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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: December ::
Re: Abhorson
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0939.  Sunday, 3 December 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Corrie Zoll <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 20:24:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0934 Qs:  Abhorson
 
(2)     From:   Michael Saenger <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 22:07:02 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0934 Qs: Abhorson
 
(3)     From:   Joseph L Lockett <
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        Date:   Saturday, 2 Dec 1995 14:28:15 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: Abhorson
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Corrie Zoll <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 20:24:33 -0500
Subject: 6.0934 Qs:  Abhorson
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0934 Qs:  Abhorson
 
I recently performed the role of Abhorson in Frank Theatre's Minneapolis
production of Measure for Measure, wearing leather chaps, a big gold codpiece,
a muscle shirt and tattoos.  To answer Steven Marx's question about Abhorson's
proof:
 
Can anyone help me, and one of my students, to construe the meaning of
this"proof" that Abhorson's occupation as hangman is a mystery?  Every true
man's apparel fits your thief: if it be too little for your thief, your true
man thinks it big enough; if it be too big for your thief, your thief thinks it
little enough: so every true man's apparel fits your thief.
 
The Arden Measure for Measure states that the F version splits the lines of the
proof between Abhorson and and Pompey. It goes on to say "The 'proof' that the
true man's apparel 'fits' (satisfies) the thief shows the thief to be a fitter
of clothes i.e. tailor, whose occupation is a 'mystery'  Executioners and
Thieves are associated because the clothes of the condemned man were the
hangman's perquisite...One stage of the syllogism, relating the executioner to
the thief, is missing...little and big in terms of (i) size (ii) value."  Not
very illuminating, to be sure.  We cut the proof entirely.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Saenger <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 22:07:02 -0500
Subject: 6.0934 Qs: Abhorson
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0934 Qs: Abhorson
 
How do we explain the passage:
>
> Every true man's apparel fits your thief: if it be too little for your thief,
> your true man thinks it big enough; if it be too big for your thief, your
> thief thinks it little enough: so every true man's apparel fits your thief.
 
Well, fools rush in to offer solutions, and let me be among them.  True to his
assertion that his trade is a mystery, Abhorson presents an enigma.  But I do
think that, like the porter in Macbeth, his language reflects on the "higher"
action of the play.  So, take the Duke to be the true man, and Angelo the
thief.  The Duke dresses Angelo in a brief authority, and how it fits him is
very much an issue, particularly as it resonates with a noose, which, of
course, becomes smaller at a key moment.  That is not to say that direct
meaning can be translated onto the larger play, but merely that a resonance
exists.
 
Michael Baird Saenger
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph L Lockett <
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Date:           Saturday, 2 Dec 1995 14:28:15 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Re: Abhorson
 
> Every true man's apparel fits your thief: if it be too little for your thief,
> your true man thinks it big enough; if it be too big for your thief, your
> thief thinks it little enough: so every true man's apparel fits your thief.
 
I'm not sure why a noose would be referred to as "true man's apparel": perhaps
that's the crux of your question?  (Or perhaps it shows us something of
Abhorson's view of the universe?)
 
As to the sentence... If the noose is too tight on the thief, nevertheless the
observer of the hanging thinks it's big enough (he'll die anyway).  If it's too
big, the thief thinks that nevertheless it's small enough (he'll die anyway).
So a noose always "fits".
 
This is a "mystery" presumably because it is, as presented, a seemingly
contradictory yet true statement.  That is, it is not a Agatha-Christie- type
"mystery" to be puzzled out, but a "mystery" in the ancient sense (a la the
Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, or other cultic rituals): a strange
credo that makes sense once you understand the logic behind it. I believe the
Elizabethans were great fans of such logic puzzles and such.
 
If I've only told you what you already know, I apologize.  But it is indeed a
fascinating line to puzzle out!
 

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