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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: May ::
Re: Isabella's Chastity
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1087  Wednesday, 24 May 2000.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 May 2000 11:34:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1077 Re: Isabella's Chastity

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 May 2000 14:32:33 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1077 Re: Isabella's Chastity

[3]     From:   John Savage <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 May 2000 16:41:56 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 11.1061 Re: Isabella's Chastity


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 May 2000 11:34:21 -0400
Subject: 11.1077 Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1077 Re: Isabella's Chastity

To Gabriel Egan:

Might I suggest that you obtain a dictionary, and consult it?

'DC, as anyone stateside would know, refers to the city of Washington,
as opposed to the state, as many miles from here as the Square Mile is.

I would expect a cosmopolitan Brit like you to know that, too.

And I'm sure you could produce a racist, sexist, Marxist, McCarthian
analysis on the subject of someone's saying "good morning"-and find a
way to turn it into prurience, too.

But that still wouldn't make your arguments valid.

To Marilyn Bonomi, who writes:

> I've *never* found Mike to be an insensitive reader of anything :)

Hear, hear.

And to Sean, who muses:

>I'm wondering whether the vaguery between notions of justice, that it's
>difficult to draw lines between them, shows that such notions tend to
>pollute one another. . . . The Duke's test seems modeled, as Florence
>Amit says, on God's experiment with Job. The comedic signals, including
>the Duke's omnipresence, let us feel the outcome is preordained.
>
>This seems to conflate things, as well, though not notions of justice,
>at least not explicitly.  Isn't there something rather wrong with the
>Duke assuming the role of God, shriving his subjects, for instance?  I
>would assume that his unwillingness to execute an unprepared Bernadine
>shows that he recognizes limits on his power.  But by the end, these
>limits seem to have been finessed, if not transgressed.
>
>I'm not sure whether the conflation of ideas of justice, like the
>conflation of spiritual guidance and secular rule, should be entirely
>viewed as a good thing.  This is, after all, a problem comedy.

I wonder if we can now put some comments made earlier in the thread into
perspective, i.e. about Shakespeare offering some gentle advice to a
James I (James VI, to some of you) who in 1603/4 was too busy slobbering
over his beloved "Steenie" and partying away the exchequer to take real
command of the throne he had so long sought after? His abdication of
responsibility and control was a major shock to a population ruled in
harmony, peace, and long prosperity by Good Queen Bess, and perhaps this
play is in part a comment about what happens when good men (or at least
supposedly decent men in power) do nothing, to apply Burke
retroactively. The deus ex machina activities of the Duke (stress on the
deus) certainly prevent the tragedy, and neatly facilitate the comedy:
but this is one of those plays in which "comedy" can be defined as
"tragedy averted." None of the putative "good guys" is particularly
good-and that may well be what's rotten in this corner of-well, you
know.

Best,
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 May 2000 14:32:33 -0400
Subject: 11.1077 Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1077 Re: Isabella's Chastity

I think Sean Lawrence and I probably do agree in our overall responses
to Measure for Measure. As for the details, it's always possible to be a
little more precise, even about vagueness.

I wonder how far the Duke's symbolic relation to God should be pressed.
It does bother me, for example, when he tells Isabella that Claudio is
dead. On the other hand, I don't want to treat him entirely as a
realistic character.  This play heavily emphasizes the experimental
nature of the Duke's actions, inviting a little detachment.

One thing the play seems concerned with is the relation of justice to
interest-to the position of the judge, or the appellant. The Duke says,
for example, that if Angelo is pure, then his actions are just. How
should we take this? And how far is it relevant, since we know he isn't
pure?

Would the case Isabella makes for sparing Angelo, at the end, be a
properly just response if it came directly from the Duke? But of course
it doesn't.  Shakespeare lets us accede to these arguments more easily
because Isabella makes them. You can bend justice out of self-interest
or out of mercy.  Either may be overdone. Here Graham "orgy of mercy"
Bradshaw seems to feel the Duke errs on the side of mercy. That might
feel truer if he didn't ratify arguments first made by Isabella.

How exactly do you define the different "conceptions of justice"?

Just a few questions without final answers.

David

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Savage <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 May 2000 16:41:56 -0400
Subject: Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        SHK 11.1061 Re: Isabella's Chastity

Michael Skovmand writes:

>The discussion concerning Isabella's chastity,
>it seems to me, is very much to do with MM being
>both a problem play and a comedy,

Isn't this a misuse of the word "comedy" as understood in Shakespeare's
day?
 

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