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The Care of the Self in The Maid of Honor


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pp.205-237, No.14, June. 2007

College of Humanities and Social Sciences Feng Chia University

The Care of the Self in The Maid of Honor

Liang-Fong Hs



This paper aims to explore the practice of the care of the self in The Maid of Honor by means of Michel Foucault’s theory of the technologies of the self. According to Foucault, the technologies of the self are interconnected with the technologies of power, and their contact point resides in governmentality. The subject is shaped by the governing schema of the ruling authorities while concurrently being modified by the self through self-government. The subject must comprehend the governing tactics of the authorities in order not to be governed too much and can further govern other people for personal purposes. To be able to do so is to be equipped with a philosophical ethos of critique, which can be executed in three perspectives: thought – an attitude of criticism, action – the plebian quality, and words – the practice of parrhesia. The study discusses the heroine in terms of the four aspects proposed by Foucault in the relationship to the self: the determination of the ethical substance, the mode of subjection, the means of ethical works, and the telso of the ethical subject. It investigates how the heroine takes care of her self through her attitude of critique, plebeian quality, the practice of parrehsia, and skills of government.

Keywords: care of the self, governmentality, parrhesia, ethical substance, mode of



I. Introduction

In the highly mobile seventeenth-century England, people are obsessed with wealth and self-interest. Money was the means of acquiring status. There emerged a class of the newly rich people, including yeomen, lawyers, city merchants, top-ranking administrators, and successful politicians. When opportunities presented themselves, these affluent people would hasten to turn their wealth into a landed estate, because, according to Lawrence Stone, the dominant value system remained that of the landed gentlemen in Renaissance England (Crisis 39). James’s sale of honors provided legitimate means for them to be absorbed into the elite class, which unveiled the fact that money could substitute the king’s power to bestow identity as God’s divine representative on earth. Others sought means of aspiration through marriage with their social superiors. Under the primogeniture systems, the poor younger sons exchanged their birth for wealth and properties. Generally speaking, the first and most traditional motive for marriage was the economic, social, or political aggrandizement. Under such motive, marriage was a contract between two families under the consideration of interest. Stone observes that England between 1500 and 1660 was relatively cold and distrustful and the primary human relations were at best a calculating apathy and self-interest. For example, Sir William Wentworth wrote “Advice” (1607) to warn his son Thomas, the future Earl of Stafford, that anyone and everyone was only kept faithful by self-interest and might, therefore, turn out to be opponents at any moment (Family 78-80). The society was full of selfish social aspirants who betrayed self-integrity and easily became treacherous when wealth and rank were involved.

The corollary of the pursuit of wealth and self-interest was a corrupted society of ingratitude and inconstancy, and The Maid of Honor portrays such a society. Obsessed with the pursuits of wealth and rank, the characters easily cast away the true inner virtues, not to mention deep religious faith. Traditional virtues include honor, justice, charity, rationality, integrity, self-discipline, etc. However, in the play, honor is redefined to suit self-interest, fidelity to justice swayed by passion, charity completely disregarded, reason overtaken by will, integrity easily betrayed, and self-discipline given to desire. The ultimate religious virtues of renunciation and self-abnegation become extremely rare practices. The ruling elites tend to abuse their power in satisfying their desires and jeopardize the virtuous subordinates. The people of the lower stratification of the hierarchy casually ignore the divine order of social


construct and strive to advance themselves with financial power. Both desire and social striving have the potential to disrupt the rational order on which a society is built. Sir John Chamberlain criticized in 1620 that the Jacobean world “is very far out of order” (286-9). There was a general feeling that things were getting out of control.

The strong sense of disorder can be partially distributed to the religious Reformation which entailed the repudiation of authority. According to Hans J. Hillerbrand’s article “The European Dimension of the Reformation” in Encyclopedia Americana Online, Protestants revolted against a universal church and reinstated the biblical Christianity into the hands of each individual believer who could decide for himself what was and what was not acceptable. Individual autonomy was proclaimed regarding the role and place of church in society. The Reformation had resulted in a lay society where the laity, instead of the clergy, played the insightful role. Though the concept of a divine order governing all aspects of life was still prevailing, however, both the divine and social orders were seriously challenged by a collapse of moral codes, which was motivated by the frantic pursuit of wealth and ambition.

The disintegration of religious authority and social hierarchy prompted a struggle for a new subjectivity manifested in the eager moral search of personal ethics. M. H. Abrams observes that the Renaissance scholars of the classics revived the knowledge of the Greek language, and discovered a tremendous number of Greek manuscripts as well as substantial volumes of Roman works. As a result, the stock of ideas, materials, and literary forms was enlarged immensely for the expanded literate population (177). It was not difficult for Renaissance readers to come across the discourses of Aristotelian, Platonic, and Stoic ethics. Among this body of thought, Foucault identifies that the ethics of the care of the self is a recurrent theme (Care of the Self 45-8). Foucault traces that, for the Greeks, the precept to be concerned with the self was one of the main rules for social and personal conduct and for the art of life. The care of the self was a set of practices by which one could attain, incorporate and convert truth into an undeviating principle of action, which ultimately developed into ethos (“Technologies of the Self” 35). Foucault points out that the Christian authors made expansive use of the body of ethical thought of the philosophers and physicians of the first two centuries (Care of the Self 39). Among the enthusiastic Catholics and Protestants, the reactivation of these ancient techniques in the Christian spiritual practices is fairly manifesting (“On the Genealogy of Ethics” 276). New modes of relationships to the self were being developed. Particular attention was given to the technologies of the self, including self-examination and the cure of the soul.


Nevertheless, Foucault cautions that the technologies of the self usually interact with technologies of power. One needs to take into consideration the contact points where the technologies of the self are integrated into structures of domination. Government comprises the domain of connection between the processes through which the self is constructed and at the same time modified by the self (“Subjectivity and Truth” 181-2). Foucault contends in “Afterword” that the power is exercised through the skills of government. The modern state is a pastoral power, caring for the welfare of both the whole society and each individual. So the individuals need to be shaped and disciplined in certain ways that match up the goals of the whole nation. The production of the truth of the individual is in fact submitted to a set of particular patterns, without the individuals’ realizing it (215-21). Therefore, it is crucial for one to escape the governing stratagems of the ruling authorities in order to create space for self-government. During the process, one can further utilize the art of government to construct other people’s possible fields of action for personal purposes. Not to be governed too much by the authorities can only be achieved by people with a philosophical ethos of critique, according to Foucault. Criticism is the art of insightful indocility, the fundamental function of which would be that of “desubjectification” in the game of the politics of truth (“What Is Critique?” 384-6).

Among the relatively much less volume of academic criticism on The Maid of Honor,1 the critics have focused on examining the moral and spiritual quest in it. Peter Mullany has identified the Christian morality illustrated by the leading character (144). Isabella Marinoff believes that integrity and renunciation are the central concepts in Massinger’s ethical system (127). Camiola is seen as a symbol of honor (Adler 83; McDonald 99-103). While the academic opinions point out the moral and ethical concerns in the play, they rarely pinpoint the transgression of the heroine’s actions, not to mention the philosophical ethos behind her defiance and outspokenness.

This essay endeavors to show that Camiola practices the care of the self by living an ethical existence of autonomy through her philosophical ethos of critique and skills of government. It argues that the heroine of The Maid of Honor practices two different kinds of ethical existences. At first she practices the ethics of the care of the self by


The Maid of Honor was written by Philip Massinger, a contemporary of Shakespeare, Johnson, and Fletcher. It was published as a quarto in 1632, but when it was written or first acted is not known. The plot is borrowed from the thirty-second novel in the second volume of Painter’s Palace of

Pleasure. It is about a virtuous maid in love with a man who is her social superior but moral inferior.

