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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Sins in MM
Shakespeare Electronic Conference: SHK 8.0223. Sunday, 16 February 1997.

[1]     From:   Surajit A. Bose <
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        Date:   Saturday, 15 Feb 1997 15:42:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0216 Re: Sins in MM

[2]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 15 Feb 97 22:51:39 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Sins in MM


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Surajit A. Bose <
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Date:           Saturday, 15 Feb 1997 15:42:33 -0500
Subject: 8.0216 Re: Sins in MM
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0216 Re: Sins in MM

Dan Loewenstein's conclusion:

>show that Isabella's ethical dilemma, like almost everything else in
Measure
>for Measure, is far too complex to be reduced to a neat ethical formula.
The
>context is simply too rich and paradoxical.

is of course right on target; in the spirit of that conclusion, something
he says earlier in his marvelous post needs qualification:

>Although many characters in the play try to dissuade Angelo from executing
>Claudio, no one argues that Claudio's behavior is not within the capital
>offense.  This cannot be decisive, from an ethical point of view.  T

Yes and no. No-one (not even "the fornicatress" Juliet) "argues that
Claudio's behavior is not within the capital offense." Except for Claudio
himself, who points out that he and Juliet have secretly entered into a
mutually binding nuptial contract. The existence of this contract is surely
meant to complicate the nature of Claudio's offense. Is he in fact legally
guilty or isn't he?  It's odd that Claudio is the only one to mention this
contract, and no-one produces it as evidence in his favor: is he just lying
to save his skin?

This contract itself contrasts with the (unilaterally rescinded) contract
between Angelo and Mariana. The two contracts do not have the same legal
force. But the existence of contracts of different legal standing
intensifies the problem: what is the relation between legal and moral
culpability?
Similar questions: What is the nature of contracts and trusts? What are an
individual's ethical obligations to him/herself, state, and society? The
play raises these issues and, like jesting Pilate, does not stay for an
answer.

-Surajit

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Saturday, 15 Feb 97 22:51:39 GMT
Subject:        Re: Sins in MM

Daniel Lowenstein concludes

> Isabella's ethical dilemma, like almost everything else in Measure
> for Measure, is far too complex to be reduced to a neat ethical
> formula.  The context is simply too rich and paradoxical.

Alternatively, the fact that Angelo orders Claudio's execution after and
despite enjoying Isabella (or so he thinks) shows that the ethical
questions are, finally, irrelevant. It doesn't matter what Isabella
believes or does, Claudio's going to get it anyway. Only trickery
(Ragusine's head for Claudio's) is going to save the day.

Gabriel Egan
 

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