The Volcanic Shrew

Shrews are fiercely territorial, driving off rivals, and coming together only to mate. Many species dig burrows for catching food and hiding from predators. The saliva of these little beasts packs a potent punch to its prey in the form of a neurotoxin. Shrew is an offensive word for a woman who is considered to be unpleasant and easily annoyed, and who argues a lot  (Cambridge University Press).

The adjective volcanic is suggestive of or resembling a volcano; potentially explosive; volatile: a volcanic temper.

One must be alert when dealing with a volcanic shrew. William Shakespeare is memorably reported to have highlighted the impending indignity of an angered woman when he is said to have written, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is an idiom that is adapted from a line in William Congreve’s play, The Mourning Bride (1697). The line from which it came is “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

This and similar sexist observations are generally attributed to men, the most topical current violator being Donald J. Trump whose overt comments about people in general are often considered offensive. Historic similar renditions derived from others such as Oscar Wilde.

Wilde’s male characters make what we regard as sexist comments today, but would not have been considered as such in Victorian England. Some of his most famous quotes about women are – (a character talking about a middle-aged widow who has been rejuvenated by her husband’s death) ‘Her hair has turned quite gold with grief’; ‘Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance’; ‘the strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain them’. ‘Men can be analysed, women merely adored’; ‘The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she is pretty, and to someone else if she is plain’; ‘I like men who have a future and women who have a past.’

There are several competing points of view apart from the romantic; namely, social (manners), commercial (motive) and religious (spiritual). Yet in spite of these alternate forms of recognition, the typical volcanic shrew is overcome by her own interests which can often betray little other than unpleasant behaviour. Preserving one’s perceived entitlement is reduced to inferior conduct.