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

Posthumus Leonatus, the exiled husband of Princess Imogen of Britain, has been taken in by an Italian trickster, who claims to have made Posthumus a cuckold. More ready to believe in fabricated evidence than in his own wife's constancy, Posthumus flies into a raging soliloquy. Like Hamlet and Troilus before him, he extrapolates from one woman to all women; the infidelity of a single lover casts doubt even on one's own mother. He wants to rip out "the woman's part" in him—his mother's contribution—because it is the vicious part, the unfaithful part, the lying, flattering, deceiving, etc., part. His own weaknesses are not really his, insofar as he's a man; presumably even the vengeful rage he's in now is his mother's fault. For Posthumus, as for many a Shakespearean male, women are the essence of vacillation and inconstancy, plaguing true-hearted, constant men.

Themes: gender, misogyny

Speakers: Posthumus