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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
Question on Measure for Measure
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1924  Thursday, 21 October 2004

[Editor's Note: I would appreciate it if contributors to this thread
would make an effort to bring it to a conclusion soon.]

[1]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 14:54:26 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 12:38:35 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure

[3]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 12:46:49 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure

[4]     From:   Sarah Cohen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 11:17:50 -0700
        Subj:   Question on Measure for Measure

[5]     From:   Tom Krause <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Oct 2004 01:19:43 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure

From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 14:54:26 +0100
Subject: 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure

Tom Krause writes ...

 >Note also the references to Diana in both plays.  In All's Well, Diana
 >is a virgin character named for the goddess of chastity (thus a symbol
 >of purity, thus a metaphor for pure coinage)

Mr Krause's single-mindedness is stunning.  As this thread develops we
will no doubt discover that every mention of purity, goodness and grace
in the canon is a reference to high quality coinage, while every mention
of sin, vice, baseness, bastardy etc is a reference to cheap metal
alloys.  Diana in Pericles is certainly a metaphor, but if Mr Krause
cannot guess what she stands for, he might consider the following ...

1 - WS's collaborator on Pericles was the Catholic recusant George Wilkins.

2 - In 1609 Pericles was included in a season of religious mystery plays
staged by a troupe of Catholic recusant actors that toured the Yorkshire

3 - Pericles was the only secular play included in the 1619 playbook
compiled by Jesuit schoolmasters at their school at St Omer.

4 - The climactic scene of Pericles is set around an altar dedicated to
a virgin.  The vestals who tend the altar are referred to as 'nuns'.

5 - When Pericles was written there were no longer any altars dedicated
to virgins, nor any nuns, in England.

Peter Bridgman

From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 12:38:35 -0400
Subject: 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure

Mr. Briggs, Shakespeare was very particular in his character's names. If
that hasn't been amply proven by now, I dunno, I just dunno.

From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 12:46:49 -0400
Subject: 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure

Mr. Yawney writes:

 >Plays taken as analogies to contemporary issues (such as Richard II or A
 >Game at Chess)
 >more bluntly connect to the issues they were thought to be speaking
 >about. No writer that I can think of that era refers to secret or covert
 >meanings in contemporary drama, which would support this debasement
 >allegory theory. They only refer to more overt meanings, even in plays
 >though to use allegory or analogy.

Yeah, most writers that we know from that period were What You See Is
What You Get, WYSIWYG. Shakespeare wasn't. That's why we still study
him, still discover new in his 400-year-old wordplay. He wasn't ordinary
and comparing him to ordinary talented writers is apples and oranges and
always will be.

From:           Sarah Cohen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 11:17:50 -0700
Subject:        Question on Measure for Measure

It is entirely possible that some people in the original audience of
Measure for Measure did indeed spend their time in the playhouse
searching for allegories. (Who is meant by Mariana? Who is meant by
Frederick? Where is this moated grange? Is Isabella Elizabeth? Is the
Duke James I? Is there a political message here about debasement of the
coinage? Is there one about religious tolerance? How can I get the
author in trouble?).  Some may even have been so avid to find hidden
meanings that they discovered a few not intended by the playwright.
Certainly enough of these people existed in contemporary theatre
audiences for Ben Jonson to make fun of them in his Induction to
Bartholomew Fair:

" is finally agreed by the foresaid hearers and spectators that
they neither in themselves conceal, nor suffer by them to be concealed,
any state-decipherer, or politic pick-lock of the scene, so solemnly
ridiculous as to search out who was meant by the gingerbread-woman, who
by the hobby-horse-man, who by the costermonger, nay, who by their
wares. Or that will pretend to affirm, on his own inspired ignorance,
what Mirror of Magistrates is meant by the Justice, what great lady by
the pig-woman, what concealed statesman by the seller of mousetraps, and
so of the rest. But that such person, or persons so found, be left
discovered to the mercy of the author, as a forfeiture to the stage and
your laughter aforesaid."