He leaves her for wars, where he takes up another woman. The heroine pleads her case before the court and is granted her will. However, when Camiola finally gets her man she doesn’t want him. Instead, she chooses to enter a nunnery.


choosing to live a life of self-mastery, in which virtues are the guiding principles, including honor, justice, and rationality. But eventually she learns the frailty of human beings in the face of worldly temptation and has realized, like Boethius, that “the supreme good and highest happiness are found in God and was God” (61). She finally dedicates herself to a pure religious existence of renunciation and self-abnegation. While contemplating on the kind of ethical existence for her self, Camiola reflects upon and criticizes the moral failing of the society. She supports the moral value of social hierarchy, but invokes justice and virtues in classes of all people, particularly the ruling class. When injustice is forced upon her by the ruling authorities, her defiant spirit does not allow her to remain silent and submissive. On the contrary, she dashingly performs a spoken discourse of parrhesia, a verbal criticism which usually requires risking the life of the speaker and yet creates a new truth and personal freedom, according to Foucault’s definition in Fearless Speech (16-7). In addition, Camiola endeavors to “govern” other people to live a virtuous and honorable life through her own exemplary mode of being.

II. Theoretical Framework

Foucault has studied the Greek ethics of the care of the self and is deeply convinced that the true essence of this ethics is concerned with the aesthetics of existence. The aesthetics of existence means to treat the bios as the material for an aesthetic piece of art and ethics comprises the structure of this aesthetic existence. This work on the self is a free choice about existence made by the individual. The ethics refers to the kind of relationship one ought to have with oneself, which establishes how the individual is supposed to compose himself or herself as a moral subject of his or her own action (“On the Genealogy of Ethics” 260, 263). It is an ascetic practice of self-formation of the subject by which one ventures to develop and transform oneself and to accomplish a certain style of being (“The Ethics of the Concern for Self” 284). Foucault states that, for the Greeks, the instruction “to be concerned with oneself” was one of the main rules for proper social and personal conduct. It involved taking pains with one’s belongings and one’s health. However, most important of all, to take care of oneself consists of knowing oneself. Knowing oneself thus becomes the objective of the concern with the self. There was a network of obligations and services to the soul. It was generally held that it was good to be reflective – to prepare for misfortune or death. The conscience needed to be examined constantly in order to recall rules of conduct or to recover a truth which


has been forgotten. The Stoics encouraged spiritual recoil into the self to remember the rules of action, the main laws of behavior (“Technologies of the Self” 19-34). Therefore, Foucault identifies that the priority in the Greek ethics of the care of the self is not to discover the true self, but to learn and memorize a number of rules of acceptable conducts that are both truth and prescription (“The Ethics of the Concern for Self” 285).

However, one needs to reflect upon the nature of the acquired truth in order to determine the complex relationship it has with the regime of truth. Foucault asserts that truth and knowledge are all fabricated and circulated by the governing authority to achieve certain ends of the ruling regime without the subjects’ realizing it (“Truth and Power” 131-3). No one is completely outside of the politics of truth. Foucault has proposed four significant aspects in the relationship to the self to be contemplated upon:

The first aspect is related to the ethical substance: which part of oneself or one’s behavior is concerned with moral conduct? What is the ethical substance to work on, for example, one’s desire, intention, or feelings?...The second aspect refers to the mode of subjection, that is, the way in which people are invited or incited to recognize their moral obligations. Is it divine law revealed in a text? Is it natural law, a cosmological order which is the same for every one? Is it a rational rule? Or is it an aesthetical attempt to give your existence the most beautiful form possible?...The third aspect is the means of ethical work by which we can change ourselves in order to become ethical subjects, such as moderating our acts, or deciphering what we are, etc. This aspect is the self-formation activity….Lastly, it is a question of telos: what is the kind of being to which we aspire when we behave in a moral way? Is it pure, immortal, free, or self-mastery?

(“Genealogy of Ethics” 263-5) Of the four aspects in the relationship to the self, the last aspect is actually most significant because it concerns the determination of the kind of existence we want to aspire to eventually. It needs to be carefully thought out before the other aspects can be answered.


III. Text Analysis

A. Camiola’s telos

Caminola’s practice of the care of the self will be discussed in terms of the four aspects suggested by Foucault in the relationship to the self. For her telos – the kind of being to achieve, Camiola at first strives to live an ethical and aesthetical existence of self-mastery, in which honor and reason are the guiding principles of acceptable conduct. Nevertheless, she eventually chooses to part with the poisonous bait of wealth and pleasure by entering a nunnery. In so doing, she sets up an exemplary mode of purity for the rest of the characters to follow. Charity and renunciation are two chief virtues required for an ethical and aesthetic existence of Christian asceticism.

Camiola commences with dedicating herself to the task of accomplishing an ethical and aesthetic life of self-mastery. According to Foucault, the main anxiety of the ancient stoics was an attempt to determine what one could and could not do with one’s available freedom (“The Genealogy of Ethics” 276). Their function was to establish and check the autonomy of the individual in relation to the external world (“Technologies of the Self” 37). In other words, the basic spirit and target of the work on the self is to pursue a life of self-mastery in a complex social milieu. It is important for Camiola to acquire a certain truth as her rules of moral conduct. Foucault points out that it is imperative for the Epicureans to find out the general knowledge of what the world is, the necessity of the world, the relation between world, necessity, and the gods. Only when one accurately comprehends the necessity of the world can one master passion in a much better way (“Genealogy of Ethics” 270). To practice the care of the self, Camiola needs to, following the Epicureans, find out what the world is and determines what it lacks, and the relation between world, necessity and God. It is a matter of meditation: if she can understand precisely the want of the world, she can not only master passion in a better way, but also discover her guiding principles of moral conduct.

Camiola observes the contemporary world and discovers that she lives in a society full of inconstant people who are apt to betray self-integrity because of self-interest. Russ McDonald identifies a series of inconstant people in the world of The Maid of Honor. When Adorni asks Fulgentio, a member of the King’s inner council, for a piece of information, Fulgentio shamelessly claims that he never gives out information without a fee. Nevertheless, all of a sudden, he changes his mind:


“And yet, for once, I care not if I answer / One single question” (I.i.16).2 And then again he decides to give only half of the information. Adorni finds it incredible, and yet Astutio, a Counsellor of the State, declares that such abrupt alteration is the norm: “This you wonder at. / With me, ’tis usual” (I.i.21-2). Even the King, who is supposed to exemplify loyalty and honor, is not able to behave in consistence with his words due to self-interest. At first, he refuses to honor a reciprocal agreement which requires him to aid Duke Ferdinand under siege at the excuse of Ferdinand’s unjust motif in the attack. But in order to get rid of his ambitious brother, he changes his mind and allows Bertoldo and his followers to serve “as adventurers and volunteers” (I.ii.255). Meanwhile he appoints Astutio to send a message that the King has never given his consent to Bertoldo’s military action:

To the Duchess of Siena, in excuse

Of these forces sent against her. If you spare An oath, to give it credit, that we never

Consent to it, swearing for the King, Though false, it is no perjury.


Though the King is aware that Aututio’s oath is false, he forgives it and comments that it is no perjury. The flattering Aututio not only fails to point out the error in the King’s political strategy, but claims that great state agents cannot be bothered by such trifles – the scruple of conscience. In the King’s court, honor is relinquished to calculating self-interest.

