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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Isabella's Chastity
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1245  Tuesday, 20 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jun 2000 12:15:54 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jun 2000 12:37:18 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jun 2000 09:49:19 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Jun 2000 13:45:46 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity

[5]     From:   Michael Skovmand <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Jun 2000 10:46:54 +0200
        Subj:   Sv: SHK 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Jun 2000 12:15:54 -0400
Subject: 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity

In response to Ed Taft:>
>
>One good example is the Duke's scheme to entrap Angelo via the
>bed-trick.  Audiences are always uncomfortable with this plan, and well
>they should be.
>
>Among other things, it risks creating yet another child that will have
>no father.

Disentangling the legal status of the betrothals in MforM is notoriously
impossible, but the nominal explanation is that Angelo and Mariana's
marriage lacks only consummation to become both lawful and religiously
valid. Therefore, even if Mariana had become pregnant, she would have a
legitimate (although probably posthumous!) child--"having a father" in
this context is supposed to mean legitimacy rather than the emotional or
economic contributions of a living parent.

>And what is this reality?  Well, in plain language,  Vincentia uses the
>bed-trick to get rid of a rival for Isabella's hand.

This is a very interesting theory--thanks!

Dana

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Jun 2000 12:37:18 -0400
Subject: Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        SHK 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity


Ed Taft offers to tell us

'What the Duke doesn't say but is surely thinking . . . '

The Duke isn't thinking anything. He can't think. He has no mind to
think with. He's not a living human being. He is part of a work of
fiction. It's a funny old business. It's called art.

T. Hawkes

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Jun 2000 09:49:19 -0700
Subject: 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1241 Re: Isabella's Chastity

Hi, Ed.

Thanks for your kind response to my post.  I agree with your point about
the Duke's formulation of the bed-trick, which works out a little too
well at the end, and I think it's broadly correct that "almost all of
the characters use ethical and moral language to justify their own
political and personal actions, thus mystifying the real bases of their
actions and consequently misleading others and themselves as to what
they are really doing and why."

I suppose that my follow-up is whether "mystifying" exhausts the
apparent ethical motives.  Certainly, there are any number of hypocrites
in this play, as in many of Shakespeare's plays, and a lot of them are
unconscious hypocrites, explored brilliantly by Harry Berger, and
fascinatingly in your series of posts.  The question remains, however,
whether such mystification exhausts morality, and more broadly, whether
self-interest exhausts motivation.  Aren't there easier ways for
everyone involved to achieve their goals?  I would tend to think that if
morality is only a sort of veneer on the most perverse desires, it
could, in principle, be jettisoned.  It perhaps even ought to be
abandoned in the name of authenticity.

But such "demystification" wouldn't lead to the good, unless ethics has
a life other than that of mystification.  It might, on the contrary,
merely lead to the frank exploitation that Lucio indulges in.  Why is
Vincentio's abuse of power not only self-deceiving, but actually wrong?
Why is Angelo's consciousness of his sinfulness insufficient to make him
do the right thing?

I think a hint towards answering these questions comes from characters
like Mistress Overdone, who is maintaining Lucio's child despite his
attacks.  Or, as I noted in my earlier message, Isabella asking for
mercy for Angelo, despite a lack of any really self-interested reason to
do so.

Cheers,
Se

 

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