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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
Question on Measure for Measure
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1670  Tuesday, 7 September 2004

[1]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Sep 2004 16:49:29 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1632 Question on Measure for Measure

[2]     From:   Tom Krause <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Sep 2004 12:22:10 -0400
        Subj:   Question on Measure for Measure

[3]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Sep 2004 17:42:31 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1659 Question on Measure for Measure


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Sep 2004 16:49:29 +0100
Subject: 15.1632 Question on Measure for Measure
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1632 Question on Measure for Measure

Edmund Taft wrote:

 >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.

As there are no "correspondences between the main plot of TN and the
famous Anjou affair", this is not the crushing rejoinder that Edmund
Taft must imagine it to be.  Dame Frances Yates once compared Henri III
to Hamlet, but did not - as far as I am aware - compare his brother
Alencon/Anjou to Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

John Briggs

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Krause <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Sep 2004 12:22:10 -0400
Subject:        Question on Measure for Measure

Thomas Larque writes:

". . .it looks suspiciously like the trivial pieces of information on
which Krause's claims are formed are the sort that might be easily
assembled and referenced by a person with modern research tools (in
particular the internet) who can feed in search terms until he forcibly
finds a minor connection between the name "Claudius" and "debasement"
for example . . ."

Your reference to "claims" (plural) shows that your are not getting the
point.  My basic "claim" - singular - is that Shakespeare modestly
extended a theme that was already abundantly present in the play.
Everything else - what you seem to consider "trivia" - are matters that
the basic claim helps to explain - not premises needed to support the claim.

This is not some extravagant theory that requires knowledge of vast
amounts of "obscure trivia" to uncover or understand.  We have a play in
which Shakespeare has already made an inordinate number of references to
coinage in general and debasement in particular.  We note that a portion
of the plot - a portion that was added by Shakespeare on top of his
original sources - can be seen as a debasement allegory:  A certain
character saves a character that Shakespeare intentionally named for a
coin (Angelo) from becoming debased.  All I'm suggesting is the
character who saves the coin from debasement (Mariana) is intentionally
named for one of Shakespeare's contemporaries (Juan de Mariana) who
argued against debasement.

The other alternative - the one which you seem to be 100% confident in -
is that Shakespeare just happened to give the name "Mariana" to the
character who saves the coin from debasement.

Which alternative is the more far-fetched?

Applying something akin to the scientific method, we can "test" the
debasement hypothesis to see how well it fits with the rest of the play,
and whether it adds to our understanding of the play.  The more
extraneous matter it explains, the more likely the theory is correct.
As a starting point, we see that it explains very neatly the reference
to the "great soldier Frederick."  The only arguable "great soldier
Frederick" to die at sea within 300 years of the play was Federigo
Spinola, who died at sea just the year before.  And Federigo Spinola as
"Frederick" is very consistent with the hypothesis that Mariana is Juan
de Mariana and in fact gives us a high level of confidence in that
hypothesis.  Why would Shakespeare introduce a Frederick who died at sea
if not as a reference to a famous Frederick who had recently died at
sea?  If he didn't mean anything by it, surely he would have picked a
name that did NOT correspond to that of a famous soldier who had
recently died at sea.  And doesn't Frederick's Spanish connection
suggest that we should look for a Spanish connection in his sister's
name as well?  The fact that Juan de Mariana advocated privateering, and
that Spinola could be considered a privateer, is an additional
connection worthy of our attention (since it may well suggest that
Shakespeare was familiar with Mariana's De Rege book), but it's not
essential to connect Spinola to Mariana.

As mentioned before, the theory also provides plausible explanations for
"the moated grange," "St. Luke's," "Claudio", "Isabella", 5 years, 14
years, and 19 years, as well as several lines of the play that have not
been satisfactorily interpreted.  It also explains the
otherwise-difficult-to-understand behavior of some of the characters,
including Isabella, Mariana, Angelo, Lucio, and the Duke.  It is also
consistent with scholarship that associates the Duke with King James.
It explains why Measure for Measure was the only one of Shakespeare's
plays to be completely excised from the Valladolid copy of the second
Folio.  It's conceivable that some of these "pointers" are in fact
coincidences.  Thus, perhaps Shakespeare never heard of Luke Kirby and
did not intend St. Luke's to denote him.  But the chances that ALL of
these connections are coincidental becomes less and less probable.

