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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Isabella's Chastity
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1203  Monday, 12 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 21:45:09 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 09 Jun 2000 09:55:23 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Isabella's Chastity

[3]     From:   Ian Munro <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Jun 2000 11:59:48 -0600 (MDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 09 Jun 2000 13:55:12 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 21:45:09 -0400
Subject: 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity

Larry Weiss comments that:

>Ed Taft writes, "The intent to commit a crime is all it takes to make us
>guilty of that crime in the eyes of God."
>
>I'll leave it to Ed to justify the ways of God.  Fortunately, the law is
>more sensible than God, and a mere intent to commit a crime is not
>criminal.  Of course, Angelo's offense may have gone beyond mere intent
>and amounted to an attempt or at least a solicitation, which presents
>another issue.

I respectfully refer Learned Counsel to the RICO laws of his own state
(the acronym for which I may have misspelt, being a law-abiding
non-conspirator myself), as to whether or not the law punishes intent .
. . as well as the laws concerning "assault with intent to kill."

And rest my case.

Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 09 Jun 2000 09:55:23 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Isabella's Chastity

Only Milton can justify the ways of God to man. But my comment on
Isabella's speech is doctrinally correct, at least as Isabella herself
would presumably understand it.  Catholic Doctrine is -- and was -- that
once we will to do a crime, we are as guilty as if we had actually done
it.  This view is supported by both Augustine and Aquinas, and is still
standard in Catholic Catechisms.

As Larry Weiss points out, Angelo actually went beyond simply willing a
crime -- he tried to commit it, but was foiled in a way that he does not
understand at the time. He is certainly guilty of something, but, given
the bed-trick, of what?  I would suggest that he is legally not guilty,
but theologically clearly guilty.

Pat may be right that Isabella is not a novice by Act 5. And Pat's view
that Isabella seems fishing to find a basis for mercy also seems right.
But the basis she finds is not an appropriate one, or so it seems to me.

She is really doing the Duke's bidding here, so let's change the focus
to HIM for a second. In the end, by sparing Angelo it is often siad that
the Duke shows mercy. But does he?  It's clear that Angelo committed no
legal crime in either ordering Claudio killed or in unknowingly having
sex with Mariana, the Duke's comments to the contrary not withstanding
(5.1.400-415).  But a little thought makes clear that the Duke does
accomplish two feats: (1) he marries off Angelo to Mariana, thus
insuring that there is no way that Angelo can ever marry Isabella; and
(2) he has so publicly humilia-ted Angelo and ruined his reputation that
Angelo will never be judged fit for public office again.

Some food for thought -- and, I hope -- for future discussion.

--Ed

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ian Munro <
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Date:           Friday, 9 Jun 2000 11:59:48 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity

Larry Weiss writes:

>Ed Taft writes, "The intent to commit a crime is all it takes to make us
>guilty of that crime in the eyes of God."
>
>I'll leave it to Ed to justify the ways of God.  Fortunately, the law is
>more sensible than God, and a mere intent to commit a crime is not
>criminal.

Katherine Eisaman Maus talks about this issue at some length in
_Inwardness and Theater_, in the context (ultimately) of _Othello_.  She
claims that the law ignores unacted desires (because they are
ubiquitous), except in two special circumstances: witchcraft and
treason.  I wonder to what extent it might be better to frame Angelo's
malfeasance as political instead of moral (not that the two are
completely separable).

Ian Munro

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 09 Jun 2000 13:55:12 -0700
Subject: 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1195 Re: Isabella's Chastity

Don Bloom questions Ed Taft:

> >The intent to commit a crime is all it takes to make us guilty of
> >that crime in the eyes of God. Hence, if I decide to rob a bank but
> >cannot find the right time to do so, in God's eyes I am still a robber,
> >etc., etc.
>
> I find myself uncertain of the moral or theological or scriptural basis
> of this assertion. The source of my doubt can be seen if we change the
> case to one that clearly cannot be undone, such as murder.

I think Ed is referring to Matthew 5.28:

...whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed
adultery with her already in his heart (KJV).

Of course, we can disagree about the meaning of this, but suffice to say
that it tends to lead to the inevitable conclusion that mankind is
completely depraved, and that there is no life without sin.  Hence the
universal need for forgiveness, which Isabella is also arguing for, as
Pat rightly points out.

Larry Weiss mentions that

>Fortunately, the law is
>more sensible than God, and a mere intent to commit a crime is not
>criminal.

Of course.  And this is the distinction between a law which is designed
to ensure some sort of social contract, and one which makes a statement
of our existential situation.  Both sorts of law, I think, have
relevancy for the play, which seems to draw its power by playing on and
blurring the distinction.

Cheers,
Se

 

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