Divorcing Kin and Kind: Selective Generosity in A Woman Killed with Kindness
University of Mary Washington
Maya Mathur, "Divorcing Kin and Kind: Selective Generosity in A Woman Killed with Kindness." [EMLS 15.3 (2011): 4] http://purl.org/emls/15-3/mathsele.htm.
CLAUDIUS: And now my cousin Hamlet and my son -
HAMLET: A little more than kin and less than kind.
When thou recordest my many courtesiesThe host reasons that, since his “many courtesies” outbalance Wendoll’s act of betrayal, the treacherous guest will owe him in excess of what he can rightly pay, and his consciousness of this debt will be a sufficient penalty for his crime. Despite the gravity of Wendoll’s crime, the generosity of Frankford’s sentence is evident if we consider that, in the context of social punishments for adultery, the landlord chooses the least punitive of the options available to him. As David Underdown outlines, there existed a variety of communal rituals that could be used to deal with sexual offenses, such as the practices of skimmington and charivari, which could be employed against cuckolded husbands, adulterous wives, or their lovers (123-30). In the face of these alternatives, Frankford’s verdict prioritizes his guest’s desecration of an economic exchange over his violation of a marital norm.
And shalt compare them with thy treacherous heart
Lay them together, weigh them equally
‘Twill be revenge enough. (13.71-74)
I’ll not martyr theeSince he eschews public shaming in favor of private discipline, Frankford’s behavior has the appearance of largesse.  Nonetheless, in the context of Anne’s subsequent death, her husband’s desire to “kill with kindness,” offers a literal and highly sinister instantiation of the popular proverb. As Karen Newman points out, psychological punishments could be just as cruel as physical ones, since they functioned as “a form of social regulation … not a sentimental recognition of the importance of domestic affairs or heterosexual relations” (25). Far from suggesting any generosity of spirit on Frankford’s part, Anne’s banishment is informed by a similar desire to regulate the process of her atonement. Exiled to one of her husband’s manor houses and subject to surveillance by his servants, Anne is placed at a purely symbolic distance from her spouse. Able to send her missives of chastisement and supplied with regular reports on her behavior, Frankford’s vigilance over his wife transfers easily to the site of her exile.
Nor mark thee for a strumpet, but with usage
Of more humility torment thy soul
And kill thee even with kindness. (13.152-55)
Oh, Master Frankford, all the near allianceIn his belief that the loss of a sister can be overcome and even improved upon by the acquisition of a “brother by the nearest way,” Sir Francis privileges fraternal affinities over the claims of shared ancestry. While Anne’s marriage to Frankford initiated the ties between them, her death acts as a far stronger tool for binding the landowners to each other. Indeed, the dead Anne is a more desirable vehicle for their friendship than the living one, since she can no longer threaten the inviolability of either her husband’s or her brother’s household. Her demise thus allows Frankford and Sir Francis to create a bourgeois-aristocratic partnership that is based on the possibility of mutual assistance rather than on ties of blood. Most importantly, the alliance provides Frankford with an opportunity to disavow his practice of unrestrained generosity, since his brother-in-law has no need of his wealth.
I lose by her shall be supplied in thee
You are my brother by the nearest way
Her kindred hath fallen off, but yours doth stay. (17.99-102)
I say this comes of roisting, swaggeringInstead of fulfilling his social obligations towards his kinsman, Tydy suggests that Sir Charles’ destitution is self-inflicted. For him, the knight’s condition is the natural result of favoring a neo-feudal lifestyle of “roisting” and “swaggering” over one of thrift. Tydy’s denial demonstrates the impossibility of creating a kinship network between those that save and “them that borrow.” His refusal to assist Sir Charles provides the same lesson against unrestrained generosity that Frankford is compelled to learn after his disastrous alliance with Wendoll.
Call me not cousin; each man for himself
Some men are born to mirth and some to sorrow
I am no cousin unto them that borrow. (9.33-36)
I would like to thank James Holstun, Jessica Locke, Gregg Stewart, and the two anonymous readers at EMLS for their helpful feedback on my work.
 For a more extensive discussion of the word, see Oxford English Dictionary.
 All references to Heywood’s play are based on Martin Wiggins’ edition of the text.
 On the interrelatedness of a landowner’s private and public roles, see Sullivan “Arden lay Murdered” 243-44.
 The recent focus on the broader definition of domesticity is at odds with early investigations of domestic drama in general and Heywood’s play in particular, which centered round issues of marital rather than social disharmony in the text. For an overview of the familial context of domestic drama, see Clark 10. For studies that prioritize the marital plots in Heywood, see Lieblein 196 and Ure 195.
 In this context, also see Orlin “Domestic Tragedy” 380.
 While I agree with Orlin’s claims regarding the dissolution of male friendship in the face of economic and sexual rivalry, I depart from her position in my focus on the restitution of masculine bonds among the bourgeois and aristocratic characters in the text.
 Peter Holbrook offers a similar argument that Frankford’s “kindness” to Anne represents a validation of the middling sort and a rejection of aristocratic misconduct (103).
 Like Lyn Bennett, Rebecca Ann Bach suggests that the most distinctive relationships in the play are between the male characters whose kinship produces a “homosocial imaginary” that encompasses landlords, servants and poor gentlemen like Wendoll (517). For a broader discussion of inter-class, same-sex desire within the gentry household, see Bray 48.
