Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature

Tutor Student Question Title MHRA Citation 2300 Words Dr Pamela Mason David Jones Discuss the treatment of courtship and marriage in writing of the period "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness February 2002

“One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage & The Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness
When Sir Francis describes his sister Anne as "a perfect wife already, meek and patient . . . Pliant and duteous in your husband's love", he inadvertantly describes the three ideals of Renaissance wifedom: "chastity, silence and obedience" (Briggs 1997, 49). The play's motivating action, however, lies in the transgression of these ideals. This transgression is disastrous, but does encourage the audience to examine Renaissance marriage ideology, by presenting a divergent ideology of its own. This essay contends that the treatment of courtship and marriage in A Woman Killed With Kindness constitues a critique of the way in which marriage was manipulated or constrained in the context of the court system. It will first examine the relegation of marriage to a business transaction and the use of marriage in courtly power games. It will then debate whether responsiblity for the break-up of the central marriage lies at the feet of individual characters or the court system, investigating the disparity between public appearance and domestic reality. It will finally identify the way in which true love can exist despite social constraints. A Woman Killed With Kindness is set in a society obsessed with material wealth, that renders marriage a business transaction and relegates women to the status of property. Male protagonists' language is shaped around the idea that they own their wives in the same way as they own "a well made suit" (I.59). Frankford describes Anne in his first soliloquy using a posessive relational process: "I have a fair, a chaste and loving wife". She is defined by Sir Charles as "a chain of gold to adorn your neck" (I.64). A precise price is also tied to Susan, the five-hundred pounds that will clear her brother's debt. She is simply "a present" (XV.94/95). Sir Francis is assured that "She's worth your money, man" (XV.108). In his first substantial dialogue Frankford complains that Sir Francis has monopolised the share of family wealth that should have been his by marriage, except that Anne "Hath to her dower her mother's modesty" (I.54).


David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

Plot events imply that this view of marriage inevitibly leads to detestable behaviour. Sir Charles uses his wholesome sister as "one rich gift to pay back all my debt" (XI 123). He regards donating her to Sir Francis as the honourable conclusion to a transaction started when the knight bought him out of prison: "With full five hundred pounds he bought your love/And shall he not enjoy it?" (XIV.70). Courtly convention lies at the heart of these actions. Sir Charles feels no responsibility for the original predicament as he was merely following expected competitive behaviour. More significantly, in offering Susan for horrific acts he is as concerned for the family name as he is for her welfare: If thou hast the heart To seize her as a rape of lustful prey, To blur our house that never was stained, To murder her that never meant thee harm, To kill me now whom once thou savedst from death Do them at at once on her (XV.126-131)


David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

Sir Charles performs a valiant court act by upholding his debt at any cost. But this ideology is sullied by the morality of the play, which grants Sir Francis the most virtuous action, realising that love is more important than courtly honour and, affected by the genuine love that Charles holds for his sister, declaring that "You overcome me in your love,/Sir Charles" (XV.132/3). The play similarly detests marriage being used as a power game within courtly struggles. At the opening wedding there is a strong sense of intrigue and suspicion behind each protagonist's japery; they cannot merely enjoy the celebration like their servants. Frankford is continuously suspicious of Sir Francis' "mad tricks", and also remarks "that I know your virtues and chaste thoughts,/I should be jealous of your praise, Sir Charles" (I. 25-6). When Sir Francis declares that "this marriage music hoists me from the ground" (I.8-9) he refers to the social ascent achieved by allying his family with the Frankford as much as to his love of dancing. He repeatedly refers to Frankford as his "brother" (I.11, 42), and is regarded by Frankford in the same light: "is my brother safe?" (IV.53) Though Wendoll is motivated by lust alone, Frankford elevates his wife's affair to a courtly power game by regarding her as a central element of his social status, alongside his learning and his estate. In his "How happy am I among other men" soliloquy" Anne is placed at the pinnacle, "the chief of all the sweet felicities on earth" of a list confirming his gentlemanly status. So when Frankford becomes the puppet master of temptation, setting up a scene in which Wendoll is almost obliged to sleep with Anne again and thus be caught, this temptation is one that brings social standing into question as well as sexual conduct. Wendoll is delighted to be placed in the position of master of the house, unwittingly believing it to be the work of fate, declaring "I am husband now in Master Frankford's place/And must command the house" (ScXIII 88-89).


