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 13.1705  Friday, 26 July 2002

[1]     From:   Michael Shurgot <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 09:05:01 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 13:17:01 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

[3]     From:   Dana Shilling <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 12:58:48 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

[4]     From:   Michael Friedman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 14:01:02 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

[5]     From:   Anna Kamaralli <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 26 Jul 2002 10:30:32 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

[6]     From:   Martin Steward <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 26 Jul 2002 09:35:25 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Shurgot <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 09:05:01 -0700
Subject: 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

Dear Colleagues:

On Annalisa Castaldo's assertion that Isabella never mentions the
possibility of a child conceived out of wedlock, see 3.1.188-90
(Arden).  Here she mentions precisely this fear to the Duke. The best
productions of MM I have seen (E.g. Stratford-Upon-Avon, the Other
Place, fall, 1991) have Isabella reject the Duke. I see her as
definitely having choices at the end of the play; without choices, her
character seems really compromised. After all, she has made choices all
through the play, even when under intense pressure from Marianna to
spare Angelo.

Regards,
Michael Shurgot

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 13:17:01 -0400
Subject: 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

> 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

Isabella says to the disguised Duke in the prison referring to Angelo:

I am now going to resolve him: I had rather my
brother die by the law than my son should be
unlawfully born. 3.1.190

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
http://phoenixandturtle.net

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 12:58:48 -0400
Subject: 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

Annalisa Castaldo said:

> Interestingly, Isabella never mentions the fear of an out of wedlock
> child,

She certainly does--she says that she would rather that her brother die
than that her son be unlawfully born. (How she knows the hypothetical
illegitimate child would be male is another story.)

I think that Shakespeare believes strongly that "good" women want to
have sexual relations with men and to procreate, but only in the context
of marriage. Helena is a little more enthusiastic than some, but she's
doing what Shakespeare thinks is appropriate, and therefore she is a
"good" character.

Dana Shilling

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Friedman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 14:01:02 -0400
Subject: 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

> 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.

Actually, Isabella does express anxiety about the possibility of a
bastard child resulting from her proposed union with Angelo: "I had
rather my brother die by the law, than my son should be unlawfully born"
(3.1.188-90).  For me, the curious element here has always been that
Isabella assumes that the illegitimate child would be male.

Michael Friedman
University of Scranton

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anna Kamaralli <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 26 Jul 2002 10:30:32 +1000
Subject: 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

> Interestingly, Isabella never mentions the fear of an out of wedlock
> child

??????!!!!!!

Yes she does!

She says "I would rather my brother die by the law than my son should be
unlawfully born."

Sex in Shakespeare is almost always procreative, especially in
_Measure_.  There is not only Claudio and Juliet, but Lucio and Kate
Keepdown.  Lucio admits to the disguised Duke that he was the one who
got Kate with child.  Then, when the Duke orders him to marry her at the
end he protests at being forced to marry a prostitute. Had she been a
prostitute at the time of their liaison, Lucio would not have known he
was the father (or at least would have grounds for doubting it, of which
he would certainly have made use), so it looks as if she had to turn to
prostitution when Lucio refused to support her and their child.  We then
have two images before us of what could happen to Isabella if she does
what Angelo asks: she could be imprisoned like Juliet, or made destitute
like Kate.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 26 Jul 2002 09:35:25 +0100
Subject: 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1695 Re: Heaven and Christ Images in All's Well

Annalisa Castaldo writes, "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..."

Strange to imagine that sex before marriage (as opposed to outside it
completely) could ever have been considered "sinful", simply because of
the horrendous practical problems it would throw up (q.v. Britney and
her beau, whose name I forget). In fact, sexual relations during the
period of "handfasting" were not really frowned upon, and the common law
is generally thought to recognise as "marriage" sexual relations
conducted between two people who have exchanged a verbal commitment to
marry in the future (like R & J, for instance). In fact, the common law
sees marriage as being legitimated, or "consummated", by sexual
intercourse; not the other way around. So, under these legal customs,
having sex can stand instead of being married by a registrar, but legal
marriage can be annulled as long as sexual intercourse can be proved not
to have occurred.