Thomas Larque writes on . . .

" . . . but they do not look anything like the sort of information that
would normally be known to your ordinary Jacobean Englishman, and this
hypothetical Englishman (who just happens to know everything that we do
- and a little bit more) certainly couldn't have put it into literature
and expected anybody in his audience to recognise the significance of
his supposed "allegory" unless the person watching the play had happened
to read Tom Krause's essay (or something very like it) beforehand, and
therefore had immediate contact with all the same pieces of obscure
trivia and the ability to decipher them from the play in just the right
way.  Krause's "coincidences" are characterised by triviality, tenuous
connections that require long explanations to make clear, and special
pleading . . ."

Again, look at it this way:  All the audience had to recognize was that
Angelo was named for a coin (which Shakespeare made obvious by having
characters make clear references to that fact) and that the debasement
of Angelo was at issue (which Shakespeare also made obvious by various
lines in the play, including the early one by Angelo about his "mettle"
being tested).  After that, all the audience had to recognize was that
Mariana saved the coin from debasement.  Those in the audience who knew
of Juan de Mariana's views on debasement would likely have recognized
soon after Mariana was introduced that she was named for Juan de
Mariana, especially given the Spanish reference to the "great soldier
Frederick."

I'm not even sure which of my "connections" you think are trivial,
tenuous, or forced.  Again, these connections are NOT my support for the
theory; rather, they are what the theory potentially explains (although,
as above, the more the theory explains, the stronger the theory).  The
only connection that you specifically identify and seem to disparage is
the Claudius-Claudio-Debasement connection, so I'll address that.

If you have read the essay, you realize that my first association of the
name "Claudius" with debasement is from the text of Hamlet.  The Hamlet
argument is very different from the MFM argument, because it is almost
completely text-based, and does not involve anything that might be
characterized as a "trivial" or "tenuous" connection.  It's merely a
common-sense reading of the text, with which you are free to agree or
disagree (but I'd be interested to hear what your objection to it is, if
any).

Given that Hamlet's Claudius and the Claudios from both MFM and Much Ado
can be considered debased - and that Hamlet's Claudius appears to have
issued debased coins -  what's wrong with investigating whether there is
a connection between the Roman Emperor Claudius and debasement?  And why
is it trivial or tenuous to point out that that many coins bearing
Claudius's image were minted in England, and there was rampant
counterfeiting of these coins?  That has good resonance with the
"counterfeit presentment" line from Hamlet.  And what's wrong with
pointing out that Claudius's successor Nero - also a Claudian, whose
name might have supplied the "o" in Claudio - had debased the Roman
coinage?  It's true that I found the connection I was hoping to find,
but how does this make the connection "forcibl[e]," "tenuous," or "trivial"?

In the paper, I provide reasons why Shakespeare might have known about
these coins, and why some of his audience would have known of them.  As
explained in the paper, these ancient Roman coins were the most tangible
links that Renaissance dramatists had with the ancient world.  The best
- if not the only - way for someone writing a play featuring Julius
Caesar, Caesar Augustus, Cymbeline, Marc Antony or Cleopatra to find out
what these individuals looked like would be to look at an antique coin
bearing that image.  How can you be so sure that Shakespeare didn't have
some familiarity with Roman coins, especially given that he specifically
referred to Roman coins in Love's Labour's Lost, and might have referred
to them in Cymbeline as well?

Thomas Larque continues by saying:

". . . for example, Mariana didn't publish his book on the debasement of
coinage until after "Measure for Measure" was written and performed, but
somehow the play was massively rewritten (despite the fact that Krause's
argument depends on major elements of the story having been created
around the theme that he creates, so that the major elements of this
theme being first introduced in rewrites would seem virtually
impossible) . . . ."

