Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

learningabc

Member
China-Chinese
Hi everyone,

What does hell hath no fury like a woman scorned mean?

I googled it and only found that it comes from a play called the Mourning Bride by William Congreve. And the complete one is Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned. Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

But I can't seem to find the meaning of it, nor in my mini English literature book. So could anyone please help me with that?

Thanks a lot.
 
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  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    It would be better to be in hell than to face the wrath of a woman who has been insulted/derided/ridiculed/spurned. No torture or pain that hell contains can compare.
     

    Harry Batt

    Senior Member
    USA English
    The modern application is often heard by English speakers who wish to emphasize that a woman scorned can inflict worse punishment than could be found in hell. Eg., "Did you hear that Helen is claiming Al's Cadillac in their divorce? She doesn't even drive." Reply: "She told my wife that he will end up feeling better off dead when it is over."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It is likely that the word "fury" is being used here to refer to female personifications of vengeance in Greek mythology. [...]
    Of course. Thanks, GWB. This expression has niggled a little for many years. The connection with the Greek Furies had not occurred to me until now - I'm sure you're right :)
     

    slowik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    In fact it was "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned" but I don't understand either. Could someone explain the meaning of this proverb to me or paraphrase it in the simplest way possible?
     

    Biddlesby

    Senior Member
    English (Brit.)
    I won't comment on Congreve's original intentions, but today it is used quite literally as a comment on womankind.

    Women are ferocious creatures.

    For example, supposed somebody ended their relationship with a woman, and she did something particularly violent in retaliation. Observers might say "tsk, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned".
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    "love to hatred turned" - This is usually someone (Person A) who was once in love with Person B, but because Person B has done something (such as break off the relationship), Person A now hates Person B

    "a woman scorned" is a woman whose love has been rejected, so this means that the anger of hell is not as great as the anger of a woman in this situation

    This is commentary that this type of rejected love creates terribly powerful anger.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Moderator note

    There was a thread on this topic already. Please use the forum search function before starting new topics. I have merged the two threads.
     

    Biddlesby

    Senior Member
    English (Brit.)
    Originally, it's a slightly misogynistic expression, meant to say that no matter what horrors hell can present, it's nothing compared to a furious woman.
    I don't read any misogyny into the expression in its modern use, although perhaps you are correct that it was originally intended with some.
     

    Li'l Bull

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    Hello!

    Is this saying only used when talking about romantic relationships, or can it also be applied to cases where a woman has been offended or whose feelings have been hurt (not necessarily by a lover)?

    Thank you in advance.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    I would agree with Parla that the vast majority of the time, the phrase is used in a romantic context, but if we look at this blog from notdifferentbutinteresting.wordpress.com, for example, the woman chooses to use this phrase (admittedly only the first half of it) in a context where her fury derives not from being rejected romantically, but from the sense of danger she and her child were exposed to through the incompetence of the garage. The woman feels that the garage thought she and her child were not important enough to protect from a potential fire by fixing her car properly. The garage, she feels, scorned her and she is very angry about it.
     

    Li'l Bull

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    Thank you, Enquiring Mind and Parla.

    However, it's difficult for me to get a clear idea from two seemingly conflicting answers.

    What I mean is: if a boy does something that hurts his female friend's feelings (willingly or unwillingly), and the girl (who has a quick temper) reacts in a disproportionate manner, would it be apt to say?:

    "You need to be really careful with her. Hell hath no fury, you know?"

    Is this way of using it idiomatic enough, or would it be unsuitable because there is no romantic relationship involved?

    << deleted reference to deleted text >>
     
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    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    What I mean is: if a boy does something that hurts his female friend's feelings (willingly or unwillingly), and the girl (who has a quick temper) reacts in a disproportionate manner, would it be apt to say?:

    "You need to be really careful with her. Hell hath no fury, you know?"
    To hurt someone's feelings is not necessarily to scorn the person. To scorn is to reject, to disdain.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    (...) What I mean is: if a boy does something that hurts his female friend's feelings (willingly or unwillingly), and the girl (who has a quick temper) reacts in a disproportionate manner, would it be apt to say?: "You need to be really careful with her. Hell hath no fury, you know?" Is this way of using it idiomatic enough, or would it be unsuitable because there is no romantic relationship involved?
    This reply looks appropriate and idiomatic to me in this context, L'il Bull.

    << Please stick to the topic >>
    I think Parla is interpreting the meaning of "scorn" quite narrowly. If we look at the entry in Merriam Webster, for example, we find: to treat with scorn, reject or dismiss as contemptible or unworthy, to show disdain or derision;
    In our own WR dictionary definition, we find: to treat with contempt or derision; to reject with contempt

    On that basis, and with reference to the blog I referred to in the earlier post, I conclude that while the saying is most often used in a romantic situation, it's not confined solely to that sort of context.
     
