The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1598 Thursday, 26 August 2004
From: Tom Krause <
Date: Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 23:42:44 -0400
Subject: 15.1586 Question Concerning Measure for Measure
Comment: Re: SHK 15.1586 Question Concerning Measure for Measure
Abigail Quart writes . . . .
>But I'm going to have to sit for a while with the romance between
>Elizabeth (Isabella) and James (the Duke). I don't hate it. Basically,
>it makes Elizabeth wrong for refusing to marry and encourages James to
>leave off his Catholic leanings (masquerading as a monk) and take
>responsibility for ruling a Protestant kingdom (Elizabeth). Wouldn't you
Well, I guess one way to look at it is that "Isabella = Elizabeth"
explains why there never really WAS a romance between the Duke and
Isabella. Viewed this way, the second of the Duke's "proposals" can be
read as a reference to James's succession of Elizabeth (admittedly, the
first one does look like a proposal; perhaps a concession to the fact
that the play did have multiple layers, and that some members of the
audience would have liked a bit of romance). Not sure I follow how it
makes Elizabeth "wrong" (in that Isabella doesn't agree to marry the
Duke, and everything turns out ok in the end), but your point about
James leaving off his Catholic leanings is certainly intriguing.
John Briggs writes:
>More to the point, Shakespeare would
>not have done so either (let alone
>poor William Shakeshafte in rural
I don't think the Shakeshaftians are arguing that Shakespeare wrote his
plays from Lancashire . . . . As for whether Shakespeare would have
heard of Federigo, see below.
John Briggs writes:
>It was Federico's younger brother Ambrogio
>(Ambrosio), millionaire banker
>and self-taught military genius, who was a
>"great soldier" - the greatest general of his age,
>but he did not achieve any fame until
>his capture of Ostend in 1604, a trifle
>late for notice in "Measure for Measure".
I think even the "credulous Kraus" would see another argument against
equating the "great soldier Frederick" with someone named "Ambrosio."
Federigo/ico's military record was certainly mixed (the paper at n.102
cites some of his more positive reviews), but he was one of the most
prominent military men in Spain from the period 1593-1603, and between
the two brothers, he was clearly the "leader" (even though he was in
fact the younger brother). He was the first one to go to Spain and
pledge the family's money in support of the Spanish cause in the early
1590's; he was the one clamoring to invade England in 1597; Ambrosio
didn't take up the Spanish cause until later. The news of the various
battles of Ostend would certainly have made it to England (there was an
English presence in Ostend, of course), and I think we can safely assume
that the death of the Spanish leader there would have been widely
reported. I will go one step further here and say that Shakespeare MUST
have heard of Federigo, and would not have named Mariana's brother
Frederick UNLESS he meant to refer to Spinola. If the name of the
"brother" had no significance, Shakespeare would have avoided picking a
name that corresponded to that of a famous soldier who had recently died
Peter Bridgman writes:
>But Mariana's De Monetae Mutatione (On the Alteration of Money) was
>published in 1605. Whereas Measure for
>Measure was first performed late 1603 or early 1604.
Actually, as indicated in the paper, this is the point where we may have
to say: "Everything points to Juan de Mariana, ergo, Shakespeare must
have known of Mariana's views when he wrote Mariana into Measure for
Measure." In other words, the fact that Shakespeare named the character
at the center of a debasement allegory "Mariana" means he knew of the
views of Juan de Mariana. That's not to say I haven't tried to place
Mariana in Shakespeare's hands; just that in the end, we may never be
able to prove it one way or another. The paper suggests several ways of
dealing with this issue, and I've got a few more:
(1) At least one biographer (Alan Soons) writes that Mariana's views on
debasement appeared in the first publication of his De Rege book in
1599. Although I have reason to doubt the accuracy of this statement
(see paper), I don't have access to the primary sources.
(2) For that matter, I have not reviewed Mariana's massive history of
Spain, which was published long before Measure for Measure was first
performed, but is today available in English translation only in rare
book rooms. Given the role that debasements played in Spanish history,
there is some chance that Mariana mentioned them, and did so in his
typical judgmental fashion (on the other hand, I acknowledge that doing
so might have been dangerous politically).
(3) 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. His
views may have found their way to an English university, and from there
. . . (is it ok to suggest on this site that Shakespeare might have had
(4) As indicated in the paper, we can place Shakespeare in the same
building as the Spanish peace delegation of Spring-Summer 1604, so it's
conceivable that he learned of Mariana and his views then. Having
worked debasement into Hamlet (see paper), Shakespeare's ears would have
been acutely tuned to the subject.
(5) Again, although it would be nice, I don't think we need to find
independent "proof" that (a) Mariana had expressed his views on
debasement prior to the appearance of Measure for Measure, and (b) that
Shakespeare knew of those views. If you feel strongly that such proof
is needed, then until someone goes to Spain and finds it you are stuck
with arguing that the debasement allegory was added sometime after
Mariana's views were published. As noted in the paper, at least one
prominent scholar has argued that Measure for Measure must have been
revised after its initial performance.