Let me stress that I proposed the "rewrite" hypothesis only to satisfy
people like Mr. Bridgman and you who appear to require stronger
documentary proof that Shakespeare knew of Mariana's views.  I believe
that given everything that the "debasement allegory" explains, it's
almost certain that Mariana's name was no coincidence.  That may be as
much "proof" as we are going to get that Shakespeare knew of Mariana's
views at the time he wrote MFM.

But I can't help but observe that any rewrite need not have been "massive."

Thomas Larque continues his paragraph:

". . . or Shakespeare not only heard masses about this foreign historian
and philosopher (despite the fact that virtually nobody in England is
likely to have known his views in any great detail, given that the
Jacobean world was not a global village with a global media) but this
included a lot of information that happens to have been entirely lost to
us, and which makes up for the fact that a lot of the things that Krause
built his theory on hadn't happened at the time that Shakespeare wrote
his play."

Shakespeare didn't need to know "masses" about Mariana - he just had to
have heard that Mariana was Spanish and against debasement.  If we know
anything about Shakespeare, it's that he was highly intelligent, had a
vast vocabulary, probably had an phenomenal memory, and had an
astonishing breadth of knowledge about many different subjects.  He
probably spent a good bit of time in conversation with highly educated
people - quite possibly including Spaniards, and maybe even Jesuits.
How can you be sure that the subject of Juan de Mariana simply never
came up in Shakespeare's conversations?

I don't know what you are referring to when you say the theory relies
on: "a lot of . . . things that hadn't happened at the time Shakespeare
wrote his play."

Thomas Larque continues:

"Taft says "currency issues and Mariana's link to them were well known
long before he published his book".  This would be a lot more relevant
if Taft told us what evidence he has for this claim.  What makes us
think that a middle-class Englishman in Jacobean London would have had
any idea of the non-printed views of an academic who spoke in a
different language and for an audience in a completely different
country?  Is Ed Taft - even in this modern world with international
media and international scholarship - able to tell me what any major
Spanish economic theorist thinks of the state of the Euro (without any
printed source for this knowledge - so he must know what they are
saying, not what they are writing)?  How likely is Ed Taft to write a
play in which he uses an "allegory" based on that Spanish economist's
name and opinions?"

The difference between knowing the views of a modern economic theorist
on the Euro, and that Mariana was against debasement, is like night and
day.  Shakespeare knew full well what debasement was - he referred to it
frequently in his plays - all he had to know was that Mariana was
against it.

Thomas Larque goes on:

"Unless Taft and Krause can produce English sources discussing Mariana
and his views on currency debasement before "Measure for Measure" was
written and performed, then they cannot claim that this is information
that Shakespeare is even remotely likely to have known."

We don't need English documentary sources to be able to infer that
Shakespeare knew of Mariana - the play is telling us that.  Again, why
are you so insistent that Shakespeare was not "even remotely likely to
have known" that Mariana was against debasement?  How can you be so sure
of what Shakespeare knew or didn't know?  Do you realize that your
statements - in which you express absolute certainty about things that
neither you nor anyone else can truly know - are much more controversial
than anything I have said in any of my posts, or in my essay?

Thomas Larque goes on:

"Of course even if they did find this evidence it would not prove their
case, since there are almost certainly English-language journals talking
about the views of modern Spanish economists on the Euro, but that
doesn't mean that a particular individual (Ed Taft, say, or myself) has
read these documents."

You are now making my case for not expending an enormous amount of
resources on satisfying your demand for documentary proof.  You're
absolutely right, even if I find the document, I can't prove Shakespeare
read it.  The point is, for the nth time, the intrinsic evidence
demonstrates - almost conclusively - that Shakespeare knew Mariana's views.

Thomas Larque continues:

I am afraid that Taft and Krause are both suffering from extreme
gullibility in relation to "coincidences", and the theories that can be
built up from these coincidences.  If they want to show themselves how
many corrupt and ridiculous theories can be built on the basis of the
sort of logic used in Krause's essay, they need only read their way
through the mountain of ridiculous anti-Stratfordian scholarship, which
daily uses similar techniques to prove all sorts of entirely
contradictory things about Shakespeare's plays and their author.

