The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1888 Friday, 15 October 2004
From: Tom Krause <
Date: Thursday, 14 Oct 2004 21:10:36 -0400
Subject: Question on Measure for Measure
Comment: SHK 15.1838 Question on Measure for Measure
I've now read the Gary Taylor piece recommended by Bill Lloyd
("Shakespeare's Mediterranean Measure for Measure," in "Shakespeare and
For my own part, it clearly only helps my case, as it shows that
Dover-Wilson (cited in my essay) isn't the only respected scholar who
believes that MFM was revised sometime after 1605.
Again, my paper's primary contributions on MFM are to point out that it
contains a debasement allegory involving Juan de Mariana and to show how
that allegory explains some specific lines, names, and plot elements of
the play, and why MFM was removed from the Vallodolid copy of the Second
Folio. How the allegory got there - whether Mariana's views were
published before 1605, whether Shakespeare learned of Mariana's views
despite their not having been published until 1605, or whether the play
was later revised by Shakespeare or Middleton or someone else - is
secondary, and may have to be worked out by others. Gary Taylor's work
is relevant to that secondary inquiry.
I think the major parts of Taylor's arguments are worth repeating here
since they bear upon several earlier discussions in this thread,
including the setting of MFM, and its date (Peter Bridgman take note).
As Bill Lloyd says, Taylor's conclusion is that the "site" of the play
was moved from Ferrara (Taylor's best guess at Shakespeare's original
setting) to Vienna by Thomas Middleton in 1621. He also posits that
nearly all of 1.2 (the early scene featuring Lucio, the gentlemen, and
Mistress Overdone) and parts of 2.1, 4.1., 4.3 and possibly 4.2 were
added around that time.
His support includes the following:
1. Shakespeare's 1603-04 audience would not have had any particular
association with Vienna; indeed, MFM is the only English play written
before 1660 that is set in Vienna. Vienna was known primarily as "the
principall Bulwarke of all Christendome against the Turke," yet
Shakespeare makes no reference to Turks, Moors, or Ottomans in the play.
2. The play contains several obvious signs of revision including: (1)
systematic expurgation consistent with 1608 Act to Restrain Abuses by
Players; (2) act divisions; (3) a stanza of a Fletcher song that was
written between 1617 and 1620.
3. An October 1621 English newsletter describing the King of Hungary's
advance on Vienna provides a basis for Lucio's remark about the Dukes
coming "not to composition with the King of Hungary . . . .", and the
first gentleman's rejoinder "Heauen grant vs its peace, but not the King
4. The Italianate names of the characters suggest that the play's
original setting was in Italy, and Shakespeare's audience would have
associated the city's sexual licentiousness with Italy, not Germany.
5. The use of Ferrara was a common setting for other plays of the same
6. A major source for The Taming of the Shrew (Ariosto's "I Suppositi,"
translated by Gascoigne as "The Supposes") was set in Ferrara, which
could be seen as a model for the "Vienna" of MFM because it (1) had
gates, (2) had a Duke who was considered "most juste," (3) had a
character who owned a grange, (4) used ducats, (5) had a character named
"Litio" who resembled Lucio.
7. The plot of MFM also resembles that of Middleton's "The Phoenix" (in
which the Duke of Ferrara's son goes into disguise to spy on people)
which was first performed in court in February 1604, as well as
Marston's Parasitaster (most likely 1604) in which the Duke of Ferrara
also spies while in disguise.
8. "Ferrara" has the same metrical structure as "Vienna."
Along the way, Taylor addresses arguments of other scholars:
1. He dismisses as "nonsense" the notion that the play's setting in
Vienna was related to efforts by Queen Anne's brother, the Duke of
Holst, to raise men for service in Hungary (as advocated by Bennett and
Marcus), and that Vienna in 1604 "would be associated with the efforts
of the Holy Roman Emperor to suppress Protestantism in nearby Hungary"
2. He explains that the Holst-Vienna theory fails to explain the main
passage it seeks to explain ("Lucio: If the Duke, with the other Dukes,
come not to composition with the King of Hungary, why then all the dukes
fall upon the King.//1. Gent. Heauen grant vs its peace, but not the
King of Hungaries.").
3. He also finds implausible the theory the King of Hungary is a
"half-memory" of Corvinus, King of Hungary, from one of the play's
4. He rejects Dover-Wilson's attempts to connect this passage to events
of 1606 and Leah Marcus's attempt to connect it to events of 1608.
Taylor also speculates that the second line of the play (Escalus: "Good
my lord") originally ended with the name "Vincentio," but that the name
was removed in the revision, in order to introduce the idea that the
play was set in Vienna prior to confusing the audience with Italianate
Further support for the argument - as well as elaboration on why Taylor
thinks the revision was done by Middleton - is found in Taylor and
Jowett's "With New Additions, Theatrical Interpolation in Measure for
Measure," in "Shakespeare Reshaped" (1994). In that essay, in addition
to using mathematical techniques to demonstrate that 1.2 was unlikely to
have been written by Shakespeare, Taylor and Jowett reject Lever's - and
Peter Bridgman's - insistence that section 1.2 contains contemporary
references that date the play to 1603.
