The Woman Hater Further Critical Evaluation of the Work - Essay

Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

The usual thrust of romantic comedy—the boy meets girl theme—is in THE WOMAN HATER subordinated to the humours of the two main characters: the misogyny of Gondarino and the gluttony of Lazarillo. Their characters, however, are not sufficiently developed. Gondarino has no motivation for his extreme hatred of women (he calls Oriana, who is a stranger to him, a “filthy impudent whore,” simply because she is a woman) beyond a mere hint that his dead wife had cuckolded him. Lazarillo, on the other hand, is less a glutton than a hyperbolic lover of rare and delicious foods; he is the most humorous of all the characters in the play. His anticipation of eating the umbrana’s head leads him to personify it as a pure virgin—but he ends up marrying a prostitute in order to have his delicacy.

THE WOMAN HATER touches on the issue of the subjugation of the lower classes by the upper classes; Julia, the prostitute who marries Lazarillo in order to better herself, bitterly complains that she and her kind are but “apes” to the upper class. The main issue in the play, however, is men’s subjugation of women.

Although the play may be considered pro-feminist, it contains a subtle anti-feminism which is even more sinister than the blatant misogyny of Gondarino. The Duke, who is a woman lover, believes it is her “nature / To wish to taste that which is most forbidden,” a bias based on the Edenic myth. And Valore, also an ostensible woman lover, feels that his sister has risen “above” her sex in remaining chaste. Although Oriana insists that she has “shew’d my sexe the better,” it is the Duke who has the last word, celebrating the triumph of “True love,” to end the play harmoniously, in true comic fashion.