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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
Question on Measure for Measure
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1632  Thursday, 2 September 2004

[1] From:       Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Sep 2004 09:27:16 -0400
Subject:        Question on Measure for Measure

[2] From:       Tom Krause <
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Date:           Wednesday, 1 Sep 2004 11:22:51 -0400
Subject:        Question Concerning Measure for Measure


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Sep 2004 09:27:16 -0400
Subject:        Question on Measure for Measure

Peter, you wrote:

"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."

This is unfair and really chop logic, Peter. First, currency issues and
Mariana's link to them were well known long before he published his
book. Second, you seem to think that Shakespeare does not put little
allegories in his plays. You are dead wrong. Look at the correspondences
between the main plot of TN and the famous Anjou affair.

No one is saying that currency is the ONLY thing M for M is about,
either. But you apparently don't know that the phrase "fair measure" was
used to mean currency that was not debased.

If you were an astute Elizabethan reading Tom's paper, you would not
think that his interpretation is highly unlikely or ridiculous or even
esoteric. You would think, "How clever"!

What we need here are critics/readers who are willing to give authors a
chance to make and defend their arguments. Tom has done both - and he
has done both quite well.

Ed

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Krause <
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Date:           Wednesday, 1 Sep 2004 11:22:51 -0400
Subject:        Question Concerning Measure for Measure

Peter Bridgman writes:

"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."

I'm not sure why you characterize the debasement allegory explanation as
"highly unlikely - if not ridiculous."  Are you familiar with the
literature cited in footnote 19 of my article?  There have been many
books and articles written about economic themes in Shakespeare's plays.
  Measure for Measure itself is full of economic references (see article
at 3-4, 30-33; see also Lever's notes to his Arden Measure for Measure).
  It is neither unlikely nor ridiculous to think that Shakespeare - a
product of his time, and a member of a middle class increasingly
concerned with debasement of the coinage - might have gently worked a
debasement theme into one or more of his plays.

Beyond that, we obviously have a disagreement on the proper "standard of
proof" for a logical argument.  I have proposed a unified theory that
explains much of the play - including things that are NOT explained by
the "it's a play about judgment, nothing more" theory.  You refuse to
consider the theory because I cannot provide "proof" of something that
may simply be unprovable by extrinsic means - that Shakespeare knew of
Mariana's views on debasement.  You either did not read or dismiss out
of hand the various proposals that I have for dealing with this issue.
For example, why can't I argue that the debasement gloss was added long
after the first performance of Measure for Measure? And why isn't the
fact that Shakespeare placed Mariana at the center of a debasement
allegory enough?

Your method of argumentation reminds me of the flat-earth objection to
the Copernican model:  "If the Earth were round, people would fall right
off.  End of story."  With that kind of attitude, you will go through
life missing a lot of good stories, some with surprising endings.

Peter Bridgman also writes:

"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."

I hope I didn't lead you to believe that I thought that Kirby had been
canonized in Shakespeare's time.  The point is, any martyr was an
obvious candidate for Catholic sainthood, and Shakespeare may well have
been honoring Kirby's memory by "promoting" him in advance.

I feel that you are still missing the point of the argument:  As
indicated in a previous post, there are 18 or more pointers that can be
explained by the "debasement" theory.  No single one of them "proves"
the theory, as any individual one can be explained by other means, or
attributed to coincidence.  But all of these "pointers" were added by
Shakespeare on top of the stories from his original sources, and all of
them converge upon a debasement theme.  Mathematically speaking, the
probability that the convergence of all these different elements upon a
single theme arose by random chance is very small.

Tom Krause

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