Measure for measure

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Measure for measure mystery and moira
Darr, Norma M
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Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
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vi, 89 leaves : ; 29 cm.


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Measure for measure (Shakespeare, William) ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Thesis (M.A.)--University of Colorado at Denver, 1993. English
Includes bibliographical references.
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, English.
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Department of English
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by Norma M. Darr.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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MEASURE FOR MEASURE: MYSTERY AND MOIRA by Norma M. Darr B. A., University of Nebraska, 1972 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts English 1993 .......... ; ....... ..


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Norma M. Darr has been approved for the Department of English by Catherine dey Elihu Pearlman


Darr, Norma M. (M.A., English) Measure for Measure: Mystery and Moira Thesis: directed by Assistant Professor Catherine Wiley ABSTRACf Measure for Measure has had the misfortune of receiving most of its critical attention centuries after it was written. The scholars who have analyzed the play have consistently found that It presents problems of intepretation in its artistry as well as its morality. The problems are largely due to the fact that the . critics have studied the play in terms of their contemporary literary theories and failed to adequately consider the mix of theology and politics that characterized the reign of the new King for whom this play was written as a holiday entertainrhent. The thesis of this study is that Measure for Measure draws on precedents in both medieval and dassical theatre to give artistic expression to the story of the evolution of Judeo-Christian justice which informed Stuart England's definition of the monarchy. Allegorical readings of Mea.Sure for Measure that appeared in the late Nineteenth Century and received considerable attention in the 1930s and '40s have come near to revealing the unity behind the seemingly divided structure and ambiguous morality of the play. They fall short of the mark because the play is not pure allegory, and its complexity cannot be contained in the narrow interpetation of characters and events that allegorical readings impose; however, Measure for Measure invites allegorical readings because it is constructed on a mythical pattern. The play contains a combination of the elements of Medieval iii


Mystery and Morality plays in which Everyman is subjected to judgement by types who represent Old Testament and New Testament law. ln the telling of his Mystery, Shakespeare has drawn on classical precedent as set by Aeschylus to go to the very roots of his culture's religion and drama -the point at which drama was religion -and demonstrates how the order of his contemporary society was established through divine and human evolution. The structure and morality of Measure for Measure are those of the rrcyth, beginning with a demonstration of the severity and retributive justice of the Old Law.; comparing it with the austerity of the New Law as countermovement, and finally transcending both in an affirmation of a higher law of Grace, or in classical terms, moira . The "problem" of Measure for Measure is that the culture in which theology and politics mixed so closely in absolutist doctine was long gone before critical studies of the play were documented. The Mysteries were too far removed, and too distasteful to even the earliest critics of Measure for Measure to suggest a source for the play's unusual allegorical qualities. Resolving the difficulties of the ambivalent morality and divided structure of Measure for Measure requires a willingness to view the play in terms of its history and to see the dramatic possiblities of the Judeo-Christian story as a Shakespeare, or a writer of classical tragedy, might have. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Catherine Wiley iv


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank my advisory committee for reading, re-reading, and indulging my interpretive experiments. Collectively, they provided a well balanced set of challenges and suggestions that will serve as a guide for future research efforts as well as for this particular paper. More specifically, I thank Dr. Pearlman for asking the difficult questions that must be considered when one attempts to connect historical probabilities with interpretive possibilities. Dr; Johnston's encouragement of my interest in Shakespearean criticism and her continued support as a reader, even while on sabbatical, provided a memorable example of dedication to teaching. I thank Dr. Wiley for undertaking sponsorship of this project, assisting me with defining the scope and direction of the research, and lending guidance in matters of source materials and style. v


CONTENTS CHAPTER 1. :EXPERIMENTS IN AILEGORY ............................................ l 2: GENffi.IS ........... 3. BEY"OND ...... : ....................... 4. Tllli PIAYERS ....................................................................... 4 7 5. 11IE DffiECfOR. ..................................................................... 63 6. ]lJDG J\I:IENT 7 9 BIBUOGRAPIIY ................................................ ............................ 86 vi


