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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Isabella's Redemption
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1733  Wednesday, 12 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Monday, 10 Oct 2005 11:55:02 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption

[2] 	From: 	Julia Griffin <
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	Date: 	Monday, 10 Oct 2005 13:01:38 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption

[3] 	From: 	Arnie Perlstein <
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	Date: 	Monday, 10 Oct 2005 13:45:30 -0400
	Subj: 	Re MFM: The Duke Teaching Isabella?

[4] 	From: 	David Richman <
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	Date: 	Monday, 10 Oct 2005 17:42:27 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption

[5] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 11 Oct 2005 00:00:09 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1712 Isabella's Redemption


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Oct 2005 11:55:02 -0400
Subject: 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption

Abigail Quart <
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 >

 >Only then does the Duke reveal Claudio, still alive. Only then
 >does the Duke propose. If Isabella puts her hand into the Duke's
 >hand when he offers it, she has no need to speak. She has given
 >visual consent. She actually has to physically put her hand into
 >the Duke's so that he can confirm her gesture with the line "He
 >is my brother, too." Claudio and the Duke become brothers upon
 >the Duke's marriage to Claudio's sister. The line is a marriage contract.

...

 >If a director doesn't see the moment of the visual wedding in Measure,
 >and leaves it out, the ending falls flat. It has "problems." Isabella,
 >redeemed, must be seen to give her consent to live in the world of
 >flesh, love, indulgence, and forgiveness.

I have to say that, although I would not be quite so harsh on Isabella's 
character as displayed throughout the play, I think not only that this 
is the right answer to the "problem" of the Duke's proposal, but that it 
is, far more importantly, the right /kind/ of answer, in treating 
"Measure for Measure" as pre-eminently a /play/, and not some other 
thing. Honestly, in this world of post-modernism and 
post-post-modernism, it's a downright breath of fresh air.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Julia Griffin <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Oct 2005 13:01:38 -0400
Subject: 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption

On Is's redemption: Empson pointed out how amazingly self-centred she 
remains, even as she kneels.

             I partly think
A due sincerity govern'd his deeds
Till he did look on me.

Unless "partly" here is working very hard indeed, it seems that his 
treatment of Mariana has made no real impression on her.  (Her immediate 
and characteristic reaction to hearing about it was to think how nice it 
would be for Mariana to be dead: III i).  Mariana's appeal is a 
different thing altogether ...

Julia

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Arnie Perlstein <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Oct 2005 13:45:30 -0400
Subject: 	Re MFM: The Duke Teaching Isabella?

"But still the Duke carries on with his little show.  While Isabella 
stands by and watches, he sentences Angelo to death, despite Mariana's 
pleas for his life.  But for what purpose?  He has already saved 
Claudio's life.  He has publicly humbled Angelo and made him fulfill his 
promise of marriage to Mariana.  So why does he persist in going forward 
with his deception?  It's because he's waiting for Isabella to show 
mercy and forgiveness.

 From her knees, Mariana pleads with Isabella to join her and beg for 
Angelo's life.  The Duke asks Mariana why Isabella should kneel down in 
mercy, in the face of her brother's ghost, and ask that Angelo be 
forgiven for his crime-practically goading Isabella into the recognition 
that her continued silence is unchristian.  It is only after Isabella 
kneels down in supplication, forgiving Angelo and begging that he be 
shown mercy, that the Duke calls the provost forward and winds up his 
little drama.

It seems to me that the Duke has intentionally withheld the fact that 
Claudio is still alive from Isabella in order to give her an opportunity 
to show mercy and forgiveness.  A chance to grow spiritually and gain 
some maturity.  She wasn't really cut out to be a nun, and perhaps she 
realizes this at the end.  If so, I think she probably accepted the 
Duke's proposal of marriage."

Clark, that is a beautifully summarized argument in favor of your 
conclusion, but it treats the Duke as though he were God and not a man. 
But when you look at him as a man, much of what he does in the play 
smacks far more of the Devil than of God. As Shakespeare understood so 
well, there is not much of a difference, when you come right down to it, 
between them! The basic aspect of the M.O. of both of them is that they 
operate according to the principles of judo and remote control puppetry. 
They prefer to (and maybe can only) operate indirectly, by 
tempting/teaching (aren't they really two sides of the same coin?) 
humans to act (im)morally. Parting of the Red Sea or stopping the sun in 
the sky is flashy but ultimately kinda tacky, and doesn't do much for 
human moral development.

Seeing MFM as a very screwball black comedy, I realize more fully now 
that Shakespeare, in MFM, has created a male/female "dance" which 
exceeds even Much Ado About Nothing in complexity (if not in pleasure). 
And, I also assert, along with MAAN, AYLI and 12N, MFM provided 
inspiration for that later, greatest of all love stories, i.e., Jane 
Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The latter is the ultimate story of a man 
and a woman inadvertently acting as student and teacher for each other, 
in the school of life, as they fall in love in the process. MAAN is the 
bright side of the coin, AYLI and 12N play with aspects of it, but MFM 
is the darkest of dark sides of the male/female dance. I bet Ingmar 
Bergman really liked MFM.

So, in fine, I'd expand your argument, and say that this is a dynamic 
between the Duke and Isabella, and that the one in far greater need of 
moral, spiritual and psychological reform is the Duke himself, not 
Isabella!  The first two or three years of therapy would be taken up 
with learning how to speak (and behave) honestly.   ;)

Arnie Perlstein
Weston, Florida

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Richman <
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Date: 		Monday, 10 Oct 2005 17:42:27 -0400
Subject: 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1723 Isabella's Redemption

Peter Brook's 1950 R.S.C. production of "Measure for Measure,"made a 
good deal of Isabella's kneeling for mercy.  He describes the moment in 
a memorable passage in his book **The Empty Space.**

He writes:

When I once staged the play, I asked Isabella, before kneeling for 
Angelo's life, to pause each night until she felt the audience could 
take it no longer, and this used to lead to a two-minute stopping of the 
play. The device became a voodoo pole, a silence in which all the 
invisible elements of the evening came together: a silence in which the 
abstract notion of mercy became concrete for that moment to those present.

In his production, though not in others, it was clear to the audience 
that Isabella would marry the duke.

David Richman

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 11 Oct 2005 00:00:09 +0000
Subject: 16.1712 Isabella's Redemption
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1712 Isabella's Redemption

Clark Holloway asks, "why does he [Duke Vincentio] persist in going 
forward with his deception?" and answers, "It's because he's waiting for 
Isabella to show mercy and forgiveness."

Portia and Prospero would approve (as would the Apostle Paul, for that 
matter). While the King's Man may have had reservations about the 
tactics employed by the "Duke of dark corners," his lord and master 
James had no such qualms. A contemporary (Anthony Weldon) cites the 
King's private motto as: "QUI NESCIT DISSIMULARE, NESCIT REGNARE." ("He 
who knows not how to dissimulate knows not how to reign.")

Joe Egert

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