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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Performing Angelo
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1709  Thursday, 6 October 2005

[Editor's Note: This thread has reached its useful conclusion: further 
discussion should be conducted offline.]

[1] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 4 Oct 2005 19:15:55 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1696 Performing Angelo

[2] 	From: 	Arnie Perlstein <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 5 Oct 2005 14:57:55 -0400
	Subj: 	Performing Angelo


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 4 Oct 2005 19:15:55 +0100
Subject: 16.1696 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1696 Performing Angelo

Robert Projansky writes ...

 >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).

To an audience of the day torture and martyrdom were not 
sado-masochistic fantasies, they were brutal realities.

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.  And the humiliation and 
sexual torture wasn't reserved for men.  Margaret Clitheroe, a 
Lancashire woman 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.

Sigmund Shakespeare, pah!

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Arnie Perlstein <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 5 Oct 2005 14:57:55 -0400
Subject: 	Performing Angelo

David Basch wrote: "...[The Duke's line in MFM is] a direct quotation 
from the Talmud's Pirke Avoth, the tract popularly known as "The Ethics 
of our Fathers."....This portion of the Talmud gives the sayings of four 
types of persons, as follows: ...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."

Unless someone else can show some other plausible derivation, I'd say 
that David has made a prima facie case that Shakespeare intended to 
allude to Pirke Avoth. It doesn't surprise me, if he knew the Bible as 
well as he obviously did, he'd probably be familiar with the Talmud as 
well.

But how to interpret it? Aye, there's the rub!

"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."

According to that typology, yes. But that typology is itself simplistic, 
and therefore begs the question of the meaning of the Duke's words, 
because it does not include another, much more (in my view) plausible, 
interpretation of the Duke's words. I.e., they constitute a proposal of 
a loving generous relationship in which there are no more boundaries 
separating the two partners, who consider everything that each one now 
has separately as becoming joint property, i.e., "ours". And the Duke's 
allusion to Claudio as his brother is a perfect example of that. That is 
the reading I think is fairest.

"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."

And there's where you and I part ways. I see the Duke as a Machiavellian 
strategist who knows very well what Angelo is likely to do once he takes 
power, and who is the furthest thing from naive. Just as, in 12N, Maria 
knows very well what Malvolio is likely to do once he reads the letter 
next to the box tree.

"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."

I'd say the spoof is actually deeper than that, and very ironic. The 
spoof is on those folks who "simply" accept the Duke's cover story (and 
the naked fact of an allusion) without question as to deeper meaning.

Arnie Perlstein
Weston, Florida

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