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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Performing Angelo
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1696  Tuesday, 4 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 15:59:23 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1682 Performing Angelo

[2] 	From: 	Tom Krause <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 11:03:28 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1682 Performing Angelo

[3] 	From: 	David Basch <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 01 Oct 2005 20:51:49 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1682 Performing Angelo

[4] 	From: 	Robert Projansky <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 18:21:13 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1667 Performing Angelo


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 15:59:23 +0100
Subject: 16.1682 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1682 Performing Angelo

Abigail Quart writes ...

 >ISABELLA IS NOT A NUN.

Quite right, she is a novice of the Poor Clares.  According to their 
website (www.poorclares.org), a modern-day Isabella would take her final 
vows six years after entering the nunnery.  The following is from 
www.newadvent.org ...

"The daily life of the Poor Clares is occupied with both work and 
prayer. It is a life of penance and contemplation.  The rule says that 
the sisters shall fast at all times except on the feast of the Nativity. 
  The constitutions explain that meat may not be used even on Christmas. 
  The "great silence" is from Compline [night prayer] until after the 
conventual Mass.  During the day there is one hour of recreation except 
on Friday. Meals are taken in silence.  The Divine Office is recited, 
not sung.  The Franciscan breviary is used.  The habit is a loose 
fitting garment of gray frieze; the cord is of linen rope about one-half 
inch in thickness having four knots representing the four vows; the 
sandals are of cloth".

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Tom Krause <
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Date: 		Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 11:03:28 -0400
Subject: 16.1682 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1682 Performing Angelo

John-Paul Spiro writes:

"It would take many pages (pretty much my whole dissertation) to discuss 
this fully, but while we're on it, I think that Shakespeare made a 
choice to keep her silent."

Does your dissertation consider the following:  Since the Duke can be 
seen to represent King James, and since Isabella can be seen to 
represent Elizabeth ("Isabella" is "Elizabeth" in various Romance 
languages, and there's at least one obvious parallel), might not the 
"marriage proposal" represent the succession of Elizabeth by James? 
As Marjorie Garber puts it in "Shakespeare After All," a "fantasmic 
outcome" of viewing Elizabeth as Isabella "is to see the romance at the 
end as an iconographic rendering of James's final victory, the deceased 
Elizabeth's capitulation to the new King's hand and to his will."

And if the iconography is correct, perhaps it makes sense not to have an 
express acceptance.

Tom Krause

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <
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Date: 		Saturday, 01 Oct 2005 20:51:49 -0400
Subject: 16.1682 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1682 Performing Angelo

John Paul Spiro wrote:

The Duke does say, "Whereto if you'll a willing ear incline,/
What's mine is yours and what is yours is mine"
                                                   MfM (5.1.550-51)

John Paul doesn't realize it but he has presented a direct quotation 
from the Talmud's Pirke Avoth, the tract popularly known as "The Ethics 
of our Fathers." (One of many such Talmudic quotations in his plays.) 
This portion of the Talmud gives the sayings of four types of persons, 
as follows:

(5.13.)  There are four characters among men:  he who says, What is
mine is mine and what is thine is thine, his is a neutral character:
-- some say, this is a character like that of Sodom; he who says, What
is mine is thine and what is thine is mine, is an unlearned person;
he who says, What is mine is thine and what is thine is thine,
is a saint; he who says What is thine is mine and what is mine is mine,
is a wicked man.

Notice that in this typology the Duke would be an unlearned person, that 
is, a person who does not understand life in the deep way of the 
learned.  For example, the Duke's prescription of marriage as the cure 
for all ills has been noted as arbitrary and naive, not bound to bring 
solutions to problems that it is applied to. Nor is he wise in trusting 
so complex a job as running city to an untried young man. It sure looks 
like Shakespeare through this quotation has given a direct clue to his 
intention in this play in creating a spoof and tour de force for the 
purpose of exploring the reactions of his characters when they find 
themselves facing the measures that they have applied to others.

The play is an ingenious crafting of events in which these things come 
to pass. But, in doing so, Shakespeare has had to compromise on the 
realism of the story line that features a shallow Duke that takes a 
holiday. It is this Duke's assumed character that enables the situations 
to unfold.