The rest of the courtiers all follow the King’s dishonorable example of calculating selfishness. Bertoldo’s followers forgot their fidelity to the King of Sicily by swearing to live and die with Bertoldo. When they become prisoners and are starved nearly to death, all they can think of is their self-comfort and freedom. Austutio owes his life and fortune to Bertoldo who saved his life once before. But even Austutio easily breaks his oath of complete devotion to Bertoldo and refuses to violate the King’s edict which forbids any one to ransom Bertoldo. Bertoldo warns him to beware of ingratitude and grieves over the fact that his good deeds to Autotio


All quotations of the play are from The Maid of Honor collected in Masterpiece of the English

Drama / Philip Massinger, edited by Lucius A. Sherman (New York: American Book Company,


are no longer remembered. Then he himself commits the same sin of ungratefulness when temptations of ambition and self-interest call on him.

In addition to the inconstant court of Sicily, the originally reserved Duchess Aurelia betrays her prudence and reason to pursue her own interest. When her eyes first set on Bertoldo, she is wildly attracted to his princely appearance and refuses to release him, ignoring shamelessly the fact that he is already ransomed. She willfully breaks the law of arms, saying “I will pay back his ransom ten times over, / Rather than quit my interest” (IV.iv.73-4). She justifies her violence of passion and “more than undoubted looseness” (IV.iv.117) with her divine right: “As I am a princess, what I do is above censure, / And to be imitated” (IV.iv.126-8). For the satisfaction of her selfish affection, she abuses her princely power and as a result loses her honor.

B. Camiola’s Ethical Substance

With regard to the first aspect in the relationship to the self – ethical substance, Camiola intends to accomplish an honorable life. In a world of inconstancy and ingratitude, Camiola realizes that the world is in desperate need of a sense of honor marked out by the path of eternal virtue. If she selects honor and virtue to be her guiding principles, she can live with integrity independent of material and passionate temptations. However, everyone interprets honor differently. Russ MacDonald points out that the King of Sicily considers it honorable to protect his reputation as well as his subjects. To the flaming Bertoldo, honor consists in the heroic activity of the war. Astutio, the King’s statesman, thinks of honor as absolute loyalty to his prince without censuring the King’s commission. To the self-important courtier, Fulgentio, honor is accompanied by high position. Aurelia unites it with noble birth (99-101). To Camiola, honor means assisting with the maintenance of social order. She respects and abides by the social hierarchy, in which every one should act appropriately according to his or her status. When Bertoldo comes to seek the hand of Camiola, she refrains herself from accepting the marriage proposal in spite of her attraction to him. She is concerned with the discrepancy of their social statuses. She says: “We are not parallels, but like lines divided, / Can ne’er meet in one centre. Your birth, sir, / Without addition, were an ample dowry / For one of fairer fortunes” (I.ii.121-4). Camiola belongs to the lesser gentry, while Bertoldo is the natural brother of the king. Quite contrary to the fervent pursuit of contemporary aspirants who aim at rank and status, she declines the marriage proposal to uphold the social hierarchy. In addition to the incongruity in their social positions, Camiola points out a tougher block, religion: “…the stronger bar, religion, stops our entrance. You are, sir, / A knight of Malta, by


your order bound / To a single life” (I.ii.155-8). Bertoldo easily offers to dispense with the vow of celibacy, but Camiola refuses to disavow the promise to God for earthly purposes. Her submission to and reverence for religious discipline is revealed in the early stage of the play. She illustrates honor in observing and sustaining the social and religious orders. In sticking to her self-defined honor code of observing social and divine order, she achieves self-integrity. Honor constitutes one of the guiding principles for her ethical existence of self-mastery.

C. Camiola’s Moral Obligation

The second aspect in the relationship to the self is related to people’s perception of their moral obligations, and Camiola’s self-perceived moral obligation is a rational rule, following the Greco-Roman formulations. A rational rule means to rule oneself or be ruled according to reason, meaning rationality. As Foucault points out, the Greek philosophers of the fourth century described that a moderate man was commanded and advised by reason. He reminds us of Socrates’ opinion that it was only proper that the reasonable part should rule (Use of Pleasure 86-7). Rationality liberates one from the weakness of passion and the temptation of desire. Camiola’s reason tells her that “True love should walk / On equal feet; in us it does not, sir” (I.ii.156-7). Despite her passion and admiration for Bertoldo, she wrestles to be guided by reason and take the right path: “What a fierce battle / Is fought between my passions!” (I.ii.169-70) However, when Bertoldo becomes a prisoner and the king publishes an edict forbidding anyone to ransom him, Camiola is resolved to ransom him, and receive him into her bosom as her lawful husband, because, she confesses her weakness to Adorni, she “so love[s] the gentleman” (III.iii.196). Her love for Bertoldo blinds her perception of the true nature of Bertoldo. To her loving eye, Bertoldo appears to be the “only sun in honour’s sphere” (III.iii.153). Of course she is mistaken about Bertoldo’s honor, but she would not know this until she is betrayed by Bertoldo’s inconstancy, when her fair temple “Built in Bertoldo’s loyalty,” is “turned to ashes / By the flames of his inconstancy” (V.ii.95-7). Then she realizes that she is led astray by her passionate will. She has recalled her rule of conduct – a rational rule, and is determined to be guided by reason once again. She will not react in a passionate way, either hating Bertoldo or begging his compassion with tears. Instead, she demands justice in this case and will labor to right herself in front of her judges, the king and Bertoldo’s new mistress, Duchess Aurelia. She creates a forum of a public court for herself and is successful in “Ravish[ing] him from her [Aurelia’s] arms (V.ii.110). Nevertheless, her reasoning tells her that Bertoldo is like a serpent that will


ruin his preserver for ambition and self-interest. Bertoldo is no equal match for her towering virtue and merit. So she relinquishes her marriage with Bertoldo. At the same time her reason teaches her that whomever she marries, she will place her life at the mercy of her husband’s government. Through the contract of a marriage, she will have to abandon her autonomy and be expected to obey her guiding husband in a patriarchal society, which will seriously jeopardize her pursuit of an ethical existence of self-mastery. Therefore, she decides to remove herself from society to devote herself to a celibate religious life to guarantee her virginal autonomy.

D. Camiola’s Self-Formation Activities

The third aspect in the relationship to the self suggested by Foucault is connected to the self-formation activities, by which we can modify ourselves to become ethical subjects. Foucault explains that criticism is indispensable for any transformation, which can be achieved by a working of thought upon itself (“Is It Important to Think?” 457). Camiola needs to apply a philosophical attitude of critique towards society and herself to find out what needs to be changed. She is prepared to practice a form of verbal criticism, parrhesia, when her chosen existence of self-mastery is threatened. She realizes that a self-mastered existence of honor and virtue cannot be realized unless the society upholds the same moral values. So she seeks to govern people to practice virtue and honor through her own mode of existence. In sum, to form her self to be an ethical subject of self-mastery, she needs to have an attitude of critique, the plebeian quality, the courage to practice the verbal criticism of parrhesia, and use the skills of government to facilitate a moral society.