You are way off target.  The anti-Stratfordian literature bears no
resemblance - analytically or otherwise - to the modest theory proposed
in my paper.  To put it another way:  All I am arguing is that a theme
that is already abundantly present in Measure for Measure is just
slightly more pronounced than has been recognized.  I have drawn all of
my "pointers" from a very narrow universe - the text of Measure for
Measure itself - and it's worth noting that they all come from parts of
the text that were added by Shakespeare to his underlying sources.
Given the organic nature of the theory - in that it flows from a
preexisting theme of the play - comparisons to extravagant theories like
those of the anti-Stratfordians - all of which require at a minimum an
improbable conspiracy of silence, as well as rejection of much of the
documentary record - are particularly inapposite.

Thomas Larque writes on:

"It is true that, like Krause's essay, these works sometimes have you
saying to yourself "What a coincidence!" and "What a clever rhetorical
argument!", but since they routinely prove the opposite of what other
logically and evidentially identical arguments prove (some say that
"Hamlet" is about King James, some that it is about Queen Elizabeth,
some that it is about the Earl of Oxford, and it can't be about all of
them with each individual line meaning six hundred different things) it
is fairly obvious that all - or virtually all - of these arguments are
wrong."

You have almost placed your finger on a key difference between my
argument and the anti-Stratfordian arguments, but you breeze right past
it.  In a large body of data - including all of Shakespeare's 37 plays,
154 sonnets, and 5 poems, plus the biography of any given
anti-Stratfordian candidate - one will necessarily find a certain number
of coincidences.   The fact that we find a certain number of
coincidences when we map Shakespeare's works against the Earl of
Oxford's life, and an approximately equal number of coincidences when we
map the plays against Francis Bacon's life (or that of any of the other
prominent anti-Stratfordian candidates) is evidence that what we are
seeing are, in fact, coincidences.  You make a very ill-considered leap
when you argue -   if I am understanding you correctly - that because
the anti-Stratfordian arguments are based on "coincidences," all
arguments for which you can say the word "coincidence" must be wrong.

The relatively small and self-contained universe of Measure for Measure
simply should not give rise to the number of "coincidences" that YOU
have to argue it contains (for me, they are not coincidences; most if
not all of them are intentional references).

Another difference between the anti-Stratfordian arguments and mine is
that in the case of authorship, there is already a perfectly suitable
and well-supported answer:  William Shakespeare of Stratford.  Extending
the debasement in Measure for Measure as suggested in my essay provides
plausible answers to questions for which suitable answers have not even
been proposed.

Thomas Larque concludes:

"Besides, Taft claims that Shakespeare did use allegory of this kind in
his plays.  I would be interested to see a single instance of similar
allegory being openly discussed in Renaissance documents about any play.
   A real allegorical Renaissance play is likely to look more like "A
Game at Chess" (which took digs at particular real figures) than like
the fantasy concoction based on tenuous trivia and wordgames that Krause
constructs, and of course the allegorical nature of "A Game at Chess"
was well recorded at the time that it was produced."

As before, you are insisting on evidence that simply may not exist.
There are no extant reviews of any of Shakespeare's plays, much less any
"Renaissance document" that identifies any of them as being allegorical.
  And yet even Mr. Bridgman can provide two examples of allegories in
Shakespeare's plays.

Peter Bridgman writes:

"What we do know is that he wrote a play in 1603 that is very clearly a
plea for toleration."

I'm still curious as to where you get 1603, instead of 1604 (I asked you
once before).  The idea that MFM can be read on a level that makes it a
plea for tolerance of Catholics is not implausible.  As Ed Taft points
out, it's also not necessarily inconsistent with the notion that on
another level, Shakespeare had something to say about debasement of the
coinage.  Why are you so ready to believe that "a play populated with
Franciscan monks and nuns of St Clare" is a "plea for toleration", but
cannot even entertain the possibility that a play populated with
references to debasement and coinage, in which a character who shares a
name with an anti-debasement writer saves a character named for a coin
from becoming debased, might be in part an allegory for debasement of
the coinage? And why, if you think that Shakespeare might have been
sympathetic to Catholics, are you sure that he didn't work Edmund
Campion, Luke Kirby and Juan de Mariana into the play as well?