Did Shakespeare put a debasement allegory in Measure for Measure? I
don't know. If he did, his audience would have caught it. But if he did
not, his audience might have caught it anyway!

Sarah Cohen

From:           Tom Krause <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 Oct 2004 01:19:43 -0400
Subject: Question on Measure for Measure
Comment:        SHK 15.1917 Question on Measure for Measure

Before I get started on individualized responses I wanted to say one
thing:  In a sense, there IS a debasement allegory in Measure for
Measure - Mariana saves Angelo from debasement, and the two of them get
married in the end, the perfect union of coinage and antidebasement
principles. The question we are really debating is whether Shakespeare
intended to put the allegory in the play, like whether or not what
sounds like a pun in someone else's speech is an intentional pun or an
accident.  Based on everything I know about Shakespeare and his work, I
would give him the benefit of the doubt and conclude that he probably
did intend the allegory.  It's fine for you to be skeptical (but please
do consider the evidence), but I don't see how some of you can be so
nearly sure I'm wrong. It's really not that much of a stretch, and it
really does explain a lot about the play.

Todd Pettigrew writes:

 >"On the matter of how common the name "Mariana" was in plays, and for
 >what it's worth, Berger and Bradford's Character Index lists 14 plays
 >from the period with a character named "Mariana." Another 10 named

It's a start -- if you can tell us how many total plays Berger and
Bradford cover, how many of these involve bed tricks, how many of the
ones with bed-tricks involve Marianas (and what role she plays in the
bed-trick), how many total female character names are used in all the
plays, how many female characters were involved in each of the plays and
in each of the plays involving bed-tricks and in each of the bed-tricks,
and probably a number of other quantities I'm not thinking of right now,
then maybe someone who thinks it's worthwhile can do the "correlation."
But please don't do it on my account!

I can say with considerable confidence that with such a small number of
Marianas in bed-tricks we will find that the variance is so high that we
will not be able to infer a true positive correlation.  And as I
explained in a previous post, even a mathematically significant
correlation would not address the basic question of whether Shakespeare
might have meant Juan de Mariana.

John Briggs wrote:

 >"Peter Bridgman kicked this all off by commenting on Tom Krause's style
 >of reasoning.  Once again Tom Krause has made the assertion that "the
 >great soldier Frederick who died at sea" was a reference to Federico di
 >Spinola, but without producing any evidence that anyone in England had
 >heard of him! If no one had heard of him, why would the audiences be
 >confused?  For the record, my own view is that "Measure for Measure" is
 >a work of fiction, and that the names have no significance.  The onus is
 >on Tom Krause to produce contemporary English reports of Federico and
 >his death."

I'm baffled by your apparent belief that the Spinola example
demonstrates a defect in my "style of reasoning."  The last time you
raised this point (your Aug. 24 post), I explained to you that Spinola
had been a prominent member of Spain's military force from 1593-1603,
and that his death in a naval battle off Ostend would certainly have
been widely reported (see my Aug. 25 post).  Now you seem to be
insisting that I prove (beyond this obvious inference) that the English
had heard of him.  Of course they had.  He was operating a fleet of
galleys in the English Channel for several years, where he preyed on
shipping and had skirmishes with English warships (including one in
which he lost all of his galleys but his flagship).  Here is a quote
from Wernham, "The Return of the Armadas:  The Last Years of the
Elizabethan War Against Spain 1595-1603" (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1994),
p. 269:

"This second doubt [of the Queen's decision to dismiss the army around
London in August 1599] was speedily justified.  Reports came pouring in
almost at once that the six galleys from Santander, provided and led by
Frederico Spinola, were at Le Conquet on their way to Dunkirk and Sluys.
  These authentic reports were, almost inevitably, accompanied by fresh
rumours that the Ferrol armada was close behind them  . . . . The London
bands and a good part of the army that had been around the city were
called back."