David Basch

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Robert Projansky <
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Date: 		Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 18:21:13 -0700
Subject: 16.1667 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1667 Performing Angelo

Peter Bridgman says:

 >Of course she "blows off the Duke". If Shakespeare's intention
 >is that Isabella accepts the Duke's marriage offer, there is no
 >reason at all for WS not to show this.

Blows him off? Not a chance. Isabella obviously accepts the Duke and 
there's good reason not to say so in the text.

As far as Isabella knows, the Duke is the great guy who has saved her 
brother through considerable effort and at no cost to her virginity. In 
the very next line after his proposal, the Duke says of Claudio, "He is 
my brother too". Seconds ago Claudio was a felon under sentence of 
death; now his prince calls him "brother". What could more sharply 
illustrate the immensity of the gift of Isabella's elevation to the 
highest social position in the land? And the Duke is her sovereign, with 
the same power Elizabeth or James had to decide who would marry whom. 
Furthermore, as Dr. Sigmund Shakespeare has shown us, Isabella's 
repressed sexuality wants the marriage bed, not a cloister:

Th' impression of keene whips, I'ld weare as Rubies,
And strip my selfe to death, as to a bed

I don't think an audience of that day could imagine her rejecting the 
Duke (or us arguing about it).

Why doesn't Isabella express her acceptance after the Duke says, "Give 
me your hand, and say you will be mine"? Because that's WS's dramatic 
choice. The real issue here is about how it plays onstage, not about the 
meaning of anything within the world of the play. The Duke reveals and 
pardons the still-living Claudio, proposes to Isabella, and dispenses 
Angelo's huge pardon in a single sentence -- it's the big payoff moment 
in the play. He winds down from these fireworks only when he wheels on 
Lucio, for the play's comic finish.

Isabella says nothing because WS didn't want to interrupt the big payoff 
and the sweep down to Duke v. Lucio, which we have been looking forward 
to since they first met. She's not being ignored; in the next line after 
the Duke's proposal, he postpones discussion, "But fitter time for 
that". A scripted Isabella response is unnecessary, she's just had her 
big moment, and the play doesn't need more talk from her. Onstage, her 
most loving, appreciative, and enthusiastic acceptance requires not even 
a pause [Duke takes her hand; Isabella glows]. Lots of obvious action in 
Shakespeare is inferred because it isn't explicit in the text or stage 
directions, e.g., the unmuffeling of Claudio and the unhooding of the 
Duke (and some not so obvious: see Hamlet v. Laertes). Her acceptance is 
equally obvious and in terms of stagecraft is less important than 
getting to the comic windup.

Also, mercy is the main subject in M4M, so WS deals with the love story 
summarily but sufficiently: boy gets girl, done, and you get your 
traditional happy-ending marriage. Too abrupt? Like Prospero, the Duke 
will fill it out at his after-the-play get-together:

Deere Isabell,
I haue a motion much imports your good,
Whereto if you'll a willing eare incline;
What's mine is yours, and what is yours is mine.
So bring vs to our Pallace, where wee'll show
What's yet behinde, that meete you all should know.

Isn't that sweet? Of course she accepts, which is why the Duke gives us 
"and what is yours is mine" to think about.

Peter Bridgman also says:

 >A "happy ending" would satisfy the conventions of Comedy
 >Writing, and would give the play the resolution it lacks.

Huh? M4M doesn't have a happy ending? Isabella, of late so uptight about 
her brother's human weakness, turns out to have the heroic goodness of 
heart to beg for mercy for the awful man who tried to ravish her (and 
cheat her, too), and the result: she gets the first ladyship of Vienna 
with her handsome prince (of course he's handsome; he's the leading 
man), and a happy ending for everybody onstage, even the bad guys. The 
wicked Angelo is snagged, contrite, and forgiven, Lucio merely has to 
marry the mother of his child, and even Barnardine -- a murderer! -- is 
pardoned and freed. Now that's a happy ending.

Best to all,
Bob Projansky

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