Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1695  Thursday, 25 July 2002

[1]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Jul 2002 11:27:01 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1686 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

[2]     From:   Anna Kamaralli <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 13:47:31 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1686 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 24 Jul 2002 11:27:01 -0400
Subject: 13.1686 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1686 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

The parallels between Isabella and Bertram are fruitful in many ways,
but we should remember (in our much more permissive time) that there was
a huge difference between legal marriage (Bertram) and fornication
(Isabella - and in fact isn't Isabella there before Angelo because of
the seriousness with which the law views fornication?).

Interestingly, Isabella never mentions the fear of an out of wedlock
child, despite the fact that this is how Claudio was "caught" and the
punishment that would descend on her if she had slept with Angelo and
been impregnated. But surely that additional complication would have
been apparent to the audience.  Bertram, on the other hand, specifies
the need for a child to make the union real, so he does not seem to fear
siring children on an "unworthy" mother.

Annalisa Castaldo

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anna Kamaralli <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 13:47:31 +1000
Subject: 13.1686 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1686 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

Paul Swanson writes:

>Sean Lawrence raises, I think, a fair and insightful point in comparing
>the plight of MM's Isabella and AWW's Bertram: they are facing similar
>types of coercion. If you argue that Isabella's sense of personal
>freedom and choice are being taken from her by the Duke, can we not see
>Bertram as the same rights taken from him?

I think we need to start getting very specific here about what we're
comparing, and where our tie-ins are.  Re-reading Sean's post, it seems
to me he was comparing the Bertram-Helena situation with the
Isabella-Angelo situation, not the Isabella-Duke situation.  If you
assume that Isabella has no choice but to accept the Duke (which is
probably a reasonable assumption, although she says nothing either way,
and there have been some rewarding alternatives explored on stage) then
I would say that her position in relation to the Duke is very similar to
Bertram's; but I think her position in relation to Angelo is a whole
different game, and I would be very uncomfortable about drawing those
comparisons.

>However, we do not need to see Helena as morally "good" or "bad" to
>reject the idea that she is any type of hero in the play.

What about her structural position?  She has by far the largest part in
the play, drives the main action, is actively supported by many other
characters, and hers is the journey the audience follows most closely.
I suppose here we're stubbing our toes against the line between 'hero'
and 'protagonist'.

>The first argument seems to hinge on all kinds of dubious foundations.
>Can an action (like Bertram's bedding of the person he thinks is Diana)
>be judged to be beneficent when its intent is wicked? If this is so,
>shall we judge Angelo's sexual blackmail of Isabella to be beneficent
>because her sexual acquiescence will save her brother's life? Obviously
>not.

Again, I think the point of comparison here is becoming a bit confused.
The parallel here is Bertram and Helena with Angelo and Mariana, that
the action will "compel him to her recompense."  This is not the same
thing as Angelo's relationship to Claudio, of whom there is no real
equivalent in _All's Well_.  Angelo doesn't have to have sex with
Isabella in order to save Claudio, he could do it out of mercy.

>Further, can a person who intends to commit a "wrong" be acquitted
>of blame simply because he/she made a mistake and didn't commit the
>wrongful action he/she intended to? If I intend to steal a ten dollar
>bill that I believe has fallen from my friend's pocket, but I mistakenly
>and unknowingly take one that has fallen from my own pocket, am I really
>clear of any wrongdoing?

Now you're getting to one of the key points of _Measure_, that will no
doubt continue to be argued indefinitely:

For Angelo, his act did not o'er take
His bad intent, and must be buried but
As an intent that perished by the way.

(Quoting from memory, forgive me my inaccuracies.)

>But if Bertram does not choose
>moral redemption on his own, then all is NOT well which ends well.
>Shakespeare shows us that while we can punish wrongdoing, we cannot
>compel virtue.

Quite true, but dependant on whether Bertram's lines to the King before
Helena's entrance about having learned to value her since she died are
regarded as sincere or political - something that must be negotiated by
each performance, and may yield widely differing but equally convincing
results.  I would argue above all that performance is the best vehicle
for interpretation, and many ways of reading a character's journey can
be "to say truth, true and not true."

Anna.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.