Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
Measured Response
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1354  Monday, 28 June 2004

[1]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 26 Jun 2004 10:53:21 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1347 Measured Response

[2]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 27 Jun 2004 15:59:05 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1347 Measured Response

[3]     From:   David Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 28 Jun 2004 02:08:17 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1347 Measured Response


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 26 Jun 2004 10:53:21 +0100
Subject: 15.1347 Measured Response
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1347 Measured Response

Dan Smith writes ...

 >Angelo and
 >Isabella are both in some way self-harmers. I don't believe Shakespeare
 >regarded the life of a nun for a young woman as anything otherwise.

I assume Dan Smith is referring to these lines...

... were I under the terms of death
Th'impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies,
And strip myself to death as to a bed
That longing have been sick for, ere I'd yield
My body up to shame

To a modern audience Isabella's lines no doubt reveal that she is some
sort of sado-masochist with flagellation fantasies.  Nudge nudge, wink
wink.  To a contemporary audience though, torture and martyrdom were not
fantasies, they were realities.  Isabella's lines should be interpreted
in this context.

The public execution of a priest of Isabella's faith - like
Shakespeare's cousin Robert Southwell - was a form of sexualised theatre
in which the victim was stripped naked before his penis and testicles
were sliced off while he was still conscious.  The humiliation and
sexual torture wasn't reserved for men.  Margaret Clitheroe, accused of
hiding a priest, was stripped naked before being pressed to death with
eight hundredweight of iron weights.  According to a recent article in
the TLS, Shakespeare wrote Phoenix and Turtle to commemorate the
martyrdom of Anne Lyne, a London seamstress who again hid a priest.

Dan Smith claims that Shakespeare regards the life of a nun as
"self-harm". I disagree.  In Act 1 Scene 4 Lucio says to Isabella ...

I hold you as a thing enskied and sainted
By your renouncement, an immortal spirit,
And to be talked with in sincerity
As with a saint.

There is no suggestion that these lines are ironic.  At the end of Romeo
and Juliet, as Friar Lawrence flees Juliet's tomb, he urges her to save
herself by joining "a sisterhood of holy nuns".  Juliet of course
ignores the Friar but there is no reason to believe Shakespeare intends
the advice to be in any way sinister.  On the contrary, Lawrence is
trying to save Juliet from "self-harm".

Incidentally, two of Shakespeare's grand aunts were nuns, one a prioress
at the Benedictine convent at Wroxall in Warwickshire.

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 27 Jun 2004 15:59:05 +0100
Subject: 15.1347 Measured Response
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1347 Measured Response

Dan Smith writes ...

 >Isabella is also convinced that losing her
 >virginity would irrevocably defile her body and her soul. That it is the
 >physical nature of this defilement that appalls her is underlined by her
 >apparent unconcern about the dangers to her soul of lying to Angelo.

The danger to her soul?  Surely Isabella's only fault is to go along
with the Friar-Duke's bed trick.  Since Angelo and Mariana are already
bethrothed, this is presumably a very venial sin.  It's ironic that
Isabella's fierce defence of her virginity is shown to be, after the
fact, the correct decision - since Angelo has no intention of keeping to
the bargain and orders Claudio's death after (he thinks) he's taken
Isabella's virginity.

Peter Bridgman

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 28 Jun 2004 02:08:17 -0400
Subject: 15.1347 Measured Response
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1347 Measured Response

I found Graham Hall's original and enjoyable post on MfM immediately
convincing. The production seemed to fit easily into a certain category
of Shakespeare without words--or with too many words. The overabundance
of business, with sex as a particularly attractive form of
overabundance, the heavy-handed political commentary and technological
distraction all seemed familiar. I expected Graham Hall's attack might
call forth the usual response, that he was a stuffed shirt with a dusty,
museum-piece ideal of Shakespeare production, unwilling to recognize the
need to revitalize these old plays and blind to the creative energy of
this interpretation.

Instead, Dan Smith gave a tour de force argument in defense of the NT.
To make the nastiness of the sex work to explain Angelo's and Isabella's
more egregious puritanisms sounds, as Smith explains it, like an
inspiration.  Productions seldom consider how Isabella's wish for
extreme purity might arise from a reaction against the degenerate state
of Vienna. This director found a way to drive the point home.

Yet I suspect that I might still lean toward Graham Hall's side. He
calls much of the business distracting. Business-laden, "concept"
productions often give themselves away in their treatment of the words.
It's not just that the business, in attempting to illustrate the action,
pre-empts, and distracts one from, the words. A deeper problem is the
incompetence, or just the dullness, of the line readings. Then you see
that the director's mind has been busy elsewhere. In MfM, for example,
intensifying the sexual business might not be necessary if the decadence
of Lucio and his crew were caught as well in the acting as it is in the
writing. Since I can't hear the actors, I have trouble deciding how much
weight to give the plausible points made by both Hall and Smith.
Nevertheless, the quality of both these posts reminds me of why I keep
reading this list.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.