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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Isabella's Chastity
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1276  Friday, 23 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Edmund M. Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Jun 2000 22:35:21 +0000
        Subj:   Isabella's Chastity

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Jun 2000 10:01:14 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1266 Re: Isabella's Chastity


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund M. Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Jun 2000 22:35:21 +0000
Subject:        Isabella's Chastity

I am touched by Terence's concern for my mental health.  His anguished
cry, "Ed, Ed?" reveals a sensitive, cultured mind ready to reach out and
help whenever needed.  It's a pity that Terry wasn't born a bit sooner
so that he could have explain things to the authors in the following two
stories:

The first (in Aubrey?), is that Shakespeare told a friend that he had to
"kill off" Mercutio because the character had such a mind of his own
that he was out of control and threatening to unbalance the plot,
indeed, to take over the whole story.

The second is that one afternoon, after a long day of writing,
Dostoievsky stumbled down from his garret like a drunk man, holding his
head and muttering to a friend that his characters were out of control.
They don't want to do what I want them to do! he complained.  They won't
listen to me!

Could you have helped these two men, Terence?  Terence?

Back to MM.  Ace Detective and Legal Expert Larry Weiss writes:

"Vincentio creates a situation in which Angelo unwittingly completes his
marriage to Mariana.  (It would have been a nice question as to whether
Vincentio seems addicted to compelling people to marry against their
will.  Angelo and Lucio are two instances; I wonder if Isabella is a
third."

Nice point, Larry. Of course she is "a third."  What woman wants to
marry a man whom she has addressed throughout as "father" and who has
addressed her as "daughter"?  It's really a kind of incest by proxy,
isn't it?  And what good "father" wants to marry his "daughter"?  Well,
this former "good father" does, doesn't he?  It was Sean Lawrence, I
think, who reminded us that Isabella's wordlessness speaks volumes, and
I think he is right.  Between the Duke's first proposal and his second
is a span of 42 lines in which Isabella soundlessly registers her
bewilderment and, then, her understanding: like Angelo, the Duke has
been after her all the time!  Like Angelo, he has laid a trap for her,
but this time, there is no escape!  Like Isabella, the audience has the
same chance to figure out what has really happened here.  Their beloved
father/friar has been exposed for what he really is, just as Lucio
exposed him in the same scene some 200 lines earlier.

And the proof for this contention was provided by Shakespeare right at
the start of 3.2, immediately after the Duke proposes the bed-trick.
Addressing Pompey (another politician), Vincentio says,

    Fie, sirrah, a bawd, a wicked bawd!
    The evil that thou causest to be done,
    That is thy means to live. . . (3.2. 19-21)

Pompey has acted as a pander and a go-between for Mistress Overdone by
supplying her with young men (and young women?).  His way of thriving
depends on the evil he causes to be done.  Having just proposed the
bed-trick, who else is in exactly the same position as Pompey?  Who has
done precisely the same thing he condemns Pompey for?

This Duke is a first-class jerk!

Counselor, I rest my case.

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Jun 2000 10:01:14 -0700
Subject: 11.1266 Re: Isabella's Chastity
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1266 Re: Isabella's Chastity

Terence writes:

> Ed Taft writes, 'Characters do think, feel, have motivations, and act --
> all of this goes on in the mind of the artist . . .'  Oh dear.  It all
> goes on in the mind of the artist, Ed, precisely BECAUSE it can't go on
> in the mind of the character.  Characters don't have minds, Ed. Ed?

Both the strength and the weakness of Terry's argument lies in its
appeal to common sense.  What we na

 

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