June 23, 2017
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
I think I might have heard this while watching an episode of The Wonder Years. It turns out I did, but I needed to do a search to jog my memory.
During season 2 of the show, Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage) broke up with a girl named Becky Slater. Shortly afterward, he started going out with his first love, Winner Cooper (played by Danica McKellar).
Well, it turns out Kevin had talked about his friends (including Winnie) while he was trying to impress Becky. So since Becky was now hurting, she was likely to try to hurt Kevin like he hurt her. At one point, I believe I saw the camera pan to the girl’s eyes, and that’s when the narrator (older Kevin, voiced by Daniel Stern), ultimately uttered the line, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
What Is the Source of This Famous Saying?
In a post on Daily Writing Tips, Mark Nichol shared 16 misquoted sayings and phrases and 2 extras many think were misquoted. Third on his list was the “hell hath no fury” quote. It turns out the phrase had long been adapted from one of William Congreve’s plays.
Heaven has no rage like love to hatred
Nor hell like a woman scorned.
However, Nichol did not list the exact play the lines he quoted came from and he revised the lines so that the spellings were not improvised.
After searching for those lines via Google, I discovered that William Congreve (1670-1729) wrote those lines, which appear in his 1697 play entitled The Mourning Bride.
When digging a little deeper, I found the entirety of Act III of The Mourning Bride. (The website I came across also had the entire play.) The lines “Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,/Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d” are found at the end of the act, on page 39.
Here is the stanza (also found at The Phrase Finder):
As you’ll answer it, take heed
This Slave commit no Violence upon
Himself. I’ve been deceiv’d. The Publick Safety
Requires he should be more confin’d; and none,
No not the Princes self, permitted to
Confer with him. I’ll quit you to the King.
Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent
The base Injustice thou hast done my Love:
Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past Distress,
And all those Ills which thou so long hast mourn’d;
Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.
More About the Play
The Mourning Bride was William Congreve’s only tragedy and his lowest regarded drama. However, it quickly became his most popular work and the source of two famous phrases, one of which is the one I’m looking at today.
Congreve’s notable works include: The Way of the World (1700), Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, The Double-Dealer (1693), Love for Love (1695), The Old Bachelour (1693), and Amendments of Mr. Collier’s False and Imperfect Citations. (The titles in bold were Congreve’s major works.)
Well, Does Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned?
Breakups, or flat out rejections, and slights are hard for anyone to take, men or women. Women tend to have long memories and bring them up when it suits them. (I should know, because I do it sometimes.)
It really depends on the person, but some people take any perceived or real slight harder than others. Some people hold onto grudges long than others.
But there are women who are very effective at conveying their anger, channeling it, and getting desired responses. Those women elicit fear because they know how to get revenge. People would rather remain on their good side.
Congreve, William. The Mourning Bride Act III. 1697. Print. Page 39.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “William Congreve.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Last Updated 4 May 2017. Web. Retrieved 23 June 2017. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Congreve>.
“hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Via Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. Retrieved 16 Jun. 2017. <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned>.
Martin, Gary. “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” The Phrase Finder. Web. Retrieved 23 June 2017. <http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/179300.html>.
Nichol, Mark. “16 Misquoted Quotations.” Daily Writing Tips. Web. Retrieved 23 Jun 2017. <https://www.dailywritingtips.com/16-misquoted-quotations/>.
Text Creation Partnership. “The mourning bride. A tragedy: As it is acted at the Theatre in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, by His Majesty’s servants. Written by Mr. Congreve.” Eighteenth Century Collections Online. University of Michigan. Web. Retrieved 23 June 2017.<http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/ecco/004792189.0001.000/1:8?rgn=div1;view=fulltext>.
“‘The Wonder Years’ (TV 1989).” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. Retrieved 23 June 2017. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0750339/?ref_=ttep_ep8>.