Shakespeare's audience, and Shakespeare himself, would have understood
this.  The debate is real y between a biblical interpretation of law and
a legal interpretation; in this period of prohibitions coming out of
common-law courts against ecclesiastical courts like High Commission,
this would have been highly topical. And let's not forget - Shakespeare
got his girlfriend "in the club" before they were married. And this was
almost certainly not a one-off accident: Ann was no spring chicken when
they married - are we being asked to believe that she and Will lived a
life of perfect abstinence right up until two months before they
married? Also, considering that this pattern of older women marrying
younger men was not unusual during the period, we must assume that women
were enjoying the full potential of their sexuality for years outside of
marriage.

To the play:

It might perhaps be argued that, by the final scene, the stark reality
of Claudio's death awakens a sense of humanity in Isabel. The Duke,
making an appeal to the abstract principles that inform Angelo's and
Isabel's view of the world, declares with keen irony that "The very
mercy of the law cries out" for Angelo's death: "Like doth quit like,
and Measure still for Measure" (Riverside 2nd ed., V.i.407-411). Mariana
begs Isabel, "Lend me your knees", and it seems she is asking her to
kneel in supplication before the Duke, but also in prayer before God, to
entreaty grace for her condemned Angelo. Against the Duke's claim that
it makes no sense to ask forgiveness of the victim's sister, Isabel does
kneel, and pleads with the "bounteous" Duke to "Look, if it please you,
on this man condemn'd / As if my brother liv'd" (V.i.430-437, 442-445).
By removing the accusation of judicial murder, Isabel refocuses the
legal debate on the two crimes of adultery:

Isabel.   My brother had but justice,
In that he did the thing for which he died;
For Angelo,
His act did not o'ertake his bad intent,
And must be buried but as an intent
That perish'd by the way. Thoughts are no subjects,
Intents but merely thoughts.
Mariana.    Merely, my lord.
Duke.  Your suit's unprofitable...
(V.i.448-455)

When the Duke responds in this way, he reminds us that what we have
heard is a legal argument made by a character whose rigid view of the
law identifies her with her defendant, Angelo, and by extension with the
aggressive common lawyers who were Shakespeare's contemporaries. The
"suit" is "unprofitable" in two ways: it does not "profit" the community
as the law should; and it does not procure the "profit" of the Duke's
assent, and hence an influence in monarchical decision-making. The Duke
recognizes the radical inconsistencies contained in Isabel's arguments,
which can be compared to the inconsistencies of "artificial reason" -
how can the law be based on immutable custom and yet still require
continual redefinition by a common-law professional elite? Isabel
reinterprets the law twice: by utterly denying the crime of judicial
murder (the Duke, but not Isabel, knows that Claudio is not dead); and
then by claiming that her brother was executed justly because he
committed adultery with Julietta, whereas Angelo only intended to do so
with herself. The problem with this second argument is that Angelo, in
unwittingly having sex with Mariana, committed precisely the same crime
as Claudio - adultery with the woman to whom he was "handfasted", that
is, with whom he had a pre-marital contract in common law [It is
certainly not true, as Craig A. Benthal argues, that "in Angelo's case,
the element of illegal action appears to be missing", "Staging Justice:
James I and the Trial Scenes of Measure for Measure", Studies in English
Literature 32 (1992), pp.258-259. Donna B. Hamilton points out that when
the common lawyers constructed their defence of religious dissidents,
they argued that nonconformist thoughts (errors, heresies, and
enormities) were not in themselves to be grounds for a charge of
treason, and neither had courts any right to wrest a subject's thoughts
from him for the purpose of gathering evidence for conviction:
Shakespeare and the Politics of Protestant England, pp.123-125. Coke
insisted that "No man Ecclesiasticall or Temporall shall be examined
upon secret thoughts of his heart, or of his secret opinion": The
twelfth part of the reports (London 1738), p.26. The problem with
Isabel's defence of this Puritan, however, is that Angelo has indeed
committed adultery. Sandra Billington suggests that Angelo's contract
with Mariana has been allowed to "lapse" because her dowry had fallen
through; but I do not think that she means to offer this as a convincing
legal defence of Angelo's pre-marital sex. She certainly disfavours
Angelo's "legally correct" attitude towards Mariana alongside Claudio's
"illegal" relationship with Julietta in moral terms: Mock Kings in
Medieval Society and Renaissance Drama, p.243. See Daniel J. Kornstein,
Kill All the Lawyers? Shakespeare's Legal Appeal, pp.53-54; and John
Denvir, "William Shakespeare and the Jurisprudence of Comedy", Stanford
Law Review 39 (1987), pp.825, 834-835].  Claudio's apology for himself
is beautifully poised between vindication and contrition, but also
common law and Canon law: he had sex with Julietta "upon a true
contract", and therefore "she is fast my wife, / Save that we do the
denunciation lack / Of outward order" (I.ii.145-149). He does not argue
that his common-law contract renders ecclesiastical law superfluous.
The only person in the play with the authority to make those kinds of
decision - "him, to whose high place and wisdome, the deciding of the
differences [between competing jurisdictions] doth of right appertaine",
as Thomas Ridley put it "To the Reader" in A View of the Civile and
Ecclesiasticall Law (London 1607) - is the Duke, as his plotting with
Mariana reveals. The bed-trick will "Pay with falsehood false exacting,
/ And perform an old contracting" (III.ii.281-282), the rhyme signalling
that the Duke, unlike Claudio, can overrule ecclesiastical law (even, or
especially as he is dressed in clerical robes) which would call the true
contract "false":

