Merope "With Women The Heart Argues, Not The Mind"

Matthew Arnold

"With Women The Heart Argues, Not The Mind"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Polyphontes, the present tyrant of Messenia, came to power by murdering Cresphontes and all but one of his sons and then forcing Merope, the widow, to marry him; however, twenty years later he is still not safe on his throne. Afraid of Aepytus, the only son of Merope and Cresphontes to escape, and worried because the widow has not forgiven him for murdering her first family, Polyphontes can sense the spirit of rebellion that Merope's continued mourning sparks. Unknown to him, Aepytus has already returned, and the plot to find vengeance is under way; he knows only that if Merope does not cease her actions, the people might rebel. Thus he argues that he saved the country by his coup and that the children's murders cannot be attributed to him; Merope is not convinced. She replies that the avenging gods, not her lamentations, are the cause of discord in the state.

I ask thee not to approve thy husband's death,
No, nor expect thee to admit the grounds,
In reason good, which justified my deed.
With women the heart argues, not the mind.
But, for thy children's death, I stand assoil'd–
I saved them, meant them honour; but my friends
Rose, and with fire and sword assailed my house
By night; in that blind tumult they were slain.
To chance impute their deaths, then, not to me.