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Page:Woman and her possibilities.djvu/9

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"For me, I am the mistress of my fate."

This is no echo of Tennyson's "Man is man and master of his fate," no copy of Henley's "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." The assertion is put by Shakespeare into the mouth of a noble Roman lady; and it is a claim to deal with herself as she may list, body, mind, and reputation—even with her life, wife though she be. One wonders whether a Roman lady ever felt such a sentiment or formulated it, or whether Shakespeare is projecting backwards, over a period of two thousand years or more, the demand of a woman of his own time, just as he ascribes to Roman days certain heraldic devices and social and military customs that did not come into existence until much later times. In either case, be it the claim of a Roman lady or of an English woman of the sixteenth century, how is it that there appears to us to be a certain incongruity about it, and how did it strike the people of Shakespeare's time? And did the fact that it was a married woman's claim affect in any way its validity or it reasonableness? Why should we feel surprised at such a pronouncement? Why should there be any reason to admire what one would think was an obvious platitude in genera! morals? Or why should there be a sort of defiant