He is your husband on a pre-contract:
To bring you thus together 'tis no sin,
Sith that the justice of your title to him
Doth flourish the deceit.
(IV.i.70-74)

The Duke does not shy away from the recognition that this will be a
"deceit", a deliberate contravention of the Canon law; but he takes upon
himself the authority to declare what is required by "justice", with
which he overrules the competing claims of "pre-contract" and "sin". In
the final scene, then, what Isabel ought to do is simply beg the Duke's
clemency and forgiveness for both Angelo and her brother, but in
attempting to make a legal case for Angelo she has committed two
offences: firstly, she has attempted to wrest the controlling legal
authority from the Duke's hands; and secondly, she has abandoned filial
affection to do so, effectively subverting the laws of Nature. Her
argument is not "managed within the terms associated with the common law
concept of equity" [Donna B. Hamilton, Shakespeare and the Politics of
Protestant England, pp.114-115], it rather reinterprets common law in
order to place the power over Angelo's fate in her own hands. In common
law, no crime except judicial murder has been committed: by arguing her
brother's guilt, Isabel expands her definition of common law to include
the Canons of 1604 concerning marriage contracts and divorce (Nos.
99-107), again signalling her intent to subsume all competing legal
jurisdictions under her own interpretation, while committing
inconsistencies against the spirit and the letter of the law to do so.
[On the 1604 Canons, see Donna B. Hamilton, Shakespeare and the Politics
of Protestant England, p.121. Harold Skulsky writes: "Claudio in
Isabella's previous plea had been guilty, but not of a capital offence;
Angelo in her current one is 'innocent,' but only on a point of law. And
the Duke could just as well be speaking for the tradition of equity in
his terse response to all this: 'Your suit's unprofitable.' Isabella has
truly lost her 'prosperous art' (I.ii.180)": "Pain, Law, and Conscience
in Measure for Measure", Journal of the History of Ideas 25 (1964),
p.167. This is pretty close to the play's reality, but still fails to
note that Isabel's "point of law" is fundamentally inconsistent in its
straddling of two separate legal systems and jurisdictions. Her first
legal judgement, upon hearing her brother's case from Lucio, is "O, let
him marry her", I.iv.49, an uncomplicated articulation of the common-law
marriage contract.]

Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.

m

_______________________________________________________________
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.