David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

Marriage is condemned as a power game in gambling images and scenes. Sir Francis accepts Sir Charles' hawking invitation with a comment that evokes the previous image of Anne as a chain of gold: "Pawn me some gold of that" (I.96). Later, Sir Charles will indeed have to, in his own words "pawn" his sister for marriage as a direct result of the gamble. The next instance of gambling, the card game-scene with its extended double entendré, places the audience in an incredibly uncomfortable position despite its humour. We know the full intrigue constructed by both sides, and can see how Wendoll and Anne's innuendo, which they assume Frankford will miss, afflicts him. At the height of his self-torture, Frankford performs a tragic aside that impacts hardest by its stark contrast to the surrounding humour: "Thou robbest me of my soul, of her chaste love" (VIII.181-2). A similarly poigniant contrast is built from the realisation of how high the stakes of this game really are, evoked by Wendoll's inadvertant remark that they are are playing for "Hearts". However, responsibility for the breakup of the central marriage cannot be attributed solely to contemporary marriage conventions, but to the actions of individual characters. Addington Symonds, writing an introduction to an 1888 edition of Heywood's plays, attributes Heywood with a "sincerity , a tenderness of pathos and an instinctive perception of nobility" (Wilson 1888, viii). This is a vital quality here. One of Heywood's masterstrokes as playwright is that we feel sympathy across the Frankford, Anne, Wendoll love triangle. Blame is open to several interpretations. Though on the surface Frankford is the hero, the forgiving husband, he is certainly not simply, as Addington Symonds claims with typical Victorian moral objectivity, a "pure, confiding, tender-hearted character" (pg. xxix). In many ways he fails his husbandly duties to Anne and is, as Kinney puts it, "an inadequate domestic statesman" (2000 164). Briggs tells us that "Protestant marriage doctrine . . . followed that of humanists like Erasmus in arguing that wives should be treated with consideration and affection, as helpmeets and companions, rather than obedient servants" (1997, 49). Yet the relationship fails Sir Charles' protestation that "there's equality in this fair combination" (I.66-7). When Anne tries to tell Frankford about the hawking quarrel, her declaration is symptomatic of their relationship as a whole, telling him: "you hear not all" (IV 45). Significantly, in his first soliloquy Frankford seems to adore Anne being "a loving wife", but he never says that he loves her until she has committed adultery. Moreover, Frankford is the active agent in bringing an adulterer into his

David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

household, he is the catalyst of their relationship. His entreaties are ironic, "Prithee, Nan,/Use [Wendoll] with all thy lovingest courtesy" (IV.79-80), as are those of his confused wife. Her attempts to honour Frankford contribute to her fall: "It is my duty to receive your friend" (IV.82). There may not be enough evidence in the play to infer that Frankford is homosexually motivated in admiting Wendoll, but he does improperly seek " a good companion" (IV 32) in this man rather than his wife. When Wendoll considers his relationship to Frankford, he defines it in terms of a dependancy most apt to love feelings: "He cannot eat without me,/Nor laugh without me. I am to his body/As necessary as his digestion" (VI 40-43). He describes betrayal using an even stronger love image: "Hast thou the power straight with thy gory hands/To rip thy image from his bleeding heart?" (VI.44-46). Yet the effect here is more ambiguous, because the end of the play affirms that while Wendoll's image may be torn from Frankford's heart, Anne's cannot whatever the circumstances. Even so, Anne seems less guilty in light of Frankford's erratic behaviour. She finds a true companion in Wendoll, as demonstrated by the card game scene and especially in the affectionate image by which Frankford catches them: "lying/Close in each other's arms. and fast asleep" (XIII.40-41)". Wendoll is not foremost a lust object but one who can fill some kind of surrogate husband role. Frankford's absence causes her plea: "you must use his table, keep his servants,/And be a present Frankford in his absence" (VI.81). Anne resents the way her infidelity must proceed as though she has no power over it: "That which for want of wit I granted erst/I now must yield through fear . . . Once o'r our shoes, we are straight over our heads in sin" (XIII.111-112). When her husband decides to go away again she does everything in her extremely limited power to make him stay. The tragic heart of the play lies in Anne being forced outside society by events she cannot fully control. There is horrific inevitibilty to her self destruction. She seems almost too delicate for courtly existence and the values it places upon her. If "the least wrinkle from [Frankford's] stormy brow/Will blast the roses in [her] cheeks" then the audience anticipates early on that her response to infidelity must be one of utter annihilation. Briggs cites some dialogue from Measure for Measure to demonstrate that an adulterous woman are exiled from this society. Mariana is asked whether she maid, wife or widow and if none of these "Why you are nothing then" (1997, 51). So Anne is turned into "nothing", though she has been a model wife in every other way. She can never return to the status of maid so the only honourable