CHAPTER 1 EXPERIMENTSIN ALLEGORY .. It is a theater which eliminates the author in favor of what we would call, in our Occidental jargon, the director; but a director .who become a kind of manager of magic, a master of sacred ceremonies. And the material on which he works, the themes he brings to throbbing life are derived not from him, but from the gods. They come, it seems, from elemental. interconnections of Nature which a double Spirit has fostered. .AntoninArtaud Measure for Measure has had the misfortune of receiving most of its critical attention centuries after it was written. Thus, a play that deals heavily in Judeo-Christian and classical mythical patterns was subjected to its first thorough scrutiny in the skeptical, science-oriented eighteenth century, then passed through the hands of critics in the Romantic and Victorian eras who, by and large, dismissed it as both morally and dramatically unsatisfactory. Rather than bringing the gods to life for eighteenth-century audiences or those of any other era, as Artaud would have wished, Measure for Measure has induced a vague uneasiness in its audiences, a discomfort arising from objections that critics of all periods have struggled to articulate without achieving an authoritative voice in the matter. Without appreciating the proximity of Shakespeare's work to the theater of Medieval England and even that of the Greek tragedians, literary scholars have watched the gods of the Jacobean era take the stage in Measure for Measure but have mistaken them for distorted images of humanity. 1


.Ironically, Artaud blamed what he saw as Shakespeare's focus on the verbal and psychological possibilities of drama for the "aberration and decline" of the .theater, its playwrights having no greater ambition than "to leave the public intact, without setting off one image that will shake the organism to its foundations and leave an ineffaceable scar" (76-77). In his despair over the mythical impotence of a Western theater grounded in realism and dialectic, Artaud appears to have accepted the "poet of Nature" label that has stuck to Shakespeare since Ben Jonson and Heminges and Con dell attached their tributes to the First Folio of the plays in 1623. The view of Shakespeare as the supremeimitatorofNature, especially in the sense of human nature, has outlived the complaints of the the adulation of the Romantics, and the various other temporally imposed frameworks for evaluation of the playwright's importance. From that perspective, Measure for Measure, with its mix of comedy and darkness, its-moral ambiguities, its inconsistency of characterization, appears to be perhaps the worst of the anomalous "dark comedies" in the canon; representing a low point in Shakespeare's professional development during which he persisted in writing comedy after his enthusiasm for the genre had been exhausted. But if we put aside the -notion of Shakespeare as the "poet of Nature" and read Measure for Measure in the context of its own society's history and myths, it does indeed raise disturbing questions about western society's foundations, precisely because of the dramatist's mastery of the sacred. I believe that this play is a unique demonstration of Shakespeare's ability to apply a dramatist's vision to his own culture's mythical roots and the origins of the dramatic vision itself. 2


The most earnest probing of the mythical elements of Measure for Measure came near the beginning of the twentieth century, when "allegorical" readings appeared, 300 years removed from the theater and culture in which the play originated. Others, including Samuel Johnson, had previously identified the biblical sources of many lines, but they did not attribute significance to them beyond the thematic support they lent to individual scenes; The relatively recent allegorical readings commanded much attention when they appeared, and their proponents have become some of the most widely known of Shakespearean scholars, including G. Wilson. Knight, M. C. Bradbrook, andRoy Battenhouse. Others.such as.the often-cited L..C. Knights and F. R. Leavis focused on the dramatic technique of the play rather. than its possible religious significance; yet, Knights accepted that Measure for Measure "has an obvious relation to the old Moralities" (222), and Leavis refers to Wilson Knight's allegorical reading as "the only adequate account of Measure for Measure I know" (240). Individual critics within this group variously assign different allegorical roles to the main characters of Measure for Measure, but there is general agreement that the allegory works in the context of the New Testament, i.e., it casts the Duke in a Christlike role bringing about the Atonement. E. M. W. Tillyard asserts that the allegory detected in the play works only in the second half. The second half, as I shall review later, most obviously demonstrates the New Testament themes of forgiveness and mercy commonly represented in allegory. The first half of the play does not fit very well into any of the allegorical readings recognized by the critics cited above. Thus, for Till yard and others, the play poses the problem of apparent lack of unity, "an artistic breach of internal harmony" (Miles 69). 3


