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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
Measured Response
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1363  Tuesday, 29 June 2004

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Jun 2004 08:38:53 -0400
        Subj:   Measured Response

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Jun 2004 12:52:34 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1354 Measured Response

[3]     From:   Sebastian Perry <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 10:35:41 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1354 Measured Response


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Jun 2004 08:38:53 -0400
Subject:        Measured Response

Peter Bridgman writes:

"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."

No, the lines are not ironic, but they are revealing. Lucio thinks of
women as either whores or saints - a woman is either one or the other.
Given the state of Vienna, it's not hard to see why he thinks that way.

In fact, both men and women in M for M tend to think as Lucio does.
Escaping sexuality is a main reason why Isabella wants to be a nun. It
seems clear that, whatever Shakespeare's view of nunneries, Isabella
enters the convent for the wrong reason. Like Angelo, Isabella seeks to
"transcend" our basic animal urge for sex. So does the Duke, who thinks
(wrongly) that his bosom is already "complete."

At bottom, whether the characters indulge in sex (Lucio and Claudio) or
attempt to deny and restrict this urge, they all have the same view: sex
is dirty and vile and loathsome and ungovernable. But none can escape it
- not Isabella (whose movements and voice are sexy) nor Angelo (who is
attracted by the urge to defile purity) or the Duke (who hides, perhaps
even from himself, his sexual urges).

We might ask where these characters have gone wrong. What are they missing?

Best,
Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Jun 2004 12:52:34 -0400
Subject: 15.1354 Measured Response
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1354 Measured Response

"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."

Except that the lines were spoken by Lucio whose name has a relationship
to Lucifer, and whose character is, shall we say, complex?

Isabella's name means "consecrated to God" except that Bel isn't a
Christian god. Angelo is hardly an angel and the runaway Duke Vincentio
is hardly victorious while he lets others fight his battles. The names
in Measure are deeply ironic. Lucio is a loyal friend AND a guy of loose
morals. He basically counsels Isabella to give Angelo a blow job to free
her brother.

Actually, the essence of Measure for Measure is irony. Angelo, Isabella,
and Vincentio are three people with the same flaw: they all believe
their sh** don't stink. And Shakespeare takes them down.

"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"."

Do you get that such a suggestion is the total failure of all Friar
Laurence's well-meaning plotting? Shakespeare's Catholics tend to spout
wonderful speeches of good wise things that turn out to be wrong in the
context of the play. Friar Laurence counsels children to disobey their
families, give in to their passions, AND HE GETS THEM KILLED. DEAD.
That's what following Catholic advice does for Romeo and Juliet. Friar
Laurence is the loving portrait of a man whose road leads to total
destruction.

"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"."

Yes, he is. Friar Laurence is a wonderful, loving, hopeful man.
Everytime he tries to help, the situation gets worse. Until the two
young people who trusted him are dead. Not to mention others who get
caught up in the problems.

Shakespeare's hand isn't only in the dialog. It's in the action. The
results of following well-intentioned Catholic advice are disastrous. At
the end, all Laurence has to offer this vibrant girl is a nunnery???
Which had the slang meaning of brothel and the audience knew it? Because
what has he done to her?  He secretly connived at a marriage NEITHER
family would sanction.  (Marriages among the wealthy included paperwork
with settlements and dower rights. Juliet does not have a dime.) Juliet
has nowhere to go for protection except the brothel or the nunnery (and
nunneries preferred rich girls to bring a few bucks). Now she can't
marry where her family wishes because she already is. And she's not a
virgin anymore so they'd find out.  Friar Laurence has harmed Juliet
beyond all help.

BTW: "As Friar Lawrence flees Juliet's tomb" is not the best description
of a standup fellow. He wreaks havoc and then saves himself while his
victims, followers, believers pay the price.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sebastian Perry <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 10:35:41 +0100 (BST)
Subject: 15.1354 Measured Response
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1354 Measured Response

It'll be a couple of weeks before I get to see the NT MfM, but last
night I saw the production now at the Globe, and I simply can't
recommend it highly enough.  It's something of a revelation for me,
since the only other version I've seen is that god-awful BBC video one
from 1979, in which Kenneth Colley's Duke is urgently in need of
throttling. Mark Rylance plays Vincentio as bumbling and disconcertingly
unconfident, and the effect is just marvellous.

Seb Perry

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