This is in reference to the "invisible Armada" which "called forth
defence preparations by sea and even more by land on a scale comparable
to those of 1588."  (pp. 271-72)

In other words, England in 1599 feared a Spanish invasion, and felt that
Spinola and his galleys were going to play a part in it.  The reports
that "poured in" about Spinola would have reached the ears of a good
number of Londoners, who were busily preparing to defend their city.
Wernham cites various contemporary sources, including Calendar of State
Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth, 1598-1601.

I don't have a citation to an exact contemporary source about Federico's
death, but I assure you it was a big deal.  An account of it appears in
Edward Grimeston's "A Generall History of the Netherlands" (London
1608), and I'd be willing to bet, though I can't prove just now, that
Federico's death is mentioned in Grimeston's "A True Historie of the
Memorable Siege of Ostend" (London 1604).

Does that satisfy my onus?

And where exactly do you draw the line on your "work of fiction"
argument?  Do you take a position on what the plague, the war, the
peace, the sweat, the gallows, and the King of Hungary refer to?  If you
say they don't refer to anything (it's fiction, after all), then you are
taking a position, but it's a position that most critics disagree with.
  And if you say they refer to something, why would it be such a stretch
for a name to refer to someone?

 >"In a similar vein, it might inform the discussion of Juan de Mariana if
 >it could be established which (if any) of his works featured in the only
 >known large seventeenth-century Jesuit library in England, now at
 >Lambeth Palace (!) - see Hendrik Dijkgraaf, The Library of a Jesuit
 >Community at Holbeck, Nottinghamshire, 1679 (2003) isbn 0951881175."

Interesting, and this could be helpful if it tells us that the library
was in existence in 1603-04 and what its collection contained then (does
the book address these questions?).  By 1610, Mariana's De Rege work was
clearly known everywhere, since it was thought to have inspired the
assassination of Henry IV of France. It is also thought that King James
had his very own copy of the treatise on currency debasement.  And of
course by the time of the Commonwealth, "there was scarce a Cobbler,
tho' he knew not so much as the Title of the Work, but quoted Mariana's
treasonable Doctrines to Authorize's Ote's Narrative . . . ." (from
Stevens' introduction to his 1699 translation of Mariana's History of

John Briggs goes on:

 >"I do, however, find the correlation of Marianas to bed-tricks
 >intriguing, and would suggest that Shakespeare (possibly unconsciously)
 >picked up the name 'Mariana' while studying other bed-trick plays,
 >preparatory to writing one of his own - probably "All's Well That Ends

What correlation?  Why are you so eager to accept a "correlation"
without proof (i.e. number of plays, number of Marianas, number of bed
tricks, variance, etc.) but insist on more and more proof as to Federico?

Moreover, to make the assertion that Shakespeare studied other plays,
don't you have to establish that Shakespeare had physical access to
those other plays?  Do you know if they were in print?  Don't you have
the onus of proving this?

You're certainly entitled to "suggest" that this might be Shakespeare's
source (just as if we happened to learn that Shakespeare dated a Mariana
in 1603 one could "suggest" that that was Shakespeare's source).  But it
is a very weak suggestion, and the availability of that possibility
simply doesn't add anything to the existing argument as to Juan de
Mariana.  Unless you think (as Mr. Larque appeared to) that the evidence
that Shakespeare got the name from a previous bed-trick play is so
strong that no other explanation is even thinkable, then you still have
to address the merits of the Juan de Mariana argument.

 >"On a lighter note, I can report that I have not come to a conclusion
 >over the knotty problem of whether Lyford Grange still had a moat in the
 >late sixteenth century - nor, indeed, whether it was even called Lyford
 >Grange, rather than More Place, its previous name.  I have, however,
 >located a chapel of St Luke, but it is three miles away from Lyford, is
 >not in the same parish, and is not in the villages nearest to Lyford.
 >Its precise location is left as an exercise for the credulous!"

