Top Girls

Patient Griselda Character Analysis

Patient Griselda is a figure from European folklore, most famously featured in the tales of Boccaccio and Chaucer. A peasant of humble origins, Patient Griselda was selected to marry a handsome, wealthy, and powerful Marquis, who took her away from her family and introduced her to a life of luxury. Her new husband wanted to test her obedience, though, and so he took away both children she bore him—presumably to have them killed. In spite of this cruel treatment, Griselda stayed with her husband, and remained obedient to him. At last, he cast her out of the palace, naked and alone; Griselda bore this cruel humiliation, too, with grace. Eventually, her husband came back for her, and revealed that her children had been safe all along. Patient Griselda’ story—in the hands of male writers—was used through the ages as a parable about the virtues of patience and women’s obedience to their husbands; in Top Girls, Churchill points out the devastation, trauma, and pain Griselda suffered, all in service of a man and his riches.

Patient Griselda Quotes in Top Girls

The Top Girls quotes below are all either spoken by Patient Griselda or refer to Patient Griselda. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of Top Girls published in 1982.
Act One, Scene One Quotes

MARLENE: Magnificent all of you. We need some more wine, please, two bottles I think, Griselda isn’t even here yet, and I want to drink a toast to you all.

ISABELLA: To yourself surely, we’re here to celebrate your success.

NIJO: Yes, Marlene.

JOAN: Yes, what is it exactly, Marlene?

MARLENE: Well it’s not Pope but it is managing director.

JOAN: And you find work for people.

MARLENE: Yes, an employment agency.

NIJO: Over all the women you work with. And the men.

ISABELLA: And very well deserved too. I’m sure it’s just the beginning of something extraordinary.

MARLENE: Well it’s worth a party.

ISABELLA: To Marlene.

MARLENE: And all of us.

JOAN: Marlene.

NIJO: Marlene.

GRET: Marlene.

MARLENE: We’ve all come a long way. To our courage and the way we changed our lives and our extraordinary achievements. (They laugh and drink a toast.)

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Isabella Bird (speaker), Lady Nijo (speaker), Dull Gret (speaker), Pope Joan (speaker), Patient Griselda
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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Patient Griselda Character Timeline in Top Girls

The timeline below shows where the character Patient Griselda appears in Top Girls. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene One
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
...if they should wait for Joan before they put their orders in; the last guest, Griselda, she says, is going to be late. Isabella begins describing her own attempt to be... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marlene orders more wine from the waitress; though Griselda still isn’t present, she says that she wants to make a toast to the gathered... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...sit on while clergymen looked up his skirts to make sure he was a man. Griselda arrives, but everyone is so delighted by Joan’s anecdote about the chair that no one... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Marlene notices Griselda and greets her—Griselda apologizes for her lateness. Though the women have all finished their dinners,... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Marlene tells everyone that Griselda’s life is “like a fairy story,” except her marriage to a prince is only the... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Griselda agreed, and the Marquis’s ladies-in-waiting dressed her in white silk and adorned her hair. Marlene... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Griselda begins telling the other women how her first child, a girl, was taken away at... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Four years later, Griselda says, she gave birth to a boy—but when he was two years old, the Marquis... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...sixteen-year-old bride and her younger brother, serving as her page, arrived. The Marquis then embraced Griselda and told her that the girl and the page were none other than her son... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...the suffering of others from a distance. The women, all drunk, talk over one another. Griselda says it would’ve been “nicer” if her husband hadn’t taken away her children. Isabella asks... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...last journey, in her old age. Nijo begins laughing and crying simultaneously; Joan vomits, and Griselda comforts her. Isabella proudly declares that she was, at seventy, the only European woman to... (full context)