(6) Here's one lead that I haven't been able to track down, but would be
interested to hear any ideas as to how to do so (that don't involve
travelling to Madrid and looking through some Spanish archive): Lytton
Strachey's book, "Elizabeth and Essex," mentions a Spanish document from
the mid-1590s in which Philip II says something about asking a select
group of theologians about how best to legally raise funds for a fourth
Armada and an invasion of England. If this question was asked, you can
bet it raised the question about the propriety of debasement. Even if
Mariana wasn't one of the theologians asked, he might well have heard
about the inquiry and formulated his own views. I have gone through
dozens of biographies of Philip but have not found any further
references to this document or the basic inquiry. A more diligent
researcher, perhaps with access to Spanish records, might be able to
follow this trail to documents showing that there was a debate in Spain
about debasement in the mid to late 1590s (note that it was Philip III
who initiated the debasement in 1599; Philip II might well have been
following Mariana's advice [or that of some similarly-minded theologian]
in not doing so). I don't have the Strachey book on hand, but you can
find the reference to the document somewhere around pp. 155-160 of the
version I was reading (look up Philip II in the index).
Again, even if we find some documentation of Mariana's views prior to
1605, it will be very difficult to establish a channel to Shakespeare.
The "proof" is in Shakespeare's use of Mariana. Res ipsa loquitur.
P.S. If you have an authoritative source showing De Monetae as having
been independently published in 1605, I'd be interested to hear of it.
P.P.S. Not sure where you get your performance dates for Measure for
Measure. My sources all put the first documented performance at
December 26, 1604. Although I have seen arguments [which I did not find
persuasive] that it may have been written in early 1604, I don't
remember seeing the play pushed back to 1603.
Peter Bridgman writes . . .
>Lyford Grange was in Berkshire. May I propose two alternative moated
>granges that WS might have known in Warwickshire? And both with
>The Benedictine Priory outside Coventry (situated where the Keresley and
>Sadler roads met) was a moated grange. And so was (and still is)
>Baddesley Clinton, which was used in 1603 as a meeting place for the
>Jesuit mission under Henry Garnet (he of Macbeth fame).
Excellent -- all the moated granges point to Catholics, and two out of
three point to Jesuits!
Still, unless the "moated grange" reference is completely meaningless
[which I take it is your argument?], I like Lyford best, mainly because
it has the word "grange" in it, and because [I'm fairly sure] it would
have been better known to Shakespeare's audience [especially any
Catholics among them] than the other ones. [Why do you think that
Shakespeare, possessor of one of the most expansive minds of his time,
only knew about the moated granges in Warwickshire?] Shakeshaftians
will have reasons to like Lyford better as well (especially if they like
Luke Kirby, given the Kirby-Campion nexus). Nevertheless, I'd be happy
to settle for Baddesley Clinton if that will make you happy . . . .
Peter Bridgman writes . . .
>Actually the Spanish for Elizabeth is Isabel. Isabella is Italian. And
>most of the other characters in the play have Italian names too.
This is not necessarily true. I first realized that Isabella meant
Elizabeth when I was attempting to read a book on this period that
happened to be in Spanish. And I have to imagine that Isabella was an
accepted form of the name even in Spain (or have we been calling
Isabella of Castile the wrong name all these years?). In any event,
notice how the vast majority of the spoken references in Measure for
Measure to "Isabella" are to "Isabel." You're making my case for me!
PS -- at one point I did have "Spanish connections" for all the names in
the play, but I concluded that they were rather speculative if not
downright weak. For example, Vincentio Saviolo was an Italian fencing
master (from Padua, no less) who had spent time in Spain and who may
have had an influence on the fencing in some of Shakespeare's plays, and
thus has a parallel to the way the Duke manipulates the other characters
. . . . Bernardino de Mendoza was a Spanish Ambassador implicated in
one of the plots against Queen Elizabeth, but wasn't killed (like
everyone else) because he enjoyed diplomatic immunity . . . . I've
already explained Claudio's name elsewhere.
Peter Bridgman writes . . .
>I'm not sure what you mean by Spanish elements in the play pointing to
>Isabella as Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth had no Spanish blood and hated
>both Spain and the memory of her father's Spanish wife.
The Spanish elements are the ones I have identified: Mariana, Federigo,
and a possible reference to debasement of the Spanish coinage. These
elements point to Spain/Spanish, and provide a basis for looking to the
Spanish language to figure out who Isabella is. . . . I'm not sure
what Elizabeth's hatred of things Spanish has to do with anything here .
. . .
Peter Bridgman writes . . .
>I wasn't aware of this, but if it is true, isn't it more likely the
>Inquisition had the same problem with the play that Thomas Bowdler had,
>centuries later? That once they'd removed all the bawdy jokes and
>references to sex and syphilis, there wasn't much of a play left to read?
What's interesting is that in the other plays, bawdy jokes and
references to sex, syphilis etc. are all left intact. The only thing
that is removed in other plays are references to Elizabeth and Cranmer
(this is my understanding from the secondary sources I have seen; if
anyone knows otherwise, please correct me). In Measure for Measure, the
censor was faced with the problem of what to do when Elizabeth appeared
on practically every page, and the only solution he came up with was to
rip out the whole play. Of course, this might only mean that the censor
thought Isabella was Elizabeth, not that Shakespeare did. But then
again . . . .
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