"Spare The Rod, And Spoil The Child"

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Last Updated on May 23, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 350

Context: In imitation of Cervantes' account in prose of the exploits of the knight-errant Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza, to right the wrongs of Spain, the English poet Samuel Butler sent the Presbyterian Sir Hudibras and his squire Ralpho out to fight sin and superstition in England. And as Cervantes was speeded into completing his sequel by the appearance of a spurious second part by a smart lawyer calling himself Avellaneda, so, to hasten Butler, the first part of Sir Hudibras' adventures brought a sequel by another hand the same year, the first of fifteen imitations to appear within a century. One great difference between the Spanish and the English books is that Cervantes showed tenderness for his chief character, and so made readers admire and sympathize with him, despite his misfortunes and lack of success. Butler had neither pity nor respect for the product of his pen. To make fun of the Puritans, he portrayed them as obnoxious nuisances. In 1663, Butler published the First Part, of three cantos and 3,488 lines followed by the publication of Part Two, also in three cantos. Growing out of the author's classical interest, it begins with an imitation of the Fourth Book of Virgil's Aeneid. The poet had left Hudibras and his squire prisoners in the stocks. When a Widow whom he had been wooing hears of his plight, she visits him in one of the poem's amusing moments. He had intended to impress her. She pretends not to recognize the sorry specimen. After a long discussion of the possibility of matrimony between them, she offers to try to get him freed if he will consent to a whipping such as lovers endure for their ladies, and which serves Virtue and corrects the mistakes of Nature. She explains her belief:

And I'll admit you to the place
You claim as due in my good grace.
If matrimony and hanging go
By dest'ny, why not whipping too?
What med'cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets styl'd,
Then spare the rod, and spoil the child.

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