The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1910 Friday, 5 November 1999.
From: Stefan Kirby <
Date: Thursday, 04 Nov 1999 21:25:28 -0800
Subject: Wedding Proposal
This may not help...
Since so many have offered good ideas direct from Shakespeare, I have a
slightly more offbeat passage from a Tudor comedy called "Ralph Roister
Doister" (1550 Nicholas Udall)
Ralph has sent his parasitic hanger-on Mathew Merrygreek to read his
suit for marriage to Dame Custance; and he reads thus:
Sweet mistress, whereas I love you nothing at all,
Regarding your substance and riches chief of all,
I commend me unto you never a whit.
Sorry to hear report of your good welfare.
For (as I hear say) such your conditions are
That ye be worthy favour of no living man;
To be abhorred of every honest man;
To be taken for a woman inclined to vice;
Nothing at all to virtue giving her due price.
Wherefore concerning marriage, ye are thought
Such a fine paragon, as ne'er an honest man bought.
And now by these presents I do you advertise
That I am minded to marry you in no wise.
For your goods and substance, I could be content
To take you as you are. If ye mind to be my wife,
Ye shall be assured for the time of my life
I will keep you right well from good raiment and fare;
You shall not be kept but in sorrow and great care.
Ye shall in no wise live at your own liberty;
Do and say what ye lust, ye shall never please me;
But when ye are merry, I will be all sad,
When ye are sorry, I will be very glad;
When ye seek your heart's ease, I will be unkind;
At no time, in me, shall ye much gentleness find.
But all things contrary to your will and mind
Shall be done: otherwise I will not be behind
To speak. And as for all them that would do you wrong
I will so help and maintain, ye shall not live long.
Nor any foolish dolt shall cumber you but I.
I, whoe'er say nay, will stick by you till I die.
Thus good mistress Custance, the Lord you save and keep
From me Roister Doister, whether I wake or sleep.
Who favoureth you no less (ye may be bold)
Than this letter purporteth, which ye have unfold.
Ralph is a character of the same type as Slender, Or Sir Toby's drinking
companion, Sir Andrew, (hence such cumbersome concoctions as "...all
things contrary to your will and mind shall be done otherwise...)
I can't say if using one or the other of these will help you, but my
wife particularly liked it when I told her, "Nor any foolish dolt shall
cumber you but I".