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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
Performing Angelo
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1572  Tuesday, 20 September 2005

[1] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Monday, 19 Sep 2005 14:06:23 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1554 Performing Angelo

[2] 	From: 	D Bloom <
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	Date: 	Monday, 19 Sep 2005 08:53:34 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1554 Performing Angelo

[3] 	From: 	Arnie Perlstein <
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	Date: 	Monday, 19 Sep 2005 11:38:14 -0400
	Subj: 	Re Performing Angelo

[4] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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	Date: 	Monday, 19 Sep 2005 12:52:27 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1554 Performing Angelo


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Monday, 19 Sep 2005 14:06:23 +0100
Subject: 16.1554 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1554 Performing Angelo

Abigail Quart writes ...

 >The definition of teenager is someone who dramatizes what
 >he really feels.

Shouldn't that be 'he or she'?

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		D Bloom <
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Date: 		Monday, 19 Sep 2005 08:53:34 -0500
Subject: 16.1554 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1554 Performing Angelo

Abigail Quart, discussing the comic elements of MFM, especially the 
first meeting of Isabella and her brother, remarks, "He now tries to 
wheedle his sister out of her favorite toy, her virginity."

I am perplexed by the use of the word "toy" here and what AQ means by 
it. Could she elucidate?

don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Arnie Perlstein <
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Date: 		Monday, 19 Sep 2005 11:38:14 -0400
Subject: 	Re Performing Angelo

"With all due respect to Mr. Perlstein, nothing in the script justifies 
his fanciful reading that the Duke knew Isabella's family or travel 
plans.  Nothing." Abigail, with all due respect in return, and in a 
lessflip tone than my earlier post, I claim that, in seeing the Duke as 
initiating this elaborate ruse for a personal romantic reason, I am 
engaging in reasonable interpretation of MFM. And I claim that your 
creative interpretations are no more firmly grounded than mine. If you 
went back and read Measure for Measure with the working hypothesis that 
Shakespeare wanted one plausible reading of the play to be "boy pursues 
girl in highly unorthodox way", you would be surprised at how nicely it 
dovetails with what happens, and how nicely it fits with certain facts.

I also claim a more overarching basis for my reading, i.e., that 
Shakespeare has made very clear in the text that key themes of the play 
are how we know ourselves, and how we deceive ourselves; and, even more 
so, how we know others, and how others deceive us. Is what "seems" 
actually so? We are invited, at every turn, to question apparent 
realities. So if I am going down a garden path, it is one that 
Shakespeare himself has paved. He is not standing behind a box tree 
laughing at me, I am reasonably confident. And I in turn fulfill my end 
of the bargain by not betting all on a single interpretation of the 
"letters" Shakespeare has left for us to read.

And the character of the Duke, from the first moment, shows himself to 
be a deceiver of the first Shakespearean rank, arguably greater than 
Richard III, and well beyond even Iago, Edmund, Rosalind and Viola.

It's not by accident that as the play progresses, we find out, after the 
fact and repeatedly, that the Duke knew certain key facts, but 
Shakespeare chose not to let us in on the secret till later. It is 
inescapable to me that we are meant to see the relationship between the 
Duke and the other characters as being comparable to the relationship 
between Shakespeare and the audience/readers. It is reasonable to derive 
from that pattern that Shakespeare is up to something metafictional, 
something deeper and more complex than the surface plot presented to us. 
He's looking for an audience and/or reader who will actively use his or 
her imagination to fill in blanks, and not to passively accept surface 
realities. Just as the Duke thinks fast on his feet to keep the ball 
rolling despite the refusal of his "puppets" to dance to his prescribed 
rhythm, so too do we need to do this, to avoid the quickly shifting 
sands of the plot of Measure for Measure.

And, on top of all of that, we find exactly the same pattern with Helena 
in AWTEW. And with Hamlet. Characters who are deeply mysterious, 
amenable to multiple, often contradictory, interpretations. So we know 
that Measure for Measure is not an isolated instance, it is part of a 
larger metafictional pattern at that stage of Shakespeare's career.

So it is entirely reasonable to doubt his "cover story" for leaving 
Vienna, and for appointing Angelo, and to refuse to accept apparent 
coincidences as such. I believe that Shakespeare intended for Measure 
for Measure to be consistently and plausibly interpretable as a dark 
screwball romantic comedy. And as a serious play about moral choices. 
And as a blend of the two. Which is exactly why it has defied critical 
consensus through the centuries, and will continue to do so forever. I 
don't claim that your reading is wrong, only that it is not the only 
right one. Above all, Shakespeare meant for us to be having this 
conversation. Since we can't be there to hear the Duke's post-finale 
explanation of what he was about, the next best thing is for us to 
debrief it ourselves.

Arnie Perlstein
Weston, Florida

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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Date: 		Monday, 19 Sep 2005 12:52:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 16.1554 Performing Angelo
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1554 Performing Angelo

Good discussion on this difficult play.

Abigail Quart:

"As to Isabella's initial meeting with her brother, of course it's 
comic.  She walks in the door and he instantly repudiates every word 
he's agreed to with the Duke. He is NOT prepared for death. He now tries 
to wheedle his sister out of her favorite toy, her virginity. It's 
normal brother behavior with hell high stakes. That alone would make it 
comic."

I have to admit I never saw any of this as humorous based on my reading. 
I believe the BBC production in the late 70's-early 80's played it 
straight as a man suddenly confronted by the consequences of his brave 
words. I do see that it *could* have been played for laughs if acted 
with that in mind, but we have no way of really knowing what was 
intended, do we? (This is a real question, though it probably comes 
across as rhetorical)

Larry Weiss:

"I cannot see the Duke as particularly young... After Hamlet, all 
Shakespeare's male leads were middle aged or older or, at best (as in 
the cases of Macbeth and Leontes of the first half of the play) of 
indeterminate age -- Duke Vincentio, Othello, Lear, Macbeth, Antony, 
Coriolanus, Timon, Pericles (except in the Wilton scenes), Leontes, 
Prospero, Henry VIII.

Here, I think Larry makes a good point in offering the age of the 
intended players as being reflected in the charters within the drama, 
but also, WS was aging and his words and thoughts more naturally would 
be best voiced by a mature main character. I had never considered the 
implication of aging players/author before this, so thanks, Larry, for 
pointing my thoughts in a new, logical direction.

But even without this consideration, I think the Duke is, at the very 
least, a "father" icon in the play, a minor god or fallen angel who 
moves people across a scenario he helped design, while changing events 
in the background with his use of disguises and whispers; he uses the 
same tools wielded by Satan, as represented in Christian/Judaic 
heritage. To have him represented as a young man ( mid-late 20's ) would 
play against the type at best. Again, what was old to WS? Dead at 52, 
retired in his 40's? I'd call him a middle-aged meddler willing to shift 
responsibility onto some hapless hair-brained puritan while staying in 
the background to still pull the occasional string and, like some 
demented jack-in-the-box, pull a Deus ex machine when the crank gets 
turned 'round. (Sorry about all those metaphors jumping and mixing 
about. The Duke seems to have gotten my dander up).

Jim Blackie

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