Most significant for purposes of this thread is Taylor and Jowett's
critique of Lever's analysis of Mistress's Overdone's line: "Thus, what
with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what with
poverty, I am custom-shrunk."
That line, plus the line about plucking houses down, provided the bases
for Peter Bridgman's pronouncement that the play must have been written
in 1603. As attentive readers will recall, Mr. Bridgman also argued:
"Mariana published his book on currency at least a year after Measure
for Measure appeared. End of story." [I have explained elsewhere why
that's not the end of the story even if Shakespeare did write the play
The conclusion of both Taylor pieces is that Mistress Overdone's line
was written not in 1603, but in 1621. In "Shakespeare Reshaped," Taylor
and Jowett reject Lever and thus Bridgman by pointing out that (1)
Shakespeare would be unlikely to have been so critical of the peace with
Spain, which James considered to be one of his major accomplishments;
(2) the term "sweat" was never used to describe the plague (one OED
definition of "sweat" gives "sweating sickness" but it's clear that the
"sweating sickness" was not literally the plague that afflicted London
in 1603), and thus "sweat" probably refers, as Dr. Johnson suggested, to
a cure for syphilis; and (3) the reference to "poverty" is inconsistent
with the fact that London was enjoying something of an economic boom in
1603. Taylor and Jowett are similarly unimpressed by the reference to
pulling down of houses; they don't consider it particularly topical, and
in any event not as a reference to the Sept. 1603 proclamation cited by
Lever and Bridgman, since that proclamation was for the prevention of
the spread of plague and apparently (contra Bridgman) did not mention
brothels and gaming houses.
Again, my own theory does not need to take a position here - but parts
of it can shed light on the debate. On this particular point, I've
pointed out that "sweat" might have been a double entendre for both
plague and the fact that the practice of "sweating" coins caused them to
shrink (a notion that is echoed in "custom-shrunk"). The desire for a
double entendre ("sweat" with "sweat") provides an explanation of why
Shakespeare would refer to "plague" by one of its symptoms, rather than
use a more accurate term.
I've also pointed out that the King of Hungary's "peace" might be a pun
for "piece" ("peece") which was another word for "coin," and this could
help Lever and Bridgman meet Taylor's criticism. Thus, if Lever and
Bridgman are correct that the King of Hungary is the King of Spain, then
the "piece" of the second half of the double-entendre is the debased
Spanish coin, which is referred to elsewhere in the play [per my
interpretation] and is consistent with the coinage and testing imagery
that commentators and editors have observed runs throughout the play.
The censors would not be offended by the double entendre (the idea of
not accepting a foreign King's coin would not be an affront to King
James), and would not see the ensuing remarks in which Lucio and the
Gentlemen point out that soldiers generally favor war as particularly
critical of the impending peace with Spain.
An extra bonus of "Shakespeare and the Mediterranean" is its inclusion
of Richard Wilson's "'Every Third Thought': Shakespeare's Milan," to
which I can't do justice here. Among other things that will be of
interest to anyone interested in the William Shakeshafte theory, Wilson
contends that "Two Gentlemen [of Verona] . . . reveals how
[Shakespeare's] proximity to [Edmond] Campion's mission may have shaped
Shakespeare's entire dramatic strategy. . . ." Wilson also mentions a
letter from Campion to Robert Arden, a Warwickshire Jesuit and possible
relative of Shakespeare's who Wilson says went on to become canon of
Toledo, thus providing another link between Campion and Shakespeare, and
even between Shakespeare and Juan de Mariana (probably Toledo's most
famous Jesuit). [I'm not including these admittedly tenuous
"connections" in my paper, but they are there, for what they are worth]
Mr. Larque left this thread some time ago, saying he had to return to
University soon, but promising to "try" to write one last "reasonably
dispassionate" summary of his argument as to why my essay does not meet
the standards for publication. He hasn't been back, and I need to
submit final revisions to the essay in the next week or two, so I would
be very grateful to anyone who can point me to anything Mr. Larque has
said that the paper should take into account. I've waded through the
hundred-plus pages of his critique.
As it turns out, the only arguments that Mr. Larque has made that were
not taken into account and addressed in the paper are either (1)
completely indefensible; (2) based on bad analogies or Oxfordian logic;
or (3) in the form "You're wrong because I'm right" (and even here, his
arguments often misrepresent my arguments and are almost always
Here is my rough summary of his reasoning, broken down by play and by
Measure for Measure
I. Indefensible Arguments: (1) The argument that my "methodology"
resembles anti-Stratfordian or Bible Code arguments and therefore can
only yield wrong conclusions; (2) The argument that my methodology and
conclusions must be wrong because the conclusions are "unfalsifiable."