Roy Battenhouse, like most of the nineteenth and twentieth century critics mentioned above, maintains a predominantly New Testament focus, but his interpretation is distinguished by its emphasis on the play's quality of "artificiality" as an example of "a higher order of artifice than the human." He suggests that to those who perceive the spiritual pattern of the drama, the play is "calculated in its shrewd entertainment to scandalize some and mystify others. For those who understand it from within, it is absolutely normative in its art and in its ethics" (1033) .. Battenhouse's approach doesn't entirely succeed in avoiding the problems of his contemporaries because his concentration on the steps leading toward the atonement tends to neglectthe importance of Old Testament allusions in establishing the unity of the seemingly divided structure ofthe play. However, his recognition of the play's dramatic self..:definition according to its own unique requirements gets to the. very essence of what is missing in many interpretations . I will return to his reading of-Measure for Measure in this study of the play's structural patterns. The allegorical readings receivedmuch attention during a brief period in the 1930s and '40s (and still command enough respect to be routinely refuted by scholars in the 1980s and '90s), but they were widely andjustifiably criticized for minimizing the complexity of Shakespeare's characterization. Additionally, the allegorical readings did not resolve the moral and dramatic problems presented by the manipulations of a devious deity and the use of marriage as both criminal sentence and comic resolution. As more modem theories of criticism became dominant after that period, the interpretation of mythical patterns in Measure for Measure has commonly been integrated into psychological studies of the play. One example is Ruth Nevo's 1988 essay in 4


which she argues for the validity of contemporary Freudian readings in which the Duke may be seen as an "observing ego," Lucio as an "alter ego," etc. (11112). From a Freudian point of view, a concept such as .original sin may still be considered necessary to the understanding of forces operating in the drama, but the critic is not dependent on finding a theological unity to establish a coherent structure. In a 1990 article, Ronald R. McDonaldbegins his comments on allegorical readings of Measure for Measure by stating "It is not altogether easy to see what provokes readings that seem so patently wrong;" referring to the example of Wilson Knight's interpretation of the Duke and Isabella's pairing off as a "'marriage of understanding with purity; of tolerance with moral fervour'" (117-18). McDonald recognizes allegorical patterns as fundamental to the play, though not in the way they are often understood to function. His view is that Angelo and Isabella, rather than being allegorical characters, are very human characters whose conflicts grow out of their desires to live an allegorical ideal. His argument is presented in terms of the relationships between mortality and sexuality, word and flesh, that draw their meaning from the discourse of theology that informs the allegorical readings he finds unacceptable. The strictly allegorical readings have been supplanted by interpretations rooted in more modem critical theory, but the recognition of the allegorical element survives even in the contemporary readings that deny its centrality to the play's structure. I submit that the allegorical interpretations of Measure for Measure have .. proved inadequate not because they are overemphasizing the importance of Christian themes in the play while disregarding its complexities, but rather 5


because they have been written in a period too far removed from early seventeenth-century thought to comprehend the boldness of the playwright's experiment. The dramatic structure and theme of the play strongly suggest that Shakespeare drew on Medieval forms of theater to take advantage of his audience's interest in theological debate as well as their fondness for masques and bawdry. Historical evidence indicates that the Medieval Mysteries enacting specific scriptural events were still familiar to Elizabethan audiences even though they were officially discouraged, some say because of their Catholic roots (Duvall 72) Whereas the Morality plays portrayed -the dilemma of sinful Everyman, whose soul was the object of competition between personifications of Faith, Justice, etc., on the one hand and Vice on the other, the Mysteries were peopled by Moses, Jesus, etc., acting within the framework of the scriptures. I believe that Measure for Measure is an experiment in combining the two Medieval forms by placing Everyman among types who closely resemble characters from the Mystery in a setting designed to reveal the psychological and dramatic implications of the underlying myth. As Josephine Waters Bennett puts it, "Since we know the source of the plot, we must see that the question Shakespeare asked himself was, what kind of people would behave in this way? not, what would these people do in these circumstances?" (5). In answer to McDonald's rightful skepticism, we should consider the pairing of the Duke and Isabella as a marriage of two characters, personalities of drama and of myth, with passions that drive themjust as the gods and heroes of classical drama were not simple embodiments of lechery or domesticity but personalities expressing a variety of behaviors revealing individual strengths and weaknesses. The tradition of the Mystery plays allowed for that type of 6