Tom Krause

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Sep 2004 17:42:31 +0100
Subject: 15.1659 Question on Measure for Measure
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1659 Question on Measure for Measure

 >As for Thomas Larque, I'm afraid that his sour, constricted "principles"
 >have made him into an ideological reader where his "theories" come first
 >and the evidence and the experience of reading and being persuaded come
 >second.

Ed Taft fails to answer my arguments, and instead gives an ad hominem
attack based on a smearing characterisation of my views that is nothing
like the reality of them.  I do believe that new things can be argued
about Shakespeare, I simply hold all such arguments to the same standard
of evidence to which I hold all other arguments.  Ed Taft, by contrast,
apparently has one rule for Tom Krause's orthodox-flavoured ramblings,
and another for the railings of anti-Stratfordians (who use exactly
identical methods to reach conclusions that Taft would presumably
reject).  I would be interested to hear (offline, since I'm sure we
don't want a detailed discussion of it here on SHAKSPER, which would in
any case be against the rules) why Ed Taft would reject, for example,
the Oxfordian argument that Horatio in "Hamlet" was a portrait of Horace
Vere, Edward de Vere's cousin, part of the "evidence" that they assemble
in attempting to claim that Hamlet himself is a portrait of Edward de
Vere.  The argument about Horatio is identical in form to Krause's
method of working at many points in the essay that Taft acclaims so:
take a name, randomly find somebody with a related name and perhaps a
very vague connection to the play or its themes and subjects or its
author or your own theories, or just about anything else, and claim that
the name of the character is a secret reference to the person who you
have selected.  If Ed Taft accepts all such arguments then he should
promptly convert to Oxfordianism (at the same time as converting to just
about all the other versions of anti-Stratfordianism and various other
forms of Shakespearean nuttery, since most use very similar methods).
The fact that he presumably will not do so shows that he is not applying
his own intellectual "principles" (assuming that he has any) to all
arguments in the same way, but is instead judging the arguments not on
the intellectual value or lack of intellectual value of the methods, but
simply on the basis of whether or not he is happy to accept the
conclusions that these methods - in each instance - happen to reach.

Ed Taft amusingly claims to be following "evidence and experience", but
it seems that Taft has instead been "persuaded" by Tom Krause claims
along the lines of:

 >"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.

Might I be so bold as to point out that if Taft believes this peculiar
claim, he apparently also believes that any reference to a Saint in a
Renaissance play is actually likely to refer to any martyr of the same
name (even if he or she never became a Saint, or only did so centuries
later), and since we only have a limited number of common names in
English-speaking countries (and in much of Christian Europe in general),
and even fewer in the Renaissance, and a good number of them religious
names of the type likely to be shared by real Saints and hundreds of
Catholic martyrs (who - often members of pious Christian families -
tended to have been given the names of Saints and Biblical and other
religious figures), this basically allows us to substitute just about
whoever we like for any Saint mentioned in any play.

Let's show this method at work in a rather rough form that will give
some idea of how worthless this method is.  Opening my concordance at
the word "Saint", I have (as I am typing this and without knowing what I
will find) randomly picked the name of "Saint George" as mentioned in 1
Henry VI (1.1.154), "Bonfires in France forthwith I am to make, / To
keep our great Saint George's feast withal".  Now this is rather
obviously a reference to the English patron Saint and his festival, but
let's spend a few seconds with a search engine and see if we can find an
appropriate martyr who has something to do with bonfires, and/or France,
and/or feasts, who we can pretend (Krause-like) was Shakespeare's secret
real meaning, so we can try to ignore the fact that there was an obvious
real meaning already present within the text, which makes much more
sense than the "secret" meaning we are trying to add on (purely to show
how clever we are).

[Note: I wrote the paragraph above before doing any searching].

Now that I've done some searching, let's start with the first martyred
George that I've come across, purely at random.  George Blaurock.  J

 

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