Simpson calls it "the moated grange at Lyford" (p. 310, 1907 edition)
and refers to events occurring on the drawbridge in connection with
Campion's visit (e.g. p. 315).  Waugh calls it "Lyford Grange" and
refers to both the moat and the drawbridge.  I think we have to presume
that these authors would have told us if the place was not named Lyford
when Campion was there; perhaps the name was changed after Thomas More
was executed.  Or is the onus on me to produce a contemporary document
that proves this as well?

Nice find on the chapel of St. Luke - assuming that Lyford Grange is the
"moated grange," then it's certainly possible that parishioners from St.
Luke's attended Campion's last mass there, and that this was the St.
Luke's Shakespeare was referring to.  Before anyone jumps on me from
changing horses from Luke Kirby to St. Luke's, understand - as I've said
before - that the debasement theory has a lot of flexibility in the margins.

John Briggs also writes:

 >"What worries me about the attribution of revision to Middleton is that
 >John Jowett has now come out and declared "Timon of Athens" (1605) to be
 >a collaboration between Shakespeare and Middleton.  If that is indeed
 >the case, why should the putative Middleton revisions to "Measure for
 >Measure" (1603/4) and "Macbeth" (1606), be revisions rather than the
 >result of collaboration, and thus contemporaneous?"

I think Taylor and Jowett's answer would be that they believe they have
found a clear contemporary reference to a 1621 event, as described in my
post (i.e. the attack on Vienna by the King of Hungary).  Thanks for
your response on the other aspects of my Taylor summary; I've run out of
time tonight and will have to let Mr. Taylor's work speak for itself.

M. Yawney writes:

 >"I probably did not pay attention enough to the whole debate and assumed
 >you considered the allegory to be more central. If the allegory is only
 >slightly related to the plot Shakespeare chose and has little impact on
 >the play's meaning, then it does seem to be a pretty marginal issue even
 >in your account of it."

Well, you'd have to read the essay (which is still posted on the site)
to see how "central" or "marginal" it is.  My point was that it was
easily added on top of the source play - it mostly appears in the
dialogue that Shakespeare wrote and the plot elements that Shakespeare
added - and the source play gave Shakespeare fodder for a plenty of
other issues addressed by MFM.

M. Yawney also writes:

 >"Most allegories of the period (and after) have original plots, since it
 >would be highly unlikely to find an existing story that would carry an
 >analogy.  But you say the allegory is not strongly connected to the main
 >plot of Measure."

Maybe part of what is troubling people is my use of the word "allegory."
  I mean it in the sense of an extended metaphor; not in the sense that
each and every action by a particular character in the play must be
explained by what I say that character represents, which seems to be the
way you are interpreting it.

 >"It still seems odd for a writer to take trouble to
 >insert allegorical elements into an existing plot structure."

What's so "odd" about it?  If Shakespeare wanted to say something about
debasement in a play, adding it to his sources was a pretty easy way to
do it.  Most of what he had to say to us throughout his plays was
inserted onto a preexisting plot structure.

 >"Even odder not to make bolder connections in
 >the analogy and more clearly signaling intent."

Actually, I think the very beginning of the play does a pretty good job
of "clearly signaling intent"  The following are a series of quotations
from R.J. Kaufman, "Bond Slaves and Counterfeits: Shakespeare's Measure
for Measure," In Shakespeare Studies III, p. 85, for whom the signal is
loud and clear:

". . . . this is a branching variant of a more basic habitual
connection:  that made between man's "mettle" and the terminology of

"Thus we find that the opening speeches of Act I tightly incorporate the
tone and theme of the play.  The Duke's opening speech is heavily
imprinted with the imagery of economics."

"The words 'figure' and 'bear' in line sixteen provide a substantial
continuation of the metaphor; as J.W. Lever points out, the words
suggest 'the ducal stamp on the seal of the commission.  Shakespeare
further integrated Angelo into the coinage metaphor, for, 'They have in
England / A coin that bears the figure of an angel Stamped in gold.'
(MV, II.vii.56-57)."

"As the Duke continues his opening remarks to his old counselor,
Escalus, the imagery of coinage comes to a fuller fruition."

