Hell has no fury like a woman scorned
What's the meaning of the phrase 'Hell has no fury like a woman scorned'?
A scorned woman (one who has been betrayed) is more furious than anything that hell can devise.
What's the origin of the phrase 'Hell has no fury like a woman scorned'?
'Hell has no fury like a woman scorned' (or sometimes 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned') is usually attributed to the English playwright and poet William Congreve. He wrote these lines in his play The Mourning Bride, 1697:
Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn'd.
Theatregoers of the day would have understood the meaning of 'scorned woman' as something more specific than the present day meaning. In the 17th century a scorned woman was one who had been betrayed in love, especially one who had been replaced by a rival.
It may be rather over-generous to attribute the line to Congreve as another Restoration playwright, Colley Cibber, could make a claim to have anticipated him.
In Cibber's play Love's Last Shift, 1696 we find these lines:
He shall find no Fiend in Hell can match the fury of a disappointed Woman! - Scorned! slighted! dismissed without a parting Pang!
Cibber doesn't use the precise phrase 'hell has no fury like a woman scorned' but then, neither does Congreve and Cibber text conveys precisely the same notion.
Actually, both Cibber and Congreve might have cause to feel slighted as the expression is widely, and wrongly, attributed to Shakespeare.
See also, another well-known phrase coined by Congreve - music has charms to soothe the savage breast.