(A). An Attitude of Critique

To accomplish an ethical existence of self-mastery, Camiola is furnished with an attitude of critique. In his article “What Is Critique?” Foucault defines critique as “an art of not being governed” so much. Critique is the art of “reflective indocility,” accepting something as true only when one thinks there are good explanations for believing in this truth, rather than accepting uncritically as true what the authority tells you to be true (384-6). The scene of the King’s intention of correcting Camiola’s “stubborn disobedience” exemplifies Camiola’s indocile reflection (IV.v.44). When the King appears in Camiola’s house, she kneels humbly and shows her respect and obedience to the King: “My knees thus / Bent to the earth, while my vows are set upward / For the safety of my sovereign, pay the duty / Due for so great an honor, in this favor / Done to your humblest handmaid” (IV.v.35-9). However, when she


realizes that the King has come to force Fulgentio’s suit on her, she immediately stands up to defend herself because her reason tells her that she does not have the obligation to obey an unjust king:

…I must not kneel, sir,

While I reply to this, but thus rise up In my defense, and tell you, as a man –

Since, when you are unjust, the deity …parts from you – Twas never read in holy writ, or moral,

That subjects on their loyalty were obliged To love their sovereign’s vices.


Camiola’s rationale is that it is legitimate to dissent from the King if he has failed to rule with justice. When the King has discovered the truth and set things right, he claims that “While I wear a crown, justice shall use her sword / To cut offenders off, though nearest to us” (IV.v.85-7). Camiola provides the political moral: “ Happy are subjects, when the prince is still / Guided by justice, not his passionate will” (IV.v.93-4). It is Camiola’s duty as a subject to submit to the King’s authority. However, when the King is partial and rules with injustice, she refuses to acknowledge him as King, “be no more a king, / Unless you do me right” (IV.v.70-1).

Camiola has criticized and liberated herself from thinking of the authorities of existing social systems and institutions as irrefutable. If the ruling authority behaves in violation of natural law or religious faith, she does not have the responsibility to comply. Such a moment came when Bertoldo becomes a captive by the Duchess of Siena, and the King not only refuses to ransom him but forbids all other men to do so. She believes that the King’s edict forbidding people to ransom his natural brother for political ends is ignoble, unnatural, and irreligious: “A king, to sooth his politic ends, should so far / Forsaken his honour as at once break / The Adamant chains of nature and religion, / To bind up atheism as a defense / To his dark counsels?” (III.iii.143-7). She laments the impious action of the King, who should have been the exemplar of virtue and love. She refutes the King’s edict and has planned a private ransom of Bertoldo to redeem the honor of the commonwealth. Since men fail to act up to their outward show of splendor, she, as a woman, is forced to take action for honor’s sake. She perceives her blazing action of private ransom violating the King’s edict as honorable: “…I find in me / Some sparks of fire, which, fanned with honour’s breath,


/ Might rise into a flame, and in men darken / Their usurped splendour” (III.iii.159-62). She realizes the danger she has put herself in, “What a sea of melting ice I walk on! What strange censures / Am I to undergo!” (III.iii.168-70). In Sticpewich’s opinion, Camiola must protect her own honor while rescuing the male honor (76). The only way for her to pay the ransom of a man she loves without compromising her honor is to marry him, “Let him swear / A solemn contract to me; for you [Adorni] must be / My principal witness” (III.iii.205-7). However, Robert Tuner censures Camiola’s request of marriage as a self-interested exchange and considers her guilty of a merchant-like dealing (364). On the other hand, Margaret Sticpewich justifies her marriage as a means not only to save her own honor but also to bring Bertoldo back to the political community headed by the King (76). She is not like her contemporary social aspirants who seek the promotion of status when opportunities present themselves in a society of turmoil. Otherwise she would have accepted Bertoldo’s marriage proposal when he first came to propose to her. Neither is she one of the assertive contemporary women who enjoy being in the dominant position. Her moral courage and her love for a husband have compelled her to overrule the King’s authority.

With an attitude of critique, Camiola endeavors to cross-over the historical and practical limits imposed on a woman. According to Foucault, the attitude of critique is a philosophical ethos, which consists in a critique of what we are saying, thinking, and doing, through a historical ontology of ourselves. The critical ontology of ourselves requires the task of a historical analysis of the limits imposed on us with the purpose of going beyond the limits. The domain of criticism consists of analyzing and reflecting upon limits in reality. It is a practical critique that takes the form of a possible crossing-over. In sum, this philosophical ethos refers to a historical-practical test of the limits we may go beyond, as work carried out by ourselves upon ourselves as free beings, similar to what the Greeks called an ethos (“What is Enlightenment?” 309-19). Camiola is an ardent upholder of social status quo but does not believe in uncritical acceptance of them. When circumstances have changed and unconventional actions required, she will perform according to her judgment of reason. Previously she declines to accept Bertoldo’s proposal of marriage because of status difference. But when Bertoldo becomes a prisoner, with no hope of freedom and destined to the fate of a slave for life, situations have changed. When Ferdinand, Duke of Urbin, comments on the “distance and disparity” between their births and fortunes, Camiola launches into a justified argument:


… Imagine

You saw him now in fetters, with his honour, His liberty lost; with her black wings Despair Circling his miseries, and this Gonzaga Trampling on his afflictions; the king

Forbidding payment of it; his near kinsmen, With his protesting followers and friends,

Falling off from him; by the whole world forsaken; Dead to all hope, and buried in the grave

Of his calamities …


Just a few days back, Bertoldo was a slave and a captive, with no fortune but miseries and despair. Without a doubt, he should be called the inferior to the rich, fair gentlewoman, Camiola. In fact, she is his “better” angel and master, because “That, as his better angel, in her bounties / Appeared unto him, his great ransom paid / His wants, and with a prodigal hand, supplied: / Whether, then, being my manumised slave, / He owed not himself to me?” (V.ii.112-6). Bertoldo is restored to a splendid life with Camiola’s help and generosity. Under the new circumstances, Camiola asserts her deserving as Bertoldo’s superior and master. In so doing, she has subverted the traditional concept of identity as divinely ordained.

Some critics, such as Philip Edwards, suggest that Camiola’s great act of magnificence is a fall, but I want to argue that Camiola’s manly behavior is a critical crossing-over of the historical-practical limits of rank. Edwards observes that

The king has refused to ransom his brother. Camiloa, With magnificent generosity, pays the huge sum…But this great act, of generosity and love, is a fall… It is coming down to the level of Bertoldo because she is now prepared to waive her previous refusal and to think as little of his vow as he has done…. If she previously believed that the disparity in rank between herself and Bertoldo was an insurmountable obstacle, it must always be so (345-6).

In terms of rank, Edwards holds a rigid and fixed concept of status that comes with birth according to the divine order. Camiola respects the hierarchy of status but


believes that it is a system subject to practical circumstances. As a prisoner, Bertoldo is deprived of his liberty, fortune, and his original rank and status – a king’s brother and a Knight of Malta. In fact, Gonzaga has torn the badge of the Knight of Malta from him and expelled him from the Order because he has forfeited his oath of guarding weak ladies from oppression. On the contrary, he draws sword against a lady in hope of gain or glory. His new status is a life-long slave. Through paying the ransom, Camiola has given a new identity to him – Camiola’s husband. He is bound by his new obligation of a husband to cherish and love her with gratitude. Camiola has demanded a marriage with Bertoldo because she needs to preserve her honor as a chaste woman, “And, for the honor of my sex, to fall so, / Can never prove inglorious” (III.iii.163-4). She is justified as a loving wife who will do everything to preserve her husband. Most important of all, she realizes that Bertoldo is willing to take her as a wife because he has proposed before. The marriage will save her honor and fulfill Bertoldo’s earlier wish. Under such circumstances, Bertoldo’s vow of celibacy is negligible as he is no longer a Knight of Malta. To pursue her honor and love, Camiola has gone beyond the historical-practical limits of traditional ranking system ordained by birth.