 I am indebted to one of the EMLS reviewers for the use of the term “compensatory kindness.”
 On the rhetoric of kinship, also see Wrightson 82.
 According to Karen Newman, the theory of companionate marriage promoted in texts like the Homily did not advocate for greater equality between the sexes, but instead replaced the external supervision of women by institutions like the parish or church, with the internal supervision of wives by their husbands (27).
 On a reading of the wedding scene as establishing Frankford’s moral superiority over his brother-in-law, see Hillman 86.
 For further discussion of the proverb, see Panek 374.
 For a qualification of Williams’ claims that the genre excises social tensions, see Dubrow, 72-73.
 As Orlin points out, Frankford’s disbursement of household charity is implicit in his name, “frank,” which signifies largesse (Private Matters 159).
 Panek argues that Frankford’s choice of a male companion resembles a husband’s choice of a life-partner. By failing to distinguish between Wendoll and Anne, Frankford confuses the demands of friendship with those of marriage (364-65).
 Evidence that Wendoll’s fears of being cast as an unworthy guest trump his concern with being condemned for adultery can be found in his persistent use of the terms “villain” and “ingrate” to describe his affair with Anne (6.84, 133 and 16.127).
 For Wendoll’s neglect of male bonds, see Bach 514.
 Laura Bromley justifies Frankford’s punishment of Anne on the grounds that, since her affair attacks the “little kingdom” of the home, refusing to discipline her could be equated with condoning regicide (271). In a similarly allegorical reading of Frankford, Diana Henderson presents the landlord’s judgement of his wife as an imitatio Christi where the God-like Frankford is authorized to punish those who have sinned against him (“Many Mansions” 282). In contrast, Jennifer Panek suggests that the play illustrates the specious nature of Frankford’s “kindness,” a position with which I concur in my reading (363).
 For a discussion of the proverb’s role within the play, see Panek 370. An alternative version of the proverb occurs in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, where Petruccio decides “to kill a wife with kindness”; that is, tame the recalcitrant Kate through a system of physical deprivation (4.1.189).
 Frankford’s strategies for disciplining his wife resemble the forms of punishment advocated in Protestant marriage manuals from the period which, as Catherine Belsey delineates, indicated a preference for internal surveillance of the home over communal forms of control (146).
 For a historical overview of Protestant marriage manuals, see Davies 58-61.
 In her examination of the relationship between women and property in the period, Patricia Parker similarly suggests that illicit female sexuality was dangerous because it could transform the private space of the home into the “common” space of the brothel (105).
 In his edition of the play, Martin Wiggins notes that it was set in Yorkshire rather than the Anglo-Scottish border where the 1388 battle of Chevy Chase occurred. As a result, he suggests that Sir Charles’ reference to “chevy chase” may either reference a local parish, Chevet, or nearby woodlands, Chevin, or be a periphrasis for hunting or hunting cry (74n95). For a discussion of the historical Chevy Chase, see Scobie’s edition of the play (8).
 In the Defence of Poesie, Sir Philip Sidney evokes the battle at Chevy Chase as a model of chivalric warfare, stating “I never heard the olde song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more then with a Trumpet” (106). The battle is also commemorated in a 1661 ballad, A Memoriable song on the unhappy hunting in Chevy Chase, which describes the heroic deaths of Percy, the Douglas, and their soldiers in the conflict.
 For the various uses of the terms “cousin” and “kinsman,” see Cressy 66.
 For a more extensive etymology of the term, see Oxford English Dictionary and Woodbridge (162).
 Lawrence Stone draws attention to the frequent swapping of money for status in the sale of knighthoods, which increased dramatically in the first two decades of Jacobean rule, a period that also witnessed a boom in the property market. He notes that, from 1610-14, an average of 31 honors were granted every year, which increased to 199 in 1617 (Crisis 42).
 On Sir Charles’ conflation of gentility and property ownership, see Orlin, Private Matters 154-57.
 For further discussion of the reimagining of the country estate as private property rather than a communal site, see Sullivan, Drama of Landscape 171.
 Orlin sees Mountford’s insistence on the sanctity of his home as a sign that honor is an exclusively male characteristic; his strategy thus devalues the role of female honor in the text (Private Matters 157, 175-76). While Orlin’s assertion is certainly applicable in Anne’s case, I suggest that Susan is just as assertive as her brother in equating her chastity with the inviolability of her home when she speaks with Shafton and Sir Francis.
 The trading of sexual favors in order to secure a brother’s release also informs the Angelo-Isabella plot in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (1603-04). In this context, it is important to note that Susan’s initial resistance to and unenthusiastic compliance with Sir Francis’s offer of marriage closely resembles Isabella’s ambiguous response to Duke Vincentio’s proposal (5.1.528-30).
 In his examination of sixteenth and seventeenth-century poor relief, John Walter writes that the period was characterized by the “redefinition of reciprocities as discriminatory and discretionary charity” (127-28). Walter’s study of the shift from individual to state-sponsored forms of assistance provides an important lens through which to investigate the concomitant shift from an advocacy for household largesse to an emphasis on selective giving in Heywood’s play. For a contrasting view that kinship interaction grew more vigorous rather than weaker in the period, see Cressy 38.
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© 2011-, Annaliese Connolly and Matthew Steggle (Editors, EMLS).