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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Isabella and Marriages
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1089  Thursday, 5 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 09:30:40 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Isabella and the Active Life

[2]     From:   Barbara R. Hume <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 10:23:21 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1079  Re: Isabella

[3]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 13:27:26 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Marriage in *MM*


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 09:30:40 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Isabella and the Active Life

Dave Evett's most gracious recent response conceding John Velz's point
about the active life is not otiose but generous and large of spirit.
Admitting a mistake is the mark of a true scholar.

Admiringly,
--Ed Taft

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Barbara R. Hume <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 10:23:21 -0700
Subject: 9.1079  Re: Isabella
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1079  Re: Isabella

>this play? In *MM,* isn't Isabella's chastity seen as life-denying?
>(Literally, in the case of her brother: "More than our brother is our
>chastity!") Isn't the preferred state in this play married love, which
>if faithful, is a kind of chastity?

I haven't seen anyone mention the possibility that perhaps Isabella
genuinely accepts the Christian teaching that fornication is wrong.
Chastity involves abstaining from fornication and adultery, but does not
exclude the exercise of marital sexual relations. She can marry and
enjoy the Duke's marriage bed without giving up her chastity.

Celibacy, of course, is a total abstaining from sexual activity of any
kind, which is what she would have committed to in the nunnery.

Rather than being afraid of sex per se, perhaps Isabella was afraid of
endangering her soul if she engaged in unmarried sex, even if it were
forced upon her. (It has historically been the opinion of men that if a
woman is raped or engages in unlawful sex, it must be her fault because
women are evil temptresses.  Such Augustinian thinking most likely
prevailed at this time.)

Isabella must choose between her immortal soul and her brother's life,
not just between one act of sex and her brother's life. Surely this is
enough to give one pause! Perhaps she reasons that her brother would
willingly risk his life in defense of her honor, so it's really the same
thing.

Barbara Hume

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 13:27:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Marriage in *MM*

Bill Godshalk does not think that some of the "marriages" at the end of
*MM* will work well. He may be right, but I'm not sure if that's
Shakespeare's main point. The "forced" marriages at the end of the play
are designed to give people a second chance at
life/happiness/responsibility, etc. They may or may not take it, which
is why, I think, Shakespeare leaves open the possibility that Isabella
declines the Duke's offer. (She can decline it twice, if she wants to!)

Giving people a second chance is really about the best that any ruler
(or playwright) can do. After all, government can't make people behave;
the best it can do is try to steer them in the right direction.

Right, Bill?

Philosophically,
--Ed Taft
 

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