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    Jensilaedi

    New Member
    australian/british english
    not to disrespect the other posts here, I just wanted to add that this doesn't have to be in a romantic context because when you think about it... the end means, is the most important part ... fury - like a - woman - who has been mistreated, who feels like she's been dismissed or treated in an unfair way. anyone in those shoes would be furious anyway and then not just a woman. So to say that a fury like a "woman" scorned is like suggesting women are the only ones who can give hell worse than hell itself is certainly mysogynistic because I've heard plenty of stories of dead women found in bushes and in other horrific places due to male reactive mistreatment. So women ain't the only ones... so this phrase is for men to tell each other to beware of the other sex in a seemingly nurturing way but still is as misguided and unhelpful regardless of the sender's good intentions. so if you want to use that phrase or change it to make yourself sound clever or "learned" or to support a friend - I wouldn't, because in a way you'll just sound callous and vindictive.
    I used to think this sentence was cool, but I was in my early teens and at the time I was let's just say "selfish" I truly believed the world revolved around me. Till a few good people put some sense into me and I grew up.
     

    neiluk69

    New Member
    English
    the word scorn is to feel, in modern speak, extremely ticked off with someone, this is not pertaining to romantic interludes, this is prevalent in the Yorkshire dialect, especially in my own village, where anyone could scorn anyone for an act that ticks them off. A woman scorned could be a woman scorned because of romantic relationships or in the case of my mother she was scorned because someone accused her son of something untrue. A woman scorned is no different to a bloke scorned, but I believe this expression was popularised by play and films.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    the word scorn is to feel, in modern speak, extremely ticked off with someone, this is not pertaining to romantic interludes, this is prevalent in the Yorkshire dialect, especially in my own village, where anyone could scorn anyone for an act that ticks them off. A woman scorned could be a woman scorned because of romantic relationships or in the case of my mother she was scorned because someone accused her son of something untrue. A woman scorned is no different to a bloke scorned, but I believe this expression was popularised by play and films.
    The Wikipedia article "List of misquotations" attributes it to William Cosgreve:

    "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"
    The correct quotation is "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/ Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." by William Congreve in The Mourning Bride of 1697.
     

    Julieonline

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Added to an older thread. Nat, Moderator
    Hi,

    In the sentence "Hell has no fury like a woman scorned," what exactly does "scorn" mean?
    I understand that scorn often mean contempt and disrespect, but I am not sure what it means here.

    Thanks, Julie
     
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    Flooooooooor

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    In my experience at least, people seem to use it to mean "rejected romantically". But until now I never thought about the fact that this is different from the typical meaning of "scorn".
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    That is exactly what "scorn" (verb) means. "Scorned" functions as an adjective here. Someone treated her with disrespect or contempt, making her "a woman scorned". It is not surprising she is upset.
     

    Flooooooooor

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Ahh, that is true. What I meant was that I always understood the meaning of "scorned" in this phrase to mean only "rejected romantically", when in fact "rejected romantically" is merely a subset of the circumstances that can make someone "a woman scorned". Looks like I learned some English today as well -- thanks.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    This line was discussed some years ago:
    <Thanks, GWB. The threads have been merged. Nat>

    I continue to hold the opinion that the word "Fury" is a reference to the horrifying creatures from Greek mythology.
     
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    Julieonline

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Thank you all very much!
    I wonder if a woman who is being "rejected romantically" may consider that rejection as an insult, as in the other person thinks she is not good/pretty/attractive enough. In that case, as Flooooooooor said, being "rejected romantically" would be one of the situations when one may feel disrespected.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It could be rephrased as Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned, which would indicate more clearly that it means that sort of rejection.
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    I like the example that Enquiring gave,

    a context where her fury derives not from being rejected romantically, but from the sense of danger she and her child were exposed to through the incompetence of the garage. The woman feels that the garage thought she and her child were not important enough to protect from a potential fire by fixing her car properly. The garage, she feels, scorned her and she is very angry about it.

    I think too, as others have suggested, there is an element of sexism here. It's as if hellish fury is the province of women after disdainful rejection. Yet we know of many cases of a man scorned, who has become violent, even murderous.

    "A man scorned will make efforts send the rejecting woman straight to hell." Elliot Rodger:
     

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    Julieonline

    Senior Member
    chinese
    I like the example that Enquiring gave,

    a context where her fury derives not from being rejected romantically, but from the sense of danger she and her child were exposed to through the incompetence of the garage. The woman feels that the garage thought she and her child were not important enough to protect from a potential fire by fixing her car properly. The garage, she feels, scorned her and she is very angry about it.

    I think too, as others have suggested, there is an element of sexism here. It's as if hellish fury is the province of women after disdainful rejection. Yet we know of many cases of a man scorned, who has become violent, even murderous.

    "A man scorned will make efforts send the rejecting woman straight to hell." Elliot Rodger:
    Thank you for your example! I think "scorn" seems to suggest a particular kind of rejection, mixed with contempt, indifference, disrespect, disdain, etc. It makes the recipient of such rejection feel being treated unfairly, being looked down upon, and being dismissed.
     
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