"The Duke notes, 'spirits are not finely touch'd/but to fine issues. . .
.' (I.i.35-36).  Lever points out, '"Touched" and "issues", with "fine"
(= refined) suggest the "touch" placed on gold coins of standard
fineness before they were passed into circulation.'"

"Finally we see the culmination of the metaphor in the self-confident
remark of Angelo" [i.e. the remark about testing his metal/mettle]

"Ernest Leisi comments on the use of the word 'test' in this context:
'Originally "melting pot" (Latin testa) . . . the word acquired the
force of a nomen actionis "examination of precious metals by melting.'"

"In Elizabethan usage 'metal' was interchangeable with the spelling and
meaning of mettle.  There are reinforcing usages in Timon of Athens:
'They have all been touch'd and found base metal' (III.iii.6), and in
King John: 'Which, being touch'd and tried, Proves valueless.' (III.i.101).

"The first fifty-one lines of Measure for Measure establish the basic
terms of the play."

Thus, Kaufman reads these lines through an economic lens, as do I.
While Kaufman does not propose that "Mariana" represents Juan de
Mariana, his interpretation of these lines is fully consistent with that

My Sept. 10 post gave a little presentation on how the play might have
struck a pair of playgoers, and how they could have seen the allegory.
If you suspend disbelief for a moment and accept my premise that these
playgoers would have heard of Mariana's views on debasement, then I
think you'll see that the allegory would have been quite apparent.

M. Yawney continues:

 >"While I am sensitive to the fact that there is much we do not understand
 >about the first audiences' understanding of the work and the signals
 >embedded therein, the type of connections you make are not referred to
 >in any documents that I know of from the period. Plays taken as

 >analogies to contemporary issues (such as Richard II or A Game at Chess)
 >more bluntly connect to the issues they were thought to be speaking

I don't think you are being specific enough here.  What "type of
connections" are you talking about?  What kind of documents are you

And again, if you assume that Mariana was Juan de Mariana, isn't the
debasement allegory at least as "blunt" as the allegory in Richard II?

M. Yawney goes on:

 >"No writer that I can think of that era refers to secret or covert
 >meanings in contemporary drama, which would support this debasement
 >allegory theory. They only refer to more overt meanings, even in plays
 >though to use allegory or analogy. I know that in other writing of the
 >period had a range of allegorical writing, but I cannot identify the
 >sort of allegory you propose in drama of the period or in documents
 >referring to the theater."

I think the meaning would have been quite "overt" to anyone who knew
that Mariana had written against debasement, and caught the extended
economic metaphor at the outset of the play.  And even if it's "covert",
since when do we have to assume that Shakespeare wasn't sometimes
covert?  What about the sonnets?

M. Yawney writes:

 >"While it is possible that you are correct, there seems to be little
 >evidence that supports your theory."

You're being vague and conclusory again.   I've put plenty of "evidence"
in the essay and in these posts, so it's hard for me to understand what
you mean by "little evidence."  Here is some of the evidence, much of
which is indisputable.

1)  The English in 1603-04 were concerned about debasement.

2.)  Shakespeare, as a middle-class businessman, was concerned about

3)  Shakespeare sometimes inserted references to things that concerned
him into his work (e.g. the death of his son/father in his plays, or his
love affairs in the sonnets).

4)  In fact, several of Shakespeare's other plays show a concern with
economic issues, including debasement.

5)  Shakespeare kicks off MFM with an extended economic metaphor.

6)  Shakespeare employs coinage, weighing and testing imagery throughout

7)  Coinage, weighing and testing are all closely tied to debasement.

8)  Shakespeare intentionally named Angelo after a coin, the English Angel.

9)  The Duke is a monarch figure.

10)  One can "map" the elements of the play onto a debasement metaphor,
where the monarch figures plus a character named Mariana work together
to prevent a "coin" character from becoming debased.

11)  The character that does the most to save the coin and is in fact
married to the coin at the end is named Mariana.

12)  Mariana was the name of a Spanish Jesuit historian and theologian
who wrote against debasement.

