The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0157 Saturday, 6 April 2013
Date: April 5, 2013 11:23:42 PM EDT
Subject: Re: Mariana in Measure for Measure
I agree with Jack Heller that the question of how to interpret Mariana’s reference to the Duke/Friar as someone who has still’d her “brawling discontent” is probably not resolvable. But since I’ve published a proposed answer to this very question, I thought I’d provide it here to round out the possibilities.
In short, (1) as many have argued, the Duke might be Shakespeare’s representation of King James, who wrote a book about the divine right of kings, and (2) as I have argued, Mariana might be Shakespeare’s representation of Juan de Mariana, a Spanish Jesuit who wrote a book advocating regicide. If that’s the case, then, as explained in my paper, “A Picture in Little Is Worth A Thousand Words: Debasement in Hamlet and Measure for Measure”:
“[H]aving Mariana ‘admit’ that the advice of the King James figure (the Duke) ‘[h]ath often still’d my brawling discontent’ (4.1.9) might have been Shakespeare’s way of reassuring King James that his writings on the divine right had refuted those of Mariana.”
Before I remembered that I had written the foregoing, I thought that perhaps Mariana represented Spain more generally, and the reference to James’s having still’d Spain’s “brawling discontent” was obviously a reference to the fact that James had recently negotiated a peace with Spain.
Take your pick. Either way, it’s an example of how what appears to be a plot hole can be patched up by thinking of this “problem play” as an allegory, rather than simply a poorly-constructed story.
I have no interest in renewing any aspect of the debate over my paper; some of us had huge fun with that here on SHAKSPER back in 2005. The entire paper, plus other materials, including an annotated version of the SHAKSPER debate, is available at www.wmshakespeare.com.