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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Thomas Dekker (c. 1570–1632)

Obedient Husbands

From “The Bachelor’s Banquet”

THERE is a humour incident to a woman, which is, when a young man hath turmoiled himself so long that with much ado he hath gotten into marriage, and hath perhaps met with a wife according to his own desire, and perchance such an one that it had been better for him had he lighted on another, yet he likes her so well that he would not have missed her for any gold; for, in his opinion, there is no woman like unto her. He hath a great delight to hear her speak, is proud of his match, and is, peradventure, withal of so sheepish a nature, that he has purposed to govern himself wholly by her counsel and direction, so that if any one speak to him of a bargain, or whatsoever other business, he tells them that he will have his wife’s opinion on it, and if she be content, he will go through with it; if not, then will he give it over.

Thus he is as tame and pliable as a jackanapes to his keeper. If the Prince set forth an army, and she be unwilling that he should go, who (you may think) will ask her leave, then must he stay at home, fight who will for the country. But if she be desirous at any time to have his room (which many times she likes better than his company), she wants no journey to employ him in, and he is as ready as a page to undertake them. If she chide, he answers not a word; generally, whatsoever she does, or howsoever, he thinks it well done.

Judge, now, in what a case this silly calf is! Is not he, think you, finely dressed, that is in such subjection? The honestest woman and most modest of that sex, if she wear the breeches, is so out of reason in taunting and controlling her husband—for this is their common fault—and be she never so wise, yet a woman, scarce able to govern herself, much less her husband and all his affairs; for, were it not so, God would have made her the head. Which, since it is otherwise, what can be more preposterous than that the head should be governed by the foot?

If, then, a wise and honest woman’s superiority be unseemly, and breed great inconvenience, how is he dressed, think you, if he light on a fond, wanton, and malicious dame? Then doubtless he is soundly sped. She will keep a sweetheart under his nose, yet is he so blind that he can perceive nothing. But, for more security, she will many times send him packing beyond sea, about some odd errand that she will buzz in his ears, and he will perform it at her pleasure, though she send him forth at midnight, in hail, rain, and snow, for he must be a man for all weathers.

Their children, if they have any, must be brought up, apparelled, taught, and fed according to her pleasure, and one point of their learning is always to make no account of their father. Finally, she orders all things as she thinks best herself, making no more account of him, especially if he be in years, than men do of an old horse that is put to labour. Thus is he mewed up, plunged in a sea of cares; and yet he, kind fool, deems himself most happy in his happiness, wherein he must now perforce remain while life doth last, and pity it were he should want it, since he likes it so well.