic ghost,
They stalk in to the presence of their mistress,
Fold up their arms, hang down their wanton heads,
Cast lovesick glances, and as woeful commas
In this dumb oratory, now and then they breathe
A passionate sigh, whereat the gentle nature
Of mild compassionate woman once relenting,
Straight they fall out into such sweet complaints
Of their sad sufferings, turning words of art,
Able to melt a gentle eye in tears,
As they do speak. Then with officious duty,
They lick a moat off from her upper garment,
Dust her curl’d ruff with their too busy fingers,
As if some dust were there; and many toys
They use to please, till side by side they join,
And palm with palm supplies the amorous heart,
To pay a wonton kiss on love’s fair lips,
And the prize is won. Judge therefore, lords,
Whether the guilt doth lie on us or them,
And as your wisdoms find, save or condemn.

A plaudite by the Women, with shouts, crying, “Atlanta, Atlanta, Atlanta!”

Truth hath she said in all.

Oh, but the art
Of woman—

Silence! You have no voice in court.

You have your advocates, therefore must not speak.

These allegations are unanswerable.

The court must needs allow them.

Brag not too fast, for all this glorious speech
Is but a painted pageant, made to usher
Some homely scavenger, and is borne up
Upon the backs of porters. It wants true worth,
To carry state, and usher leaned judgement
Into this court. For what a foolish reason,
Is it to say lust tempteth garish beauty,
Because men court their wanton mistresses
In sundry forms of compliment! There’s not
A city tradesman throughout all the streets
From the east chapel to the western palace,
But knows full well the garish setting out
To cheapen ware. Beauty set forth to sale
Wantons the blood, and is man’s tempting stale.

How boldly he comes on!

But mark his reasons.

And this is woman, who well knows her strength
And trims her beauty forth in blushing pride,
To draw as doth the wanton morning sun,
The eyes of men to gaze. But mark their natures,
And from their cradles you shall see them take
Delight in making babies, devising christ’nings,
In imitation of the wanton ends
Their riper years will aim at. But go further,
And look upon the very mother of mischief,
Who as her daughters ripen, and do bud
Their youthful spring, straight she instructs them how
To the defects of Nature, how to use
The mystery of painting, curling, pow’dring,
And with strange periwigs, pin knots, bord’rings,
To deck them up like to a vintner’s bush,
For men to gaze at on a midsummer night.

The tide begins to turn.

Women go down.

This done, they are instructed by like art,
How to give entertainment, and keep distance
With all their suitors, friends, and favourites,
When to deny, and when to feed their hopes,
Now to draw on, and then again put off,
To frown and smile, to weep and laugh outright,
All in a breath, and all to train poor man
Into his ruin. Nay, by art, they know
How to form all their gesture, how to add
A Venus mole on every wanton cheek,
To make a graceful dimple when she laughs;
And, if her teeth be bad, to lisp and simper,
Thereby to hide that imperfection;
And these once learn’d, what wants the tempter now,
To snare the stoutest champion of men?
Therefore, grave judges, let me thus conclude:
Man tempts not women, woman doth him delude.

A plaudit by the Men with shouts, crying, “Misogynos, Misogynos, Misogynos!”

Women, look to’t; the fencer gives you a veny.

Believe it, he hits home.

Nay, I would speak
What tyrannies, oppressions, massacres,
Women stand guilty of; and which is more,
What cities have been sack’d and ruinate,
Kingdoms subverted, lands depopulated,
Monarchies ended! And all these by women.

Base snarling dog, bit out thy sland’rous tongue.
And spit it in the face of innocence,
That at once all thy rancour may have end;
And do not still opprobriously condemn
Woman that bred thee, who in nothing more
Is guilty of dishonour to her sex
But that she hath brought forth so base a viper,
To tear her reputation in his teeth,
As thou hast done.

Oh, do not scold, good woman!

Go to the purpose.

I forgot myself.
Therefore, grave judges, let this base imposter
Tell me one man that ever gave his life,
To keep his vow safe and inviolate,
Against the assaults of lust; and for that one,
I’ll find a thousand women, that to keep
Their chastities and honours undefil’d,
Have laid their lives down at base tyrants’ feet.

A plaudit by Women, crying “Atlanta, Atlanta, Atlanta!”

This is but a flourish.

The fencer’s school-play bears it.

What hath been is not new. The calendar
Of women-saints is fill’d up long ago;
For now a universal leprosy,
Like to an inundation, overflows,
And breaks upon you all; scarce one is free
From wanton lightness and vain levity.

None like to Nero and Heliogabulus.

Yes, wanton Helen and Cleopatra.

I could name more.

I, ten of one, of women.

Sense-pleasing Sardanapalus is beyond
All women that can be nam’d.

I’ll name you one
Beyond all men, th’insatiate Messalina,
Who, when she had to satisfy her lust,
Embrac’d the change of lovers, and was weakened
So far, she could not longer hold it out;
And being asked if then she were satisfied,
She answered, “No;” for though she then were tir’d,
No change could satisfy her appetite.

A plaudit by the Men, crying “Misogynos, Misogynos, Misogynos.”

Oh, monstrous impiety!

Stop the detractor’s mouth. Away with him!

Tear him in pieces!

Silence in the court!

It is enough. My lords, proceed to judgement,
And lead away Misogynos to his chamber.

 [The two Lawyers lead Misogynos away.

Read the decree.

We the sworn judges of this present court,
In equal balance having weigh’d the rasons,
And allegations of both advocates,
In their late declamations, do adjudge,
And here conclude that—

Read out.

That women are the first and worst temptations
To love and lusful folly; and to this
We are here present, ready to subscribe.

You are impartial, and we do appeal
From you to judges more indifferent.
You are all men, and in this weighty business,
Grave women should have sat at judges with you.

‘Tis true, ‘tis true. Let us have justice!

It is decreed already. Attend the judgement.

Yet at the last let your Aurelia kneel,
And for the offspring of your loins and mine,
Beg favour.


You always have been just
In other causes; will you in your own
Be so unjust, severe, nay, tyrannous?
The very beasts, by natural instinct,
Preserve their issue; and will you be then,
More cruel and unnatural than they?

Arise, and know: a king is like a star,
By which each subject, as a mariner,
Must steer his course. Justice in us is ample,
From whom inferiors will derive example.

Oh, be not so obdurate!

I’ll hear no more.

Yes, gracious sir, for my endeavouring pains—
Though fruitless now—let me, a stranger, beg
One boon.

But not the freedom of Leonida.

Since she must die, I beg she may not basely
Be hurried forth amongst uncivil men;
But that your queen and I, and some few others,
With any one of your attendant lords,
May see her execution.

Take your desire.

The blessed heavens be thankful to Atlanta!

And crown her with all blessings!

Take my thanks too. And now, my lords, proceed,
And give your final censure.                   [Exit ATTICUS. Cornets and flourish.

Come, Atlanta, come;
Tears fill mine eyes, and grief doth strike me dumb.

[Exit AURELIA, ATLANTA, and all the Women, except LEONIDA.

Leonida, by the judgement of this court,
You are found guilty as the principal,
In the offense committed; for which, we doom you—
According to the laws of this our land—
To lose your head.

And you withal, Lisandro,
By the like law, must within fifteen days
Betake you to perpetual banishment.

Welcome, sweet death.

Nothing can expiate
The king’s severe decree, and her hard fate.                                            [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene




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