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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Measure for Measure and Isabella
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0195  Tuesday, 21 March 2006

From: 		L. Swilley <
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Date: 		Monday, 20 Mar 2006 17:21:40 -0600
Subject: 	Measure for Measure and Isabella

Tom Krause writes,

 >Isn't condemning Isabella at odds with one of the play's
 >premises -- that Isabella is going to become a nun, who
 >will help solve the world's problems by devoting herself
 >to God and prayer?

Isabella certainly needs some kind of correction, in spite of - or 
because of - her too lofty and inhuman plan to "solve the world's 
problems". Of the Poor Clares' restraints, that order being the 
strictest of all of them, Isabella wants "a more strict restraint." Hers 
is a moral illness that needs the correction she is invited to apply in 
the rest of the play.

Carol Barton writes,

 >It might be difficult for the males in this discussion to
 >understand the very real and physical as well as spiritual
 >sense of corruptedness and violation that a woman feels
 >when her body is mauled and penetrated against her will
 >by a man she does not want-whether that man is the
 >once-beloved husband who has had sex with her a thousand
 >times before, or a criminal rapist forcing her at knife-point.
 >For a virgin, especially one who has committed herself to a
 >life of inviolate celibacy, the sense of defilement is compounded
 >several orders of magnitude. Isabella need not be Mother
 >Teresa to feel as she does---or to have the right to feel that way.

This is so. But isn't the play making the point that, however awful 
Isabella's submission to Angelo may be for her, she is invited to 
*offer* herself for her brother (although he is deeply wrong to ask her 
for such a gift)?

In this, I am reminded of those who praise Cordelia for refusing a 
declaration of love for her old father, rather than blame her, as they 
should, for ignoring his need - and for matching his division of love 
with her own, as though love for one's husband does not increase one's 
love for her father.

Cordelia is another Lear; and I suspect Isabella is almost another Angelo.

L. Swilley

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