portrayal. As storyteller, Shakespeare gives us the entire myth, including the inconsistencies and the "dark deeds" as well as the light of Atonement and lightness of comic endings. The play has a divided structure because it mirrors the division between Old Testament and New. Paradoxically, the existing allegorical readings of Measure for Measure generally break down because the interpretation doesn't rely on scripture heavily enough and therefore doesn't admit an exploration of the ambivalence and inconsistencies of character that abound in its biblical source. The circumstances surrounding the original production of the play support the likelihood that Shakespeare's characteristic attention to contemporary events would have led. him to focus on a biblical theme. Critics rarely emphasize that the first performance of Measure for Measure at King James's court in December 1604took place only months after the authorization of a new translation of theBible in which the King himself would participate. In fact, the growing conflict between the King and the Puritan faction in the Church of England had engendered a great deal of theological debate that year. Scholars of the Jacobean era, such as F. P. Wilson, stress that religious debate in that period differed from the Elizabethan only in that it was even more intense and probed the mysteries in greater detail. All of this historical background suggests that Shakespeare's use of obvious biblical allusions in this holiday entertainment for the King could not have favorably impressed its audience unless the allusions were employed with considerable sophistication. Nevertheless, critics of all subsequent periods have tended to minimize the possible importance of the theological controversy extant in the society for which this play was written, shying away from the uncomfortable, 7


controversial, scrutiny of biblical elements in Measure for Measure in favor of their contemporary critical theory. Apparently for the same reason, modem critics who have attempted to analyze the dramatic significance of the Mysteries have found very little research material outside of historical accounts. Eleanor Prosser's 1961 study of the Mysteries comments on the lack of critical attention given to them, and she concludes that the cause appears to be a scholarly aversion to the subject matter rather than any lack of dramatic artifice in the production of the plays. Audience recognition of the mythical pattern in Measure for Measure at varying levels of consciousness, depending on individuals' receptiveness to .religious symbolism, is what I believe to be the root of its "problem." Regardless of one's religious training, no one raised in Western society can faii to recognize some elements of the Judeo-Christian tradition that permeates its culture. That recognition brings with it expectations of how religious subject matter is to be treated based on what that society publicly holds to be most fundamental and sacred. The spirit in which the English intelligentsia at the tum of the seventeenth century debated theological matters had disappeared long before Samuel Johnson and his contemporaries began to scrutinize Measure for Measure. Since the time of Shakespeare and James I, the Bible and the myth it represents have become much more remote and mystified as biblical debate has returned to the province of those who represent the religious establishment exclusively. When the King was seen as God's representative on earth, theological conclusions were understood to have direct secular consequences. That perceived correspondence was broken with the expulsion of Charles I 35 years after Measure for Measure was performed for James I. The divine 8


. providence that the allegorical readings of Measure for Measure find in the play is the otherworldly God of latter centuries who no longer serves as a model for mortal kingsfacing the real world's inevitable "dark deeds darkly answered." This sanitized deity is the Christlike Providence of the allegorical interpretations. Nevertheless, as any audience watches Measure for Measure, a recognition of the myth occurs at some level through Shakespeare's pervasive use of both verbal allusions and similarities of plot. With that awareness, its sense of uneasiness builds, until finally the cumulative effect can approach revulsion, as expressed in Coleridge's denunciation of the play as "a hateful work" in which "our feelings of justice are gravely wounded" (Burton 201). On the surface, we have the problem of a young woman who can save her brother from execution only by sacrificing her virginity to his corrupt judge. It is a retelling of George Whetstone's 1578 comedy Promos and Cassandra, presumably modeled on a tale from Geraldi Cinthio which explores the problem of how justice may go awry when divine mercy does not temper the human imperfections of the judge. Unfortunately, for a play that presents as many difficulties as Measure for Measure, it seems that the critical tools used thus far have often been inappropriate to the task or incorrectly applied. Or, as many have suggested, the playwright failed to realize his ambition in this case. However, the play itself tells us quite emphatically, I think, that the key to its structure is in the mythical patterns that control its action. When the full implications of the biblical allusions and dramatic development are considered, Measure for Measure yields a playwright's comprehensive view of the evolution of Judeo-Christianjustice. Along the way it looks into the tragic and comic patterns as they function within that history, glancing back to the classical 9


era for perspective on both the history and the drama. An examination of how Shakespeare's mythical "overplot" develops suggests that this dramatic experiment may have been very ambitious indeed and that it ventured beyond the limits of the allegorical readings to the very roots of Judeo-Christianjustice and Western theatre. 10