13)  MFM contains a good number of contemporary references.

14)  In the play, Mariana's brother Frederick was a great soldier who
died at sea.

15) A great soldier who had recently died at sea when the play was
written and who would have been known to Shakespeare's audience was
Federico Spinola.

16)  There are various links between Federico Spinola and Juan de
Mariana, in that (1) they both supported the Spanish cause; (2) they
both were concerned with Spanish finances, and (3) they had similar
views on privateering.

17)  In the play, Mariana lives in a "moated grange"

18)  The Jesuit Edmund Campion was captured at a "moated grange."

19)  There is a connection between Edmund Campion and Juan de Mariana
because they were both famous Jesuits.

I believe that all 19 of the above are true statements, and I have
provided support for each of them in the essay and in these posts.  They
are all evidence pointing in the direction of the debasement theory.
The essay sets forth a number of aspects of the play that the debasement
theory explains, such as the name Isabella, the name Claudio, the
periods that the law was not enforced, the period that Mariana has been
separated from Angelo, why Angelo is forgiven, why Mariana still loves
Angelo, why Isabella refuses to save Claudio, what the Duke's proposal
to Isabella is all about, and the reason that the Valladolid copy of the
second folio has its copy of MFM ripped out. All of these things that
the theory can explain work to support the theory itself (i.e. the more
it explains, the stronger it is), and it's all evidence.  As I said at
the outset, it's really just a question of whether we give Shakespeare
credit for inserting the allegory or not. Why not give him credit - or
at least acknowledge that there's a good chance that it was intentional?

M Yawney goes on:

 >"There is no strong or definite
 >context of similar work to place an allegorical Measure in, so the
 >theory relies on our lack of knowledge about how writing was written and
 >understood in Renaissance England."

I don't think I'm relying on any "lack of knowledge" here.  See above.

M. Yawney also writes:

 >"This theory cannot be specifically
 >disproved since there is so little outside of your reading of the play
 > support it. I think that is ultimately the source of the frustration
 >here. The whole theory is based on elements of the text that seem
 >ambiguous proofs at best to most readers and there is nothing strong
 >enough outside the play to tip the balance. The even more arguable
 >references to angels in R&J seem to weaken the argument rather than
 >strengthen it, because there the analogy would have even less point in
 >most readers' view. The allegory has little context in drama of the
 >period and no strong evidence to indicate Measure is a unique case."

Since when is the "disprovability" (i.e. falsifiability) of a textual
interpretation a refutation of that interpretation?  Very little that
anyone says about Shakespeare can be disproved (and for that matter,
very little can be proved).  Why are you frustrated with my essay, but
not with all other Shakespeare scholarship?

I can't tell if you have actually read the essay, or are relying on Mr.
Larque's critique.  The one piece of evidence that you cite is the
Juliet-angel point, which Mr. Larque makes a big deal of, but which is
(as usual) on the fringe of my argument.  Since you've raised it though,
I suppose I can respond briefly here:  It's not necessary to my argument
to assume that Juliet in R&J was specifically associated with the
"angel" coin in that play (although Abigail Quart made the good point on
Sept. 17 that this association would have been automatic).  The main
point is that (1) Juliet in R&J was considered an "angel"; (2) apart
from R&J, an angel was a coin; (3) the name Juliet is thus associated
with angels and thus with coins, and thus is a good name for a woman in
a debasement metaphor.  That's it.

M. Yawney concludes:

 >"You can respond if you like and I would very much hope there is
 >something I am missing to document the existence of work such as you
 >suggest Measure is. I will let you have the last word and not respond
 >back since I know this whole can of worms is irksome to many. I only
 >re-opened it this far because the issue of context was one I looked for
 >in the earlier thread and did not see addressed."

I don't think you should be shy about responding.  I think the reason
people were getting tired of this thread was the tone and the length of
some of the posts.  If we can keep our posts civil and to the point, I
think the rest of the world will indulge us.  If you have the time to
respond, I would be interested to hear your reactions.

Tom Krause

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