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The Shakespeare Sisterhood: The Abbess

The Abbess is a woman of sound sense, reliable judgment, and ready knowledge of human nature. As her position -- attained through personal merit alone -- indicates, she is of grave presence, and held in high esteem for her piety and good works; her character is marked by dignified simplicity, but at the same time evinces capacity for firm, decisive action.

The scene where, having given refuge to the Syracusan Antipholus, whom Adriana pursues with her servants, believing him to be her husband, and mad, the Abbess "betrays" that perplexed lady "to her own reproof," finely displays the finesse so requisite in her calling, and which she possesses in an eminent degree:
Abb. Be quiet, people! Wherefore throng you hither?

Adr. To fetch my poor distracted husband hence:
Let us come in, that we may bind him fast,
And bear him home for his recovery.


Abb. How long hath this possession held the man?

Adr. This week he hath been heavy, sour, sad,
And much, much different from the man he was;
But, till this afternoon, his passion
Ne'er brake into extremity of rage.

Abb. Hath he not lost much wealth by wreck at sea --
Buried some dear friend? Hath not else his eye
Stray'd his affection in unlawful love? --
A sin prevailing much in youthful men,
Who give their eyes the liberty of gazing.
Which of these sorrows is he subject to?

Adr. To none of these, except it be the last --
Namely some love, that drew him oft from home.

Abb. You should for that have reprehended him.

Adr. Why, so I did.

Abb. Ay, but not rough enough.

Adr. As roughly as my modesty would let me.

Abb. Haply, in private.

Adr. And in assemblies too.

Abb. Ay, but not enough.

How to cite this article:
Palmer, Henrietta L. The Stratford gallery, or, The Shakespeare sisterhood. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1859. Shakespeare Online. 20 Oct. 2009. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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The Abbess. From A Stratford Gallery.