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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0189  Friday, 17 March 2006

[1] 	From: 	Norman Hinton <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 11:51:48 -0600
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

[2] 	From: 	Todd Pettigrew <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 14:22:29 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

[3] 	From: 	Donald Bloom <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 13:31:50 -0600
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

[4] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 15:38:31 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

[5] 	From: 	Elliott Stone <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 16:32:01 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

[6] 	From: 	David Evett <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 22:54:27 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Norman Hinton <
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Date: 		Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 11:51:48 -0600
Subject: 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

 >"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?"

Or, as George Bernard Shaw once said, "We've decided what you are. We 
are haggling about the price."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Todd Pettigrew <
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Date: 		Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 14:22:29 -0400
Subject: 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

Larry Weiss writes:

 >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.

I disagree. Effectively, Angelo tells Isabella that he will kill her 
brother if she does not have sex with him. This hardly seems an 
invitation to prostitution; it is an attempt to achieve sex through 
coercion, and if that is not attempted rape, it is something very much 
like it. It is certainly not "seduction" any more than when Tarquin 
threatens to "seduce" Lucrece, and I am shocked to hear Larry Weiss 
suggest that it is.

Moreover, to regard the play in these terms is not to pander to the 
politically correct. Angelo's actions are neither trivial, nor are they new.

I don't suppose this is the best time to bring up the suggestion that 
Helena rapes Bertram in All's Well.

Todd Pettigrew

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Donald Bloom <
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Date: 		Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 13:31:50 -0600
Subject: 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

We have been down these (mean) streets before, but the view is so 
lovely, I guess it's worth the trip.

In this instance, I have some doubts about redefining rape and making it 
prostitution (by which the guilt is transferred from the victimizer to 
the victim). I can't see that the man who holds a knife to the throat of 
woman to force her to have sex is less a rapist than one who holds a 
knife to the throat of someone she loves.

You can argue-and with some success-that the victim in either case ought 
to go along with the demand, rather than defying the rapist and 
accepting death. But you can argue the other way, too. You just have to 
know what you're setting up as moral premises in order to make your 
argument.

But this technique of extorting acquiescence through threatening someone 
else with death, torture or mutilation is as old as the hills-and as 
recent as Josef Goebbels and the daily paper.

Whichever way your moral premises guide you, I really think this spade 
ought to be identified as such.

Cheers.
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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Date: 		Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 15:38:31 -0500
Subject: 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

I enjoyed reading the various postings surrounding the moral conundrum 
in Isabella's dilemma of relinquishing her virginity to save the life of 
her brother.

Arguments for equating this blackmail scheme to the realms of either 
rape or prostitution focuses our attention on the victims' choices and 
forces us to judge *them* - But we should focus on the blackmailer, I think.

Does there not exist, primarily for Isabella the novitiate, a real fear 
for her soul? Is she not asked to commit an act that will place her in 
hell for eternity after her life is over? (She says so many times. Can 
we not believe her?) Would she not also view this act as making a 
cuckold of the God to whom she is to be the bride after taking her vows? 
(I'm not a Catholic, but I remember my wife explaining it to me so.) Is 
that not the horror for her?  Is that not the horror into which she 
cannot step? Eternal death vs. mortal death.

As for Claudio's impassioned speech begging her to do what is needed to 
spare his life? Does he not clearly see his end is at hand? Does he not 
really believe that his sister will be forgiven?

I think if we take these characters at their word we can better 
understand the problem and not worry over niceties of words used such as 
whore or pimp. They were both victims of power gone mad, I believe. We 
shouldn't simplify it for the sake of discussion about political 
correctness. The choice was horrible. Speculation on thoughts behind the 
characters Isabella and Claudio is what drives the play for me, but not 
solely to allow me to make a moral judgment on what each believes. We 
need to see all sides and not dismiss either brother or sister with a label.

Jim Blackie

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Elliott Stone <
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Date: 		Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 16:32:01 -0500
Subject: 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

It seems that people are very upset about the way the Duke and Angelo 
were running things in Vienna. Well, how were things being handled in 
1581 in Merry Olde England?

In a famous letter dated March 23, Sir Francis Walsingham tells us that 
Anne Vavysor, a Lady of the Queens Court, gave birth to a son in the 
"Maidens Chamber". The father has tried to escape from England but the 
gentlewoman had been committed to the Tower the following day. Others 
have also been committed." Her Majesty is greatly grieved with the 
accident, and therefore I hope there will be some order taken as the 
like inconvenience will be avoided."

Best,
Elliott H. Stone

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Evett <
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Date: 		Thursday, 16 Mar 2006 22:54:27 -0500
Subject: 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0185 Measure for Measure and a Puzzle

" the dilemma-that-is-not"

Kris McDermott argues that for Isabella, the choice between giving 
herself to Angelo and confirming Claudio's death sentence is not a 
dilemma. Maybe not at that moment, when the salvation of souls--his and 
hers--seem the absolute issue to her--and the preservation of his young 
life the absolute thing to him. We are left then to explain, however, 
her assent to the bedtrick, which promises to get both of them off 
(what, nonexistent?) horns, but at the cost of prevaricating in both 
directions on the spiritual question. Should she not still be absolute 
for his death if he has not redeemed his dishonorable appeal "Thy sin's 
not accidental, but a trade. . . (Arden 3.1.148)? The question becomes 
urgent in the theater, where the players have to decide how to manage 
the scene of the Duke's intervention, and especially Claudio's 
bottom-of-the barrel response: "Let me ask my sister pardon; I am so out 
of love with life that I will sue to be rid of it" (170-71). On 
Claudio's side, the speech obviously represents a psychological 
acceptance of her argument, but it has far less rhetorical conviction 
than his speech on death, and there's no trace of theology in it, nor is 
there anything textually explicit in his very brief appearance on the 
threshold of his execution (4.2.60-67) that evinces some deep spiritual 
change.  (The sequence is pretty closely parallel to Angelo's similar 
speech after his exposure: "so deep sticks it in my penitent heart / 
That I crave death more willingly than mercy" [5.1. 473-74]--which leads 
in about the same rhythm as the proposal of the bedtrick to the final 
revelation of the living Claudio and the Duke's observation, which need 
not have prescriptive force, to be sure, that Angelo has "a quickening 
in his eye" [494].) If Isabella overhears Claudio's contemptus mundi 
utterance she might be released from her theological hard line; still, 
it has often seemed more natural to play the Duke-Claudio conversation 
as private, in which case her readiness to go along with the subterfuge 
is easy to read as indicating how happy she is not to have to live with 
the memory of her stringency.

More generally, the whole situation is a classic exhibition of the 
essential spirit of comedy: second chances all round.

Casuistically,
David Evett

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