In addition to rank, Camiola has also managed to cross over the historical-practical limits of gender hierarchy. Traditionally in a hierarchical culture, women are considered to be naturally subordinate to men, and should observe the precepts of obedience, silence, and chastity. The women’s subjugation originates from the Bible:

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he Slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead Thereof:

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my Flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

(Genesis 2. 21-3)

Based on the scriptural proof of her innate inferiority, women are merely a segment of his anatomy and therefore less than man. Charles George points out that the Renaissance commentaries, such as Richard Field’s Of the Church (1628), claimed that man pre-existed woman: “Yet because the man was not of the woman,


but the woman of the Man; the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the Man, who is the Glory of God” (277). Man enjoyed legitimate authority while woman became the ‘other,’ who should serve her masculine master. However, Camiola takes the sexual initiative to propose to Bertoldo and, in a way, forces the obligation of husband on him. In proposing to Bertoldo, she crosses the gender division and exerts the masculine authority.

Furthermore, she goes beyond the female propriety of silence to demand justice from the King by publicly and eloquently pleading her case at court. Instead of being silent and obedient, she feels that she “must … labour to right myself [herself]” (V.ii. 43-4) and accuse the King’s brother, Bertoldo, as guilty. By calling the King, the Duke, and the Duchess as justice’s ministers, Camiola makes the ruling princes feel obliged to hear her cause and truth, “Justice painted blind, / Infers her ministers are obliged to hear / The cause, and truth, the judge, determine of it” (V.ii. 62-5). She speaks on her own behalf confidently because justice is on her side, “I stand here mine own advocate; and my truth, / Delivered in the plainest language, will / Make good itself” (V.ii. 75-7). She is ready to openly acknowledge them as her greatest enemies if they rule partially, “now will I, if the king / Give suffrage to it, but admit of you, / My greatest enemy, and this stranger prince, / To sit assistants with him” (V.ii. 76-9). Even before hearing her case, her courage and confidence have won the trust and willingness of the ruling authorities to hear her with justice. Catherine Belsey observes that “to speak is to become a subject … for women to speak is to threaten the system of differences which gives meaning to patriarchy” (164-5). Camiola is the assertive subject who confidently pleads her own case. She is quite capable of protecting herself and demanding her rights as a subject. Earlier she has scorned Aorni, who presumed that he could defend Camiola’s honor with his sword. She comments that the virtues and integrity of women can defend themselves. The seeming service by men to protect women’s honor reduces women’s own strength:

O how much

Those ladies are deceived and cheated when The clearness and integrity of their actions Do not defend themselves, and stand secure On their own bases! Such as in a colour Of seeming service give protection to them, Betray their own strengths.


Camiola is proud of her own honorable conduct and is confident that she can take care of herself. Actually she is capable of taking care of men, for example, Bertoldo. She has removed Bertoldo from the hellish condition and restored him to a new life of plentitude. Her courage, outspokenness and independence erode the line differentiating gender hierarchy and subvert the traditional conception of assertive men and submissive women.

Furthemore, she refutes the role of a subservient wife, interferes in the political sphere, and crosses over the boundary of the domestic domain allotted for women. The Protestant ideology of marriage attempts to inscribe women as ‘necessary evil’ within the domestic domain. Despite the Protestant ideal of harmonious conjugal union, traditional notions of female inferiority is emphasized under the policy of reinforcing patriarchalism to maintain social order. George reminds us that John Robinson regarded male supremacy and authority as a state preceding Eve’s transgression:

But she being first in transgression … hath brought herself under another subjection, and the same to her more grievous; and in regard of her husband, often unjust: but in regard of God, always most just; who hath ordained that her desire should be subject to her husband … who by her seduction became subject to sin. (278)

Female subordination is natural as well as punitive. Alan Sinfield puts it simply, “the man was in charge” though husband and wife were supposed to love each other equally (65). As Bertoldo has already signed the marriage contract, he is legally Camiola’s husband. However, when the Duchess of Siena, Aurelia, offers him the crown and dukedom, Bertoldo perceives Camiola as the blockage that needs to be rid of. When Camiola learns of Bertoldo’s ingratitude, she refuses to be governed by the inconstant husband as a subservient wife. Under normal circumstances, she is an ardent upholder of social hierarchy. For instance, she recognizes her duty to be governed by her husband as she answered Sylli that “When I am yours I’ll be governed” and Sylli replies with satisfaction “Sweet obedience” (V.i. 35-6)! But with Bertoldo’s ingratitude, she has made up her mind to be governed, with complete devotion and obedience, by the higher authority and the almighty husband (master) – God. Nevertheless, she must first retrieve Bertoldo as rightfully her husband to do her justice in this world and to discourage others from imitating Bertoldo’s barbarous


ingratitude. Undaunted by the power of her opponent, Camiola challenges the Duchess to return what is legally and rightfully hers. When Aurelia finally disclaims her interest and frees Bertoldo’s vow, making way for Camiola’s embraces, Bertoldo expresses his compunction, asks Camiola’s pardon, and offers his being for Camiola to devour and trample. Bertoldo has completely submitted himself to the worthy Camiola. Camiola has by now reached the height of her power over her husband. Considering the fact that her audience consists of the King, Duke, and Duchess, her domestic interest carries the weight of the political and public affairs. She not only publicly wins her position as the governing authority in the household, but at the same time stimulates the princes to perform with justice and honor. Nevertheless, her masterpiece of critical crossing over the limits is accomplished in her choice of virginal autonomy in a nunnery over a happy marriage with Bertoldo. Traditionally woman’s proper place is seen to be in the household and her chief goal in life is motherhood due to her reproductive capacity. Failure to become a mother defines a woman as deviant. Camiola is not bound by the traditional ideology delimiting and subordinating women to the household and the patriarchal rule that comes with it. She has witnessed her fair temple easily ruined by the ungrateful Bertoldo and has come to the realization that her ethical existence of honor and virtue will be seriously endangered by an inconstant husband. She chooses to marry God by entering a nunnery, a life style that will guarantee her dedication to virtue and honor. In so doing, she transcends the domestic domain allotted for women.

(B). The Practice of Parrhesia

Camiola has the courage to practice parrhesia because she often criticizes her patriarchal superiors in the plainest speech. According to Foucault, parrhesia is a form of criticism that comes from below and is directed towards the ruling authority in simple and plain words or forms of expression whether spoken or written (Fearless Speech 17-8). “Parrhesia” is usually translated into English by “free speech” (Fearless Speech 11). A “parrhesiastes” refers to someone who uses parrhesia, i.e., is the one who speaks the truth. A ‘parrhesiastes’ does not conceal anything, but opens his heart and mind completely to the one he criticizes through his discourse. In voicing his opinion, he tends to employ “the most direct words and forms of expression” available to him and avoids any kind of rhetorical speeches which would shroud what he thinks (Fearless Speech 12-3). When Fulgentio comes to propose a marriage with her, Camiola tells him plainly that his rude behavior proves him to be a coarser person than his shiny attire of gentry class can suggests: “And I must tell you,


sir, and in plain language, / Howe’er your glittering outside promise gentry, / The rudeness of your carriage and behaviour / Speaks you a coarser thing” (II.ii. 73-6). The effeminate figure and complexion of Fulgentio leads Camiola to tell him that she is “doubtful whether you are [he is] a man” (II.ii. 137-9) and considers him passable for a woman. She insists on the plainness of her speech and does not need the “rhetorical flourishes” of a “hired tongue” to plead her case to the ruling princes. “I stand here my own advocate,” because she is confident that “my [her] truth, / Delivered in the plainest language, will / Make good itself” (V.ii. 71-6). She tells the King to his face that she does not have to love her sovereign’s vices: “Say, you should love wine, / You being the king, and, ‘cause I am your subject, / Must I be ever drunk” (IV.v. 63-5)? She will even deny his kingship if he fails to do her justice, “be no more a king, / Unless you do me right” (IV.v. 70-1). Without considering the status of her listener, Camiola justifies herself with honest anger in the most straightforward manner she can find.