II. Bad Analogies Based on Bad Math - Arguments analogizing my argument
to bad arguments of his own invention: (1) The "St. George = George
Blaurock" analogy; (2) the "Catholic-Protestant conflict" analogy.
III. Oxfordian logic: (1) The identification of a character named
"Mariana" in "Fair Em." This would just be another bad analogy if not
for the fact that Mr. Larque actually has managed to fool himself, by
means of a delightfully Oxfordian-esque argument, that he is onto
In short, the fact that "Mariana" appeared in a bed-trick in another
play means nothing without supporting data that Mr. Larque failed to
provide, such as just how common a name was "Mariana" in plays of that
period, and how many such plays involve bed-tricks. Without that sort
of supporting data, his argument is so bad that it would not even meet
the standards for publishability in the laxest Oxfordian publication.
Mr. Larque's "discovery" most likely reflects the obvious fact that in
all the plays involving bed-tricks, some of them will feature characters
named Mariana, which is no more probative than the fact (acknowledged in
the essay) that "Mariana" was a plausible woman's name. And yet,
impervious to both irony and logic, Mr. Larque repeats this argument
again and again, right alongside accusations that my arguments have
something in common with those of the anti-Stratfordians.
With this argument, Mr. Larque has shown us that his preconceptions have
caused him to suffer from the very "extreme gullibility" that he accused
Ed Taft and me of suffering from in his first contribution to this
thread. It barely needs saying that those same preconceptions
contaminate his reasoning on nearly every other point he makes in his
IV. "You're wrong because I'm right" arguments: Any argument about the
meaning of a particular line, esp. whether Shakespeare intended a
particular meaning or double-meaning. These arguments often
misrepresent my essay (and/or accuse me of dishonesty), are typically
about minor points that I have made which Mr. Larque seems to think are
critical to my argument, and almost invariably demonstrate Mr. Larque's
absolute conviction that he knows things that nobody could possibly know
about Shakespeare's intent. It would take much more time than it is
worth to go through each of Mr. Larque's arguments of this type (and
I've responded to many of them already), but I'd be happy to provide
responses to specific arguments that any other reader believes requires
What's left - the only argument that has any merit, at least when stated
in a non-Larquian (i.e. non-circular) fashion - is the fact that I
cannot prove that Shakespeare knew Mariana's views before he published
MFM. But I was aware of this fact before I wrote the essay, and I have
proposed several plausible ways of dealing with it, both in the essay
and in this thread. It's not a basis for refusing publication, much
less proof that I am wrong and Mr. Larque is right.
I. Indefensible Arguments: See above. The arguments about methodology
are not just indefensible as to the Hamlet argument, they are irrelevant
to it. The Hamlet argument - which incidentally makes up about 60% of
the paper but is barely addressed by Mr. Larque - is based on a wholly
different type of reasoning that the MFM argument.
IV. "You're wrong because I'm right" arguments. Two prime examples of
Mr. Larque's reasoning (which seem to be his two main "refutations" of
the Hamlet argument) are his arguments (1) that "picture in little"
necessarily means "miniature portrait"; and (2) that "innovation" must
refer to the child actors. As to the first, although he seems dimly
aware that the paper acknowledges that "picture in little" may well have
been a common term for "miniature portrait," he goes through numerous
non-Shakespearean usages of "picture in little" and demonstrates how
these cannot refer to "coins," a meaningless fact that I have no reason
to contest. He has not answered my explanation that I was proposing a
double-meaning, not an alternative, exclusive definition. As to the
second, he has not explained why the second quarto contains a reference
to an innovation, but no reference to child actors, except - in what we
can only hope is an unintentional error that he still has not
acknowledged - to say that children are referred to in the "two reliable
texts of the play" (meaning presumably the Folio and the first quarto,
which he apparently considers the reliable versions).
In sum, if somewhere buried in Mr. Larque's illogical arguments,
mischaracterizations, and ad hominem attacks lies support for his
contentions that (1) the essay "is rather obviously not worthy of
publication," (2) the MFM argument "is almost certainly wrong," and/or
(3) the Hamlet argument is equally defective, then I encourage you to
let me know, and I'll respond in this space, and possibly even in the
revised draft of the paper. In fact, if anyone thinks that Mr. Larque
has made a single valid argument (apart from the already-addressed date
argument) that does not fall into any of Categories I-IV identified
above, I'd be interested to hear it.
Time-saving tip: If you think one of Mr. Larque's arguments is
compelling, take a look at the essay itself, and you will most likely
find that the argument either misrepresents the essay or is already
I'll conclude on a minor point:
A little more research has disclosed that as recently as the 19th
century, numismatic writers were under the impression that 4/5 of
Emperor Claudius's coins were debased. Apparently, the realization that
these "debased" coins were in fact counterfeits is a recent development.
Accordingly, neither Shakespeare nor I need to go to Nero to find
debasement, and I can simply remove one of the sub-sub arguments that
Mr. Larque had such a virulent reaction to.
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
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.