Speaking Daggers: A Study of Male Rage
Violence need not be only physical; it can also be verbal. My purpose in this chapter is to show how a kind of verbal violence appears as a corollary to the masculine code. From the callow utterances of a Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing to the imagistic orgy of Hamlet and the jealous ravings of Othello, we find in the involuted style of Leontes' speech a perfected image of a mind gone mad with jealousy, rage, and domination, and in Ferdinand's speech patterns in The Duchess of Malfi, a mind grown perverse with pride and sexual frustration until it collapses into lycanthropy.
Let us begin with a consideration of Shakespeare's relatively early handling of the outraged male character, Claudio, to see how he progressed from a somewhat stiff and stilted style to a complex and free-flowing one in order to depict male rage. In the public denunciation of Hero, Claudio's immaturity could be said to be reflected in the jerky, jejune movements of his speech. Immediately preceding Claudio's flagrant disavowal of Hero in church, we find a dissembling Claudio who first asks Leonato:
Father, by your leave,
Will you with free and unconstrained soul
Give me this maid, your daughter?
Leonato answers without question, "As freely, son, as God did give her me." Claudio then asks,
And what have I to give you back whose worth
May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?