David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

road open to her is death. Her hysterical plea upon being discovered, "I would I had no tongue, no ears, no eyes,/No apprehension no capacity" (XIII.86-87) is especially poigniant, as really she has been denied these throughout. It is similarly difficult to despise Wendoll. He stresses his love for Frankford in a heart-torn soliloquy in which he laments falling in love with Anne against his own will:"And I must" (VI.51). The stagecraft here is excellent, as we are not told the identity of his beloved until we have gained some sympathy for his plight. But Wendoll does ignores potential danger to Anne, concerned only that: "I am hurried to my own destruction" (VI.18). He never quite descends from an angel to the devil that Anne, Frankford and Nicholaus each condemn him as, but our sympathy for him does decrease as events progress. He is incapable of Anne and Frankford's nobel behaviour at the end of the play. His feelings are marked aside as mere lust: "I cannot weep: my heart is all on fire./Cursed be the fruits of unchaste desire" (XVI.73-4). The realisation that the court system will allow Wendoll to prosper if he lies low for a while, though Anne must die, is especially grotesque: "At my return I may in court be raised" (XIV 141). A Woman Killed is based on a disparity between public appearances and domestic reality. Sir Charles' speech about how well suited the marriage couple are for one another – "She doth become you like a well made suit" (I.59) demonstrates the misguiding nature of court rhetoric. Anne and Wendoll were only, as Frankford bitterly notes, "two seeming angels". Upon discovering Anne's infidelity, Frankford reiterates the official depiction of her (VIII.99-105) only to ask an urgent question that again evokes the image of Anne as a piece of property: "Is all this seeming gold plain copper?" (VIII.308). The private sphere is unable to live up to the ideals of court rhetoric. Though the play provides no solutions, it subtly poses questions about the value of this "seeming gold". Whether Anne deserves to die is debatable, though the universal "atonement" of play's closure softens such questions. A "flattering glass" is held up to Elizabethan society, which reveals enormous tensions behind Cult of the Virgin ideals. Chastity struggles against human nature, love struggles against courtly ambitions.


David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

The play does, however, allow for the possibility of real love in this world. When Frankford parades his children in front of his unfaithful wife, he is not performing a cruel revenge act but a calling forth a symbol that demonstrates that he does understand the real value of his marriage: If neither fear of shame, regard of honor, The blemish of my house, nor my dear love Could have withheld thee from so lewd a fact, Yet for these infants, these young harmless souls, On whose white brows thy name is charactered, And grows in greatness as they wax in years – Look but on them, and melt away in tears. (XIII.113-119) The real importance of marriage lies outside "fair revenues" (IV.5) and power games, but in the creation of "harmless souls" who have nothing to do with court power. Frankford's remarriage, without the worthless ceremony of the opening scenes, is one based on forgiveness. He takes Anne back with recourse to a love that transcends the physical world: "Though thy rash offense/Divorced our bodies, they repentant tears/Unite our souls" (XVII. 108-110). He allows her to die at peace, the two things she holds most worthy restored: "My wife, the mother to my pretty babes, Both those lost names I do restore thee back" (XVII 115-116). Sir Francis, by falling in love with Susan, also comes to realises that true love is born ouside court power games and even human intellect: why should I be in this violent humour Of passion and of love? and with a person So different every way, and so opposed In all contradictions and still-warring actions? Fie, fie, how I dispute against my soul. (VII.108-112) The play implies that this is where love should really lie, derived from the "soul" and often in opposition to everything in a character's world. Sir France's true feeling is born out of Susan's angelic love for her brother, a love so strong that she is willing to sacrifice her maidenhood. Sir Francis' pure feelings in turn arouses these feelings in Sir Charles, so the families become united by a bond far stronger than any built on material wealth: "Rich in your love I can never be poor" (XIV.152). Ultimately then, the treatment and semi-vindication of marriage and courtship in A Woman Killed With Kindness demonstrates the dramatic potential of the great


David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

Shakespearean adage: for aught that I could ever read, Could ever hear by tale or history, The course of true love never did run smooth" (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act I, Sc.i)


David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness


David Jones Elizabethan & Jacobean Literature Formative Essay: "One Rich Gift To Pay Back All My Debt": Marriage and the Court System In A Woman Killed With Kindness

Works Cited
Briggs, Julia 1983 This Stage-Play World: Texts and Contexts, 1580-1625 (1983) Oxford Univ. Press: Oxford Kinney, Arthur F. ed. 1999 Renaissance Drama: An Anthology Of Plays & Entertainments Blackwell: Massachusetts Kinney, Arthur F. 2000 The Cambridge Companion To English Literature 1500-1600 Cambridge Univ.Press: Cambridge Verity, Wilson A. ed. 1888 Thomas Heywood The Best Plays Of The Old Dramatists: Thomas Heywood Bradbury, Agnew & Co: London


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