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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Isabella's Redemption
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1750  Friday, 14 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 12:36:11 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption

[2] 	From: 	Bruce Young <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 14:14:50 -0600
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption

[3] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Friday, 14 Oct 2005 00:11:40 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 12:36:11 -0400
Subject: 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption

Edmund Taft <
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 >

 >I've read with interest the posts in this thread and tend to agree
 >with those who think that Isabella finally takes the Duke's hand
 >in marriage. But two points are worth considering:
 >
 >1. To what extent does she feel trapped into accepting his marriage 
proposal?

The shadow of King Cophetua is a long one, indeed, as all fans of Lord 
Peter Wimsey know. But the Duke's proposal is just about as politely 
indirect as it can be while remaining unambiguous.

 >2. To what extent have either Isabella or the Duke demonstrated
 >that they are ready to value and care for the children that, presumably,
 >will ensue after marriage?

To what extent have either [woman] or [man] in [insert comedy here] 
demonstrated the same? To ask such a question is (to refer again to 
Sayers) inquiring into the subsequent careers of X, Y, and Z after they 
have finished digging their famous ditch.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bruce Young <
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Date: 		Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 14:14:50 -0600
Subject: 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption

Here are my thoughts, in response to Ed Taft's thoughtful questions 
about Isabella and the Duke:

[Ed Taft's questions:]

 >1. To what extent does she feel trapped into accepting his marriage
 >proposal?
 >2. To what extent have either Isabella or the Duke demonstrated that
 >they are ready to value and care for the children that, presumably, will
 >ensue after marriage?

I wonder, first of all, whether Shakespeare or his audience would have 
worried much about such questions, especially the one about children. 
Even many modern viewers wouldn't think to ask the questions-though 
some, obviously, would.

We could presumably ask the same questions of any number of couples in 
Shakespeare.  But, though the degree of willingness, enthusiasm, or 
happiness the characters are feeling about the proposed marriages may 
sometimes enter into our thoughts, I doubt most of us wonder what child 
raising will be like for Rosalind and Orlando, Viola and Orsino, Portia 
and Bassanio, Beatrice and Benedick, or any number of other couples.

IF (and it's a big "if") Isabella feels trapped, then Shakespeare would 
be drawing on a common human emotion: Bertram feels that way in All's 
Well, for obvious reasons; George Bailey feels that way in It's a 
Wonderful Life (think of the scene where George and Mary are talking on 
the phone with Sam Wainwright); and, if I may add autobiographically, 
before I started dating the woman who would become my wife, I stupidly 
gave as a condition, "As long as you do not engage in entrapping 
behavior."  (People ask why she kept seeing me after I said that.  All I 
can say is that it was an act of grace.)

But if Shakespeare is drawing on that emotion at the end of Measure for 
Measure, he doesn't do anything with it, so far as I can tell.

In answer to the second question (are they ready to value and care for 
children), I would answer, now that I've thought about it, that they 
would probably be better prepared than Romeo and Juliet and perhaps as 
well prepared as my wife and I were 20 years ago when we started out on 
the challenging adventure of family life.

But I think I know what Ed is getting at: do the characteristics and 
habits (whether good, bad, or indifferent) of Isabella and the Duke as 
we've learned of them in the play suggest that they're well or ill 
prepared for children?  I'll leave that to others on the list to argue 
and speculate.

Bruce Young

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Friday, 14 Oct 2005 00:11:40 +0100
Subject: 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1742 Isabella's Redemption

Edmund Taft writes ...

 >I've read with interest the posts in this thread and tend to agree
 >with those who think that Isabella finally takes the Duke's hand
 >in marriage. But two points are worth considering:
 >
 >1. To what extent does she feel trapped into accepting his marriage 
proposal?

The Norton Shakespeare has a very good MFM article by Katherine Eisaman 
Maus.  In it she writes, "skeptical critics see the Duke as a schemer 
who foists his dirty work onto political subordinates and meddles 
impudently, even sacrilegiously, with the lives of his subjects".

For such critics (and I must be one) MFM is a problem play simply 
because the Duke does not deserve Isabella's hand in marriage.  He is 
unworthy of her.

Maus writes:  "Isabella remains mute in the face of the Duke's 
unexpected proposal of marriage, leaving it an open question whether she 
is overwhelmed with joy or gripped with horror, whether the Duke 
provides her with a socially and personally satisfying alternative to 
religious abstinence or merely recapitulates Angelo's harassment".

I must disagree with Edmund Taft and others.  While live performances 
can obviously play it either way, on the page it reads more like harassment.

Peter Bridgman

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