Foucault defines that one is called a ‘parrhesiastes’ only when a risk is entailed for him or her when speaking the truth. Parrhesia takes place when someone in authority is confronted with a disagreeable or even dangerous truth and the parrhesiastes’s safety is jeopardized. For example, it is hazardous for a subject to call the king a tyrant to his face and point out his unjust rule because the powerful ruler may become furious and may have him or her killed (Fearless Speech 15-6). Camiola never hesitates to demand virtuous conduct and just ruling from the king and princes. She plainly identifies the king’s lack of virtue in gracing an undeserving minion; “Your grace, sir, / To such an undeserver is no virtue” (IV.v. 60-1). She calls the King a tyrant when he tries to force her affection for Fulgentio:

Tyrants, not kings,

By violence from humble vassals force

The liberty of their souls. I could not love him; And to compel affection, as I take it,

Is not found in your prerogative.

(IV.v. 65-9)

Camiola not only calls the King a tyrant; she goes further to rebuff his ruling and withdraw her love and obedience from him. She challenges the King’s divinity to rule by informing the King that “when you are unjust, the deity, / Which you may challenge as a king, parts from you” (IV.v. 56-7). When Aurelia and Ferdinand


comment on her disparity of birth and fortune from Bertoldo’s, Camiola calls the ruling princes “corrupted judges” in their face, “What can Innocence hope for / When such as sit her judges are corrupted!” (V.ii. 94-5). She beseeches the King to rule as an impartial judge and look on Bertoldo not as a brother but as a delinquent. She warns Aurelia not to tyrannize and to return the man who is legally her husband:

But do not tyrannize. Yet, as I am,

In my lowness, from your height you may look on me, And, in your suffrage to me, make him know …

... he stands bound

To hold me as the masterpiece.

(V.ii. 154-9)

Though Bertoldo was already ransomed, Aurelia deliberately refused to dispose of him earlier. In violation of the law of arms, she offered to “pay back his ransom ten times over, / Rather than quit my interest” (IV.iv. 73-4). She abused her power to satisfy her sexual appetite by pleading to her divine status: “A princess, what I do is above censure, / And to be imitated” (IV.iv. 126-7). To challenge the prime princess to retrieve what is rightfully hers is dangerous as they might sentence her to death for treason. Even speaking her mind to someone of a lower authority, the King’s minion, can expose her to threatening vengeance. She tells Fulgentio that his wealth is devilishly accumulated with the aids of Satan’s little fiends. When Fulgentio charges her of a wonton sexual night life, Camiola responds angrily, “You are foul-mouthed” (II.ii. 179). She realizes that she “may live to have vengeance” (II.ii.187), but her courage and sense of duty compels her to speak the truth. Foucault points out that the practice of parrhesia demands the courage to speak the truth in spite of some danger. A parrhesiastes feels that it is his or her duty to do so. When one practices the parrhesia and puts one’s own life in danger, one is taking up a specific relationship to the self: one prefers to see oneself as a truth-teller rather than a living coward who has lost self-integrity (Fearless Speech 19-20). Camiola believes that she is speaking the truth and is loyal to her esthetic existence of self-mastery.

The parrhesiastic act opens up a space of freedom and independence for Camiola. Foucault explains that the parrhesiastic act is a kind of eruptive truth-speaking in which an infringe is caused. Not only is the relation between the speaker and the listener eruptive, but also the relation that the parrheiaste establishes with himself or herself (Fearless Speech 15-6). The truth here does not refer to ‘the regime of truth’


circulated by the systems of power which produce and sustain it. In Ransom’s opinion, here the meaning of the word ‘truth’ is significantly changed; the term ‘truth’ is equivalent to the idea of “independence and even authenticity” (164). By bringing out the silent lie into the open, the parrheiastes disturbs the playing field with a free act. Camiola performs such a free act when she challenges Aurelia’s beauty and considers it inferior to hers. She invites all those who are experienced in women to choose between Aurelia and her and determine which of them is more beautiful. For beauty without art, she believes that she is more beautiful than Aurelia. Camiola’s opinion in her beauty is confirmed by the just Gonzaga. She points out that Aurelia’s perception of herself as irresistibly beautiful comes from “the false glass / Of flattery and self-love, and that deceives you” (V.ii. 138-9). She tells Aurelia “That you were a duchess, as I take it, was not / Charactered on your face” (V.ii. 140-1). Suddenly the praise of Aurelia’s beauty by her dependent parasites is revealed as a flattering lie. This can only be done by Camiola who has formed a different set of rules and truths independent of those sanctioned by the ruling power in Aurelia’s court. The result is a “triangle of self-truth-freedom,” according to Ransom’s explanation (165). Camiola has agitated the playing field of the regime of truth and is capable of constituting a modified truth. Her parrhesiastic act has created new space of freedom and autonomy for herself.

(C). A Plebeian Quality

Besides the verbal criticism, Camiola shows her courage in the demonstration of a plebeian quality which enables her to resist the ruling authority. Foucault has acknowledged the existence of a certain “plebeian aspect” as dynamic site to oppose the power mechanism. There is always “something in the social body, in classes, groups and individuals themselves which in some sense escape relations of power” (“Power and Strategies” 138). Camiola is such an individual who manages to escape relations of power. She does not allow anyone to compel her in her own house, because she says: “I am a queen in mine own house; nor must you / Expect an empire here” (II.ii. 75-6). As a subject, she owes the King her obedience. However, if the king turns into a tyrant, he cannot bend Camiola’s will. She claims, “Though the king may / Dispose of my life and goods, my mind’s mine own” (II.ii. 167-9). Under the patriarchal schema, Camiola is supposed to be shaped into a subservient woman through a multitude of institutions and discourses. Nevertheless, her submissive subjectivity only constitutes one of the possible forms of a sense of self. Foucault defines in “Return of Morality” that subjectivization is “a procedure by which one


obtains the constitution of a … subjectivity which is obviously only one of the given possibilities of organizing a consciousness of self” (472). It is very possible for experience in one dominion of subjective life to reflect critically on events and evaluations in another (472). As a wealthy heiress, she is much sought after by suitors, including the higher aristocracy. Camiola’s tremendous wealth provides her with a new perception of her worth and importance. She realizes that Fulgentio is aiming after her wealth. She says: “Yet I presume that there was one thing in me, / Unmentioned yet, that took you more than all / Those parts you have remembered / … My wealth, sir” (II.ii. 125-8). Fulgentio answers that “You are in the right; without that [wealth], beauty is a flower worn in the morning, at night trod on. / But beauty, youth, and fortune meeting in you, I will vouchsafe to marry you” (II.ii. 128-31). Her combination of wealth, beauty and youth endows her with the power to accept or reject her suitors. Despite the traditional virtue of subservience for women, she has cultivated a new consciousness of the self that is confident and autonomous. Her subjectivity as an obedient subject to the King is also critically jeopardized by her practice of the self in living an ethical existence of honor and reason. If the king tries to coerce her affection and force her to live without self-integrity, she is prepared to confront injustice at the cost of her life and goods. Her sense of honor requires her to refute the ruling authorities who succumb to the rule of passionate will. Her ability to apply her experience in one subjective sphere to reflect critically on another constitutes her plebeian quality in resisting the ruling power.

