Rule a Wife and Have a Wife

by John Fletcher

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Michael Perez is hoping to marry and has firm ideas of how he would behave as a husband. He thinks that a moderate amount of control sounds right, and that women should not exceed their role or go “beyond” their husbands. If his wife did not obey, he understands that other men would not think well of him, and jokes that they could even banish him. Michael tells his friend Juan de Castro,

Would I were married, I would find that Wisdom,

With a light rein to rule my Wife: if ever Woman

Of the most subtile mould went beyond me,

I would give the Boys leave to whoot me out o'th' Parish.

Leon is a new soldier under Juan de Castro’s command. When Castro interviews him, he claims to be a coward and to have no useful martial skills. Growing exasperated, Castro asks him how he imagines he will stay alive in battle. Although Leon seems foolish, Castro finds him rather amusing and is not convinced all is as it seems.

Juan de Castro: How wilt thou scape a bullet?

Leon: Why by chance,

They aim at honourable men, alas I am none Sir.

Juan de Castro: This fellow has some doubts in's talk that strike me,

He cannot be all fool . . .

When Michael meets Estifania, he is convinced that she is lovely and wealthy enough to make a perfect wife. Because she is actually deceiving him, as she is a maid who is only pretending to be a rich lady, she flatters him by telling him what she expects a prospective husband wants to hear.

I am not so ignorant, but that I know well,

How to be commanded,

And how again to make myself obey'd . . .

Margarita is a lady who is thinking of marrying, but she is also adamant that she continue to be free to pursue her desires as she sees

I find it [my body] as all bodies are that are young and lusty,

Lazy, and high fed, I desire my pleasure,

And pleasure I must have.

Her friend Altea tells her she knows of a young man who would be malleable and could satisfy her sexually as well. Their other friends comment that honesty and honor are also important qualities in a husband. Margarita disagrees.

I care not what they are, so they be lusty . . .

If he have honour I am undone, I'le none such,

I'le have a lusty man, honour will cloy me.

This man, it turns out, is Leon; later it is also revealed that he is Altea’s brother, and the siblings have concocted the ruse of his foolishness specifically to entrap Margarita.

Leon and Margarita do meet and marry, and gradually she comes to realize that she has forfeited her cherished independence, and that she takes her vows seriously. When a potential lover, the Duke of Medina, starts to seduce her, she scolds and rejects him.

Could not your own discretion tell ye Sir,

When I was married I was none of yours?

Your eyes were then commanded to look off me,

And I now stand in a circle and secure,

Your spells nor power can never reach my body,

Mark me but this, and then Sir be most miserable,

'Tis sacriledge to violate a wedlock . . .

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