If thou hadst not so much wit, I could find in my heart to marry thee

From John Marston’s The Dutch Courtesan (4.2), reminiscent of Benedict and Beatrice in Much Ado and, as there, the only genuine relationship in the play.

Tysefew. But do you hear, lady?—you proud ape, you! What was the jest you brake of me even now?

Crispinella. Nothing. I only said you were all mettle;—that you had a brazen face, a leaden brain, and a copper beard.

Tysefew. Quicksilver,—thou little more than a dwarf, and something less than a woman.

Crispinella. A wisp! a wisp! a wisp!—will you go to the banquet?

Tysefew. By the Lord, I think thou wilt marry shortly too; thou growest somewhat foolish already.   

Crispinella. O, i’faith, ’tis a fair thing to be married, and a necessary. To hear this word must! If our husbands be proud, we must bear his contempt; if noisome, we must bear with the goat under his armholes; if a fool, we must bear his bable; and, which is worse, if a loose liver, we must live upon unwholesome reversions; where, on the contrary side, our husbands—because they may, and we must—care not for us. Things hoped with fear, and got with strugglings, are men’s high pleasures, when duty palls and flats their appetite.   

Tysefew. What a tart monkey is this! By heaven! if thou hadst not so much wit, I could find in my heart to marry thee. Faith, bear with me for all this!

Crispinella. Bear with thee? I wonder how thy mother could bear thee ten months in her belly, when I cannot endure thee two hours in mine eye.

Tysefew. Alas, for your sweet soul! By the Lord, you are grown a proud, scurvy, apish, idle, disdainful, scoffing—God’s foot! because you have read Euphues and his England, Palmerin de Oliva, and the Legend of Lies!

Crispinella. Why, i’faith, yet, servant, you of all others should bear with my known unmalicious humours: I have always in my heart given you your due respect. And Heaven may be sworn, I have privately given fair speech of you, and protested——

Tysefew. Nay, look you; for my own part, if I have not as religiously vow’d my heart to you,—been drunk to your health, swallowed flap-dragons, ate glasses, drunk urine, stabb’d arms, and done all the offices of protested gallantry for your sake; and yet you tell me I have a brazen face, a leaden brain, and a copper beard! Come, yet, and it please you.  

Crispinella. No, no;—you do not love me.

Tysefew. By —— but I do now; and whosoever dares say that I do not love you, nay, honour you, and if you would vouchsafe to marry——

Crispinella. Nay, as for that, think on’t as you will, but God’s my record,—and my sister knows I have taken drink and slept upon’t,—that if ever I marry, it shall be you; and I will marry, and yet I hope I do not say it shall be you neither.  

Tysefew. By Heaven, I shall be as soon weary of health as of your enjoying!—Will you cast a smooth cheek upon me?

Crispinella. I cannot tell. I have no crump’d shoulders, my back needs no mantle, and yet marriage is honourable. Do you think ye shall prove a cuckold?

Tysefew. No, by the Lord, not I!   

Crispinella. Why, I thank you, i’faith. Heigho! I slept on my back this morning, and dreamt the strangest dreams. Good Lord! How things will come to pass! Will you go to the banquet?

Tysefew. If you will be mine, you shall be your own:—my purse, my body, my heart, is yours,—only be silent in my house, modest at my table, and wanton in my bed;—and the Empress of Europe cannot content, and shall not be contented, better.   

Crispinella. Can any kind heart speak more discreetly affectionately? My father’s consent; and as for mine——

Tysefew. Then thus, and thus, so Hymen should begin; Sometimes a falling out proves falling in.

2 thoughts on “If thou hadst not so much wit, I could find in my heart to marry thee

  1. I admittedly tend always to rosy the view since I project my own relationship into anything like this but my first sense of that line had been as another element of their ironic volleying. Neither to that point has said anything they expected the other to understand at face value and Tysefew, in that knowledge, has throughout been listing behavioural cliches simply to deflate them (his accusation of her reading, his list of performed ‘offices of gallantry’). In their later appearance in Act V there’s another line of his that better captures in one go my sense of his attempt at forcing the conventional language of relations to undermine itself.

    Cri. But what’s the news?—the news, I pray you?
    Tyse. I pray you? ne’er pray me: for by your leave you may command me.

    All that said though, I don’t know I’d stick too strongly to that line since it’s openly anachronistic and I can’t on rereading shake the sense that it’s all a bit like courtship in screwball comedies of the 30s – endless banter until the romance is admitted then realigning to the old warped standards so the audience doesn’t leave shocked or shaken.

    For what it’s worth, I did find a bit of commentary on this exchange in a chapter called Sex and marriage in The Dutch Courtesan from In another country: feminist perspectives on Renaissance drama. The author also takes Tysefew’s condition as seriously stated:

    This speech corresponds to the developing bourgeois definition of marriage, identified with the Puritans, but not exclusive to them, a union based on friendship, entered into primarily for contentment (rather than ecstasy). Tysefew’s awareness of the economic implications of marriage is typical of contemporary marriage tracts, as is his call for Crispinella’s public silence and household thrift. The reference “wanton in my bed,” very different from Freevill’s “modest pleasures,” is specifically characteristic of Puritan writers who sanctioned full enjoyment of sex in marriage, rather than of the humanists, who counseled moderation.


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