Camiola’s plebeian quality is also revealed in her ability to reverse power relations. According to Foucault, there is no determinate sociological entity as ‘plebs’ but a “plebeian quality” that exists “everywhere, in a diversity of forms and extensions, of energies and irreducibilities” (“Power and Strategies” 138). Foucault makes a subtle argument about the existence of freedom in a power relationship. The condition required for power to be exercised is that both players are assured of freedom in a power game. Only free individuals can come up with a multiplicity of strategies in their reciprocal incitation and struggle to be the winner. There is no so-called essential freedom. The freedom produced in a power relationship has no universal attributes and is historically determined. It refers to the actual set of alternatives available in a determinate social setting for the participating players. The choices available are never so stagnant or one-sided that the more dominant player will absolutely benefit no matter what choices the participating players make (“Afterword” 221-2). As a weaker player in the patriarchal society, Camiola has managed to turn the tide several times in her struggle against the ruling authorities.


For example, when her reputation is slandered by Fulgentio, she is able to invoke the King to rule justly and to banish his minion, Fulgentio. When Bertoldo ignores his vow as Camiola’s husband and is about to be wedded to Aurelia by the king, she is able to reverse the power relations and have Bertoldo restored to her. Camiola undoubtedly exhibits the plebeian quality in her confrontation with the ruling authorities.

(D). The Art of Government

Another reason that Camiola is able to reverse the power relations is due to her skills in the art of government. Foucault contends that the true nature of power is an art of government (“Afterword” 220-1). He defines government as follows: it is a question not of imposing law on men but of disposing things: that is, of employing tactics rather than laws, and even of using laws themselves as tactics – to arrange things in such a way that, through a certain numbers of means, such-and-such ends may be achieved”(“Governmentality” 211). The art of government is not the privilege of the more dominant player in the power relation. Either player is free to apply certain tactics or strategies in conducting the process toward a desired result. Strategy is defined by Foucault as the selection of winning solutions. It designates the means employed to achieve a certain purpose and the manner in which one of the participants “manipulates” the other player’s reactive actions without his or her knowing it (“Afterword” 224-5). Camiola is the weaker player in the patriarchal game of power, but she is skilled in governing the other participants to view things from her perspective and to her advantages. The most prominent example is the last scene in which she “Labour[s] to right myself [herself]” (V.ii. 41) by creating for herself the forum of a public court. Camiola first asks the king to rule as the deputy of justice in front of the audience, “as you are a king, / Erect one here, in doing justice to an injured maid” (V.ii. 45-6). Naturally the king promises to be a fair judge as is fit for a king. Then she proceeds to remind the king of his duty to be impartial: “and you / Stand bound in duty, as you are supreme, / To be impartial. Since you are a judge, / As a delinquent look on him, and not / As on a brother” (V.ii. 58-62). She then calls the audience ‘ministers of justice’ and beseech them to judge according to law and not be affected by favor or affection. Camiola specifically mentions the true intent of law because she is worried that one member of the audience might be swayed by affection, Aurelia, the Duchess, who is about to be married to Bertoldo. Aurelia is compelled to reply, “I ne’er wronged you” (V.ii. 80). Camiola replies right away that she believes it and trusts that Aurelia, as a just prince, will not wrong her in the future either: “In


your knowledge of the injury, I believe it; / Nor will you, in your justice, when you are / Acquainted with my interest in this man, / Which I lay claim to” (V.ii. 80-4). Before the king and Aurelia find out about the whole truth, they are “governed” by Camiola to give their promise of justice in front of the audience. It will be difficult for them not to keep their promise of just rule because of personal affection. All this time she refers to herself as “the injured maid” and claims that justice is “painted blind” (V.ii. 46, 62). Her manner is confident and she chooses to plead her case in the most direct language because “truth / Delivered in the plainest language, will / Make good itself” (V.ii. 75-6). By now, she has successfully manipulated the king’s and especially Aurelia’s responsive replies for her purpose later without their knowing it.

Having aroused curiosity and compassion from the audience, Camiola announces her true intent: “I challenge him [Bertoldo] for my husband” and presents their marriage contract to the king. Aurelia immediately tries to dispense with the contract, using the excuse that it is “done in heat of blood, / Charmed by her flatteries” (V.ii. 90-1). Ferdinand, as a token of good will to Aurelia, adds one more reason to justify the dispensation, “The distance and disparity between / Their births and fortunes” (V.ii. 93-4). Camiola is goaded into righteous anger. She asks the court to imagine Bertoldo as a ragged prisoner buried in the dungeon in comparison to her, a wealthy woman who paid his great ransom and supplied him with wants. She argues that she was in fact “the better angel” and Bertoldo was her “inferior” and owed her everything as her “manumised slave” (V.ii. 100, 115-6). “But, in return, he ruined his preserver, / The prints the irons had made in his flesh / Still ulcerous. But all that I had done, / My benefits, in sand or water written, / As they had never been, no more remembered” (V.ii. 128-32). And his only reason was “his ambitious hopes / To gain this duchess’ favaour” (V.ii.33). Aurelia still attempts to excuse Bertoldo’s change of heart by referring to her own beauty. Camiola claims that she outshines the Duchess in beauty. She frankly points out that the duchess’s rank and beauty are nothing but the products of art and flattery. Knowing that she has taken the upper hand of the situation, she quickly acknowledges her own vanity and assumes the position of a humble maid: “You are all beauty, / Goodness, and virtue; and poor I not worthy / As a foil to set you off” (V.ii.151-2). She stresses her own lowness and beseeches the duchess from her high rank to pass a just verdict upon Bertoldo’s duty as her husband: “as I am, / In my lowness, from your height you may look on me, / And, in your suffrage to me, make him know / That, though to all men else I did appear / The shame and scorn of woman, he stands bound / To hold me as the masterpiece” (V.ii.153-8). Bound by her duty and promise of just rule, Aurelia has no


alternative but to disclaim her interest in Bertoldo as a husband, “Make your peace; you have / My free consent … And, to further your / Desires, fair maid, composed of worth and honour, / The dispensation procured by me, / Freeing Bertoldo from his vow, makes way / To your embraces” (V.ii.171-6). Having anticipated Aurelia’s initial responsive rule of passionate will, Camiola tries first to pin her down to justice and then reveal Bertoldo’s unworthiness. Foucault says that strategy refers to the procedures used to exhaust the antagonist of his resources of combat and drives him or her to give up the struggle (“Afterword” 225). Camiola has successfully exhausted Aurelia’s resources of contest and has driven her to relinquish Bertoldo.

Camiola also exhibits her skills of government in her ability to structure the possible field of action of others. Foucault claims that governmentality is equivalent to “conduct,” to “lead” others (“Afterword” 220). Camiola has not only “led” the Duchess, her opponent in the love-triangle to relinquish Bertoldo but to see her as a worthy and honorable maid. In addition, she has ‘conducted’ Duke Ferdinand to change his original opinion of her and to profess that “The virtues of your [Camiola’s] mind an ample fortune / For an absolute monarch” (V.ii.163-5). Her performance in the court has also “led” Gonzaga to call her a “phoenix,” an emblem of female power and masculinity in Tudor iconography associated with Queen Elizabeth, according to Lisa Jardin (165). Camiola’s skill of government is executed most thoroughly on Bertoldo. For the first time, she ‘directs’ him to keep his order of celibacy by turning down his marriage proposal. The second time Camiola anticipates Bertoldo’s most heart-felt gratitude and governs him to serve her as her husband. When Bertoldo is lured away by Aurelia’s crown and is about to be wedded to Aurelia, Camiola stops the marriage and, in the forum of a public court, exposes his “barbarous ingratitude” and “ambitious hopes” (V.ii.123, 133). Bertoldo is compelled to make a public confession, “O, how have I strayed, / And willfully, out of the noble track / Marked me by virtue! … I have surrendered up my strengths / Into the power of Vice, and on my forehead / Branded, with mine own hand, in capital letters, / DISLOYAL, and INGRATEFUL … I must confess / It justly falls upon me” (V.ii.177-92). Camiola forgives him heartily for the peace and quiet of her soul, but does conjure Bertoldo to reassume his order, fight bravely against the enemies of faith, and redeem his mortgaged honour (V.ii.286-8). Gonzaga restores his white cross and Bertoldo becomes “Once more brothers in arms” (V.ii.289). Under such circumstances, Bertoldo can only pledge that “I’ll live and die so” (V.ii.290), witnessed by the court audience. Camiola has structured the possible field of action for Bertoldo: to live a life of celibacy and honor for the rest of his life.


To strengthen the significance and happiness of a life of virtue, honor and rationality, Camiola sets a fair example by devoting herself to a celibate religious life. The final target of government dwells in the things it oversees and the perfection and intensification of the procedures it directs, according to Foucault (“Governmentality” 211). Even though Bertoldo has openly pledged to resume his order as a Knight of Malta, Camiola “intensifies” Bertoldo’s vow of celibacy and honor by her own example, which will serve as a life-long reminder for the rest of the court members to uphold honor:

This is the marriage, this the port to which

My vows must steer me! Fill my spreading sails With the pure wind of your devotions for me, That I may touch the secure haven, where Eternal happiness keeps her residence, Temptations to frailty never entering!


Critics have offered various interpretations for Camiola’s final retreat from her triumph into the religious life. Walter Cohen classifies The Maid of Honor as a “pre-revolutionary” play which tends to show “a symptomatic inability to achieve closure, to produce a persuasive reassertion of male, aristocratic, and usually absolutist control” (132). Though the denouement is a little abrupt and unsatisfactory, I think the focus of the play is on the theme of honor rather than on assertive male control. Peter Mullany sees the moral dilemma at the end as being exploited for theatrical effects, characteristic of Fletcherian tragicomedy, with no serious religious significance (145). This opinion is shared by Russ McDonald who agrees that Camiola’s winning of Bertoldo and her immediate renunciation of him is a theatrical means. Nevertheless, the ending carries moral efficacy. With her speech and action, she has aroused the court members to a sense of justice and morality (110). Ira Clark also points out the moral implication in the ending that Camiola’s self-imposed renunciation is part of a general reformation that all the characters need (171). Doris Adler encourages the readers to see Camiola as a symbol of “cloistered honor” (83). She recognizes an irony in Roberto’s words, “May she stand / To all posterity a fair example / For noble maids to imitate” (V.ii.297-300): if all noble maids all enter the convent, then only dishonorable maids are left to people the nation. Camiola is to be married only to faith, because almost every one “Upon this stage of life” is susceptible


to the “poisoned baits” of wealth and pleasure (83). I agree with Adler’s interpretation in reading Camiola as a symbol but in a different way. Camiola sets herself up as an emblem to arouse the awe and admiration from the court assembly so that her words may carry more weight and acceptance in governing her assembled audience to live an ethical life of honor and virtue. She “directs” the king to confirm his pardon for Adorni and, as “an arbitrator”, “end all differences”, and “compound / The quarrel long continuing between / The duke and duchess” (V.ii.283-4, 291-5). She makes peace for the chastened Fulgentio to the king, and “conjure[s]” Bertoldo to resume his order. She has secured the king’s promise to “take it into / My [his] special care” (V.ii.295). The king concludes that “there being nothing / Upon this stage of life to be commended, / Though well begun, till it be fully ended” (V.ii.302-3). The king has taken up the position of an overseer, under Camiola’s government, to supervise his subjects to steer toward a good end – a life of honor, virtue and rationality. The king functions as the ‘perfection and intensification’ of Camiola’s procedures of governing people to pursue honor and virtue.

Camiola has reflected upon her affection for the inconstant Bertoldo and has come to a realization: her human vulnerability and human need for external support when temptation of passion calls. Her rational rule alone fails to constitute sufficient law of behavior. As a result, her ethical existence of autonomy is seriously threatened. By committing herself to an unbreakable eternal contract of religious celibacy, she is guaranteed of her virginal autonomy. Her goal in life has converted into an ethical existence of purity through her entry to the nunnery. Different modes of being entail different guiding principles for moral conducts. The monastic life will enforce an ascetic life of chastity and honor, where temptation of passion, pleasure, and sensuality will be blocked out:

… vain delight

By day, or pleasure of the night, She no more thinks of. This fairhair – Favours for great king to wear –

Must now be shorn; her rich array Changed into a homely grey.

The dainties with which she is fed, And her proud flesh pampered, Must not be tasted; from the spring For wine, cold water we will bring;


And with fasting mortify The feasts of sensuality.


Her intention is to “touch the secure haven, where / Eternal happiness keeps her residence, / Temptations to frailty never entering!” (V.ii.270-1) This interpretation is supported by Russ McDonald who sees Camiola’s symbolic marriage to the church as a way of finding a sheltered haven free of error and weakness. Retirement is one method of resistance to betrayal and self-betrayal (111). Once she retreats from the world, she has to abide by the chief virtues of a Christian asceticism – charity and renunciation. Therefore, she disposes of her state and wealth because material wealth can only attract ambition, not true love, and cause the loss of self-integrity. The tremendous sum she pays to ransom Bertoldo only results in his complete corruption. She bequeaths her wealth to the nunnery, pious uses, and the faithful Adorni. Isabella Marinoff connects renunciation with integrity. She believes that genuine integrity tends to result in renunciation and self-abnegation (160). Camiola’s moral obligation thus becomes an aesthetic attempt to live her life as a most brilliant example of honor and self-integrity for the future generations to follow.

IV. Conclusion

In the social upheaval of disintegration of authorities, the seventeenth-century English people were provided with more freedom but at the same time chaos and moral confusion. It was a complex moral dilemma to choose between tradition and innovation. The majority of people selected self-interest to be their guiding principle of moral conduct and drifted away from honorable actions marked out by eternal virtues. However, some reactivated the ancient stoic practices, especially the Greco-Roman ethics of the care of the self in constructing their new subjectivity. The essence of the Greek ethics of the care of the self was an attempt to construct an ethical and aesthetic existence, either to reproduce certain exemplary mode of being or to give the most brilliant form possible to their lives.

The world of The Maid of Honor reflects such a turbulent society where every one, especially the ruling aristocrats, is led astray by the pursuit of self-interest for either ambition or passion, except the emblematic Camiola, who practices the Greco-Roman ethics of the care of the self by living an ethical and aesthetic existence of self-mastery guided by honor, reason, and virtue. To achieve her autonomy and



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