CHAPTER2 GENESIS Measure for Measure begins in an Old Testament world that contains the elements of both comedy and tragedy. The first scene is an enactment of the "deputizing" of the race of Adam, which sets the pattern of parables in which the master departs in order to test the character of the servant, as identified by Wilson Knight (96). The Duke is preparing to play the role of the absent, invisible deity. Angelo, as proud, fallible Man, will assume the authority that had previously been directly administered by his superior. The opening scene is largely expository, providing formal introductions to the Duke and Angelo in terms of their office and reputation. Each praises the other in the manner of men whose conduct is governed by a strict code of honor. The Duke's speech in lines 27-47 indicates that Angelo is inheriting a responsibility that is as much spiritual as secular: Heaven doth with us as we with torches do, Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touched But to fine issues, (I i 32-36) The similarity to the Gospel of Matthew 4: 14-16 has often been noted: Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Also, the latter lines suggest Matthew 12:33, which speaks of the tree that "is known by his fruit" and leads into 12:35: 11


A good mail out of the. good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. Angelo has a spiritual obligation to serve as an example to the people, shining forth the inner qualities that have enabled him to earn his good standing with his Duke and, as the scriptural allusions imply, with heaven. These references to Matthew, generally assumed to be the source of the play's title, tend to reinforce the idea that Measure for Measure is based on the Gospels as put forth by Wilson Knight, Bradbrook, Battenhouse, and others. However, we should also note the extent of the emphasis on Old Testament patterns that is laid in this introductory scene. Prior to the lines cited above, the Duke's first reference to Angelo suggests a relationship like that established in Genesis: What figure of us do you think he will bear? For you must know, we have with special soul Elected him our absence to supply, Lent him our terror, dress'd him with our love, And given his deputation all the organs Of our own power. (I i 16-21) Editors and critics often point out that "figure" refers to the stamp on a seal or coin that represents a royal personage, and that it is in keeping with the theme of substitution that is found throughout the play (Riverside Shakespeare 5.50). Although the relevance of the observation is borne out by several similar references to coinage that occur later, there is another association that should be noted in this first scene. At least as significant is the similarity of this granting of power to that in Genesis 1:26-28: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion ... over all the earth ... and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 12


Angelo's response in lines 47-49 picks up the metaphor of coinage, but it also reflects a sense of awe and unpreparedness: : Now good my lord, Let there be some further test made of my mettle Before so noble and so great a figure Be stamp'd upon it. In the cases of both Angelo and the race of Adam, the exercise of judgment is the test, and the man must proceed in his imperfect state. We are about to see how he represents the authority that "made" him. A third statement made by the Duke in scene i also suggests an Old Testament theme, but critics have historically made a different connection. The Duke's "I love the people/ But do not like to stage me to their eyes" (lines 6768) is commonly accepted as Shakespeare's recognition of (and perhaps apol ogy for) James I's aversion to crowds. Although that interpretation seems entirely consistent with Shakespeare's frequent acknowledgment of current events and personages in his audience, the Duke's statement also reflects the nature of the invisible, absentee divinity who in the Book of Exodus on rare occasions spoke to the Hebrew nation from behind screens of fire and smoke, and who denies Moses' request to look on him in Exodus 33: 20 with "Thou canst not see my face." The Duke's further claim that he does not "relish well their ... aves vehement" (lines 69-70) suggests that what he avoids is not simply public acclaim, but worship. Given King James's well-known affirmation of the monarch's role as God's vice-regent, Shakespeare's portrayal of the Duke as both human authority and divinity in one person takes advantage of the Mystery tradition to literally embody on the stage the Renaissance theory of the monarch. The King himself was known to have played with similar 13


dramatic techniques when he and his family appeared at masques costumed as various deities (Fraser 120-23). The biblical parallel in the first scene is subtly drawn, but it was presented to an audience that would have been alert to such implications. If the analogy escaped some the following scenes served to add emphasis. As Richmond Noble observes, a dramatist risks the effectiveness of his work if he allows allusion to distract or confuse the audience (22). Shakespeare deftly managed allusions to enhance the appreciation of those who recognized them and to keep them transparent to those who didn't. The body of criticism related to this play attests to his ability to convey powerful suggestions of religious significance without making his meaning dependent on them: