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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0185  Thursday, 16 March 2006

[1] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 15 Mar 2006 11:36:12 -0500
	Subj: 	Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

[2] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 15 Mar 2006 12:59:53 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0181 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

[3] 	From: 	Kristen McDermott <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 15 Mar 2006 14:18:57 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0181 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 15 Mar 2006 11:36:12 -0500
Subject: 	Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

Abigail Quart insightfully observes that "Claudio is the GOOD guy. He 
should NOT be in jail. He should be with Juliet preparing a home for 
their child. He has made a small human error in anticipating his 
wedding. Any law that would have him die for that is WRONG.  It's not a 
moral dilemma. It's not a "problem." It's WRONG."

Yes. But the real issue here and throughout MfM is the general lack of 
regard for children in Vienna. The play is based on a dialectic of 
absence and presence: witness the Duke who for years was present but 
lax, and now seems absent but is really present. In 3.1, the absent (but 
really present) term is exactly as Abigail Quart puts it: the unborn 
child and its needs. It needs a mother and father, and that is why 
Claudio is right to want to live (though he does NOT give the right 
reason), and why Isabella is dead wrong to shout at her brother, "Die! 
Perish!" (146). Much the same is true in 2.3, where the disguised Duke 
risks a miscarriage by telling Juliet that not only will Claudio die, 
but so will she (presumably after giving birth), leaving a child with no 
parents! - and leaving Juliet visibly shaken on stage, but with a pillow 
under her gown that the audience can see - a visible reminder of the 
child whose needs the Duke cares nothing about!

In fact, the Duke hates children (see the opening of 4.1 in which 
Mariana, who knows the Duke well, quickly sends away the boy! - I wonder 
who's the father of this boy?). In the end, it is lack of concern for 
children that makes the ending of MfM so problematic, not the marriages 
themselves.  Can you imagine Lucio or Angelo or the Duke being a good, 
decent father?

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 15 Mar 2006 12:59:53 -0500
Subject: 17.0181 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0181 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

Abigail Quart is right on when she says:

 >I know this is how Measure is being taught. I hate it. It's so 
politically
 >correct, so aware of delicate sensibilities and it is such a pile of 
pasture
 >pastry.
 >
 >Claudio was not "demanding" that his sister be raped. He was asking
 >that she prostitute herself. He was asking that she trade the use of her
 >body for a brief time for his entire life.

Feminization and political correctness have trivialized the notion of 
rape the point where many regard seduction as its moral equivalent.

A woman who prefers not to copulate but does so anyway in the 
expectation of obtaining a benefit for herself or someone else (such as 
her brother) is a prostitute, not a rape victim.  And, at worst, Claudio 
was something like a pimp, not a rape facilitator.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kristen McDermott <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 15 Mar 2006 14:18:57 -0500
Subject: 17.0181 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0181 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

Abigail Quart writes:

 >"If you have a brother and he is condemned to death, but you can save him
 >by screwing the jailer, do YOU refuse? One way the brother you love is
 >alive, the other he is dead. Yeah, you'll have to live with the memory.
 >But you'll both be alive. What's your choice?"

Yes, but what about the possibility that screwing the jailer WON'T save 
your brother, as indeed it doesn't (but for the intervention of fate in 
the form of a dead prisoner)? Isabella knows that Angelo is a "perilous 
mouth," a liar. She would have to be awfully credulous to assume that 
Angelo wouldn't (as he does) order Claudio killed anyway. She's testing 
Claudio, not asking his blessing, when she presents the 
dilemma-that-is-not to him. Her purpose is to "fit his mind for death," 
not to save him. And when he fails the test, she's ready to kill him 
herself: "Mercy to thee would prove itself a bawd./'Tis best that thou 
diest quickly." Doubtless many women made -- with varying degrees of 
regret -- the "choice" Quart mentions, but there is no choice in 
Isabella's case. Although she's not happy about it, she knows exactly 
what her course of action is.

Kris McDermott
Central Michigan University

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