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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
Question Concerning Measure for Measure
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1621  Wednesday, 1 September 2004

[1]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 13:50:57 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1604 Question Concerning Measure for Measure

[2]     From:   Tom Krause <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 1 Sep 2004 0:00:10 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Question Concerning Measure for Measure


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 13:50:57 +0100
Subject: 15.1604 Question Concerning Measure for Measure
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1604 Question Concerning Measure for Measure

Bill Arnold asks ...

 >OK: what do you make of Will S.'s borrowing the title from Jesus' words,
 >and the meaning of those specific words, in all of this historical
 >context?

Well, exactly.  Jesus was talking about judgement; Shakespeare's play is
also about judgement.  Why look for a highly unlikely - if not
ridiculous - esoteric explanation for the play?  Mariana published his
book on currency at least a year after Measure for Measure appeared.
End of story.

Unless WS was psychic, that is.  And he must've been if he was able to
predict that Luke Kirby was going to be canonised a saint in 1970.

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Krause <
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Date:           Wednesday, 1 Sep 2004 0:00:10 -0400
Subject:        Re: Question Concerning Measure for Measure

Bill Arnold writes:

"Tom Krause writes, 'A famous historian, teacher, and theologian like
Mariana did not have to publish his views in book form for them to be
known.  Given that the Spanish debasement began in 1599, he had plenty
to complain about for the five years preceding the appearance of Measure
for Measure.'

OK: what do you make of Will S.'s borrowing the title from Jesus' words,
and the meaning of those specific words, in all of this historical context?"

As Ed Taft pointed out in a previous post, there is much more to
"Measure for Measure" than the proposed debasement message.  The name
"Measure for Measure" most likely does come from the Bible, and the
biblical saying can be seen as having something to do with the surface
plot of the play.

But the beauty of the name is that it is also a statement of the
position that Shakespeare is taking with respect to the coinage - that
it should not be debased.  The word "measure" in Shakespeare's time was
often linked to coinage, as in Gerard de Malynes' 1601 statement that
money is a "publica mensura" (see de Malynes, the Canker of the
Commonwealth (1601) at 11 (available on line at
http://socserv.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/malynes/canker.pdf))and
the publication of books (including one by Juan de Mariana) with the
title "De Ponderibus et Mensuris" ("Of Weights and Measures"). As
mentioned in a previous post, "Measure for Measure" refers to the
expectation that someone bringing a certain "measure" of precious metal
to the mint will receive back coins having a corresponding "measure"of
precious metal (i.e. a "weight by weight" system).

Mariana's Treatise, On the Alteration of Money, also contains various
statements reflecting the link between "measures" and money.  Here is
the beginning of Chapter 5 of that work, as translated by Patrick T.
Brannan, S.J. (available at
http://www.acton.org/publicat/m_and_m/2002_fall/mariana/ch5.html):

"Weights, measures, and money are, of course, the foundations of
commerce upon which rests the entire structure of trade. Most things are
sold by weight and measure-but everything is sold by money. Everyone
wants the foundations of buildings to remain firm and secure, and the
same holds true for weights, measures, and money. . . ."

[2]--------------------------------------------------------
Kathy Dent writes:

"Further to the recent discussion on the significance of St Luke in
Measure for Measure, a note from Charles Whitworth printed in
Shakespeare Quarterly Vol 36 No 2 (Summer 1985) argues that St Luke's
Day (October 18) was, in Renaissance England, considered to be
propitious for choosing a husband."

I like this better than St. Luke's as a reference to the "disease"
theme, or the Bible's Luke as the source of "Measure for Measure."  If
Shakespeare also intended a reference to Luke Kirby (as proposed in my
article), then he must have been very pleased with how well "St. Luke's"
fit in with the surface plot of the play!

Tom

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