The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0253 Saturday, 13 February 1999.
Date: Friday, 12 Feb 99 15:17:00 PST
Subject: Measure for Measure
Our Inn of Court is planning to present at our monthly dinner meetings a
series of Law & Literature programs. Patterned after the English Inns
of Court, which existed in Shakespeare's time, membership includes young
lawyers (pupils), experienced lawyers (barristers) and judges and
leaders of the bar (masters). The idea is to get lawyers reading and
thinking more about literature, Shakespeare in particular, and its
relationship to their profession. We are starting with Measure for
Measure which seems ideally suited for discussion of a number of current
legal issues; namely, law and morality, the State's reluctance to
enforce or repeal certain laws, sexual harassment, judicial power,
punishment as deterrence and the role of clemency. We plan to perform
one or two scenes (2.2 & 2.4) and then discuss some of the legal issues
raised in the play. We'd be grateful for some help in determining the
meaning of the following lines and perhaps elicit some acting techniques
in memorizing and delivering Shakespeare's often difficult poetry.
In 2.2.93-99 Angelo opines that aggressive law enforcement will deter
prospective crimes. The lines "Either new, or by remissness
new-conceived, And so in progress to be hatched and born" appear to be
referring to some embryonic stage of criminal intent but the
distinction between "new" evils and "new-conceived" evils seems
[The law] now, 't is awake,
Takes note of what is done, and, like a prophet
Looks in a glass, that shows what future evils,
Either new, or by remissness new-conceived,
And so in progress to be hatched and born,
Are now to have no successive degrees,
But, ere they live, to end.
In 2.4.57-58 as Angelo tries to seduce Isabel who says she would rather
suffer the death of her body than her soul Angelo's response is
incomprehensible to us:
I talk not of your soul. Our compelled sins
Stand more for number than for accompt.
In 2.2.23-24 there is an equally arcane line by Isabel who replies to
Angelo's admission of frailty:
Else let my brother die
If not a feodary, but only he
Owe and succeed thy weakness.
We have not been helped by Rowse's Annotated Shakespeare or Asimov's
Guide to Shakespeare and would appreciate any other suggestions.
Finally, we novice actors would be immensely grateful for any special
memory or delivery techniques.
Feel free, if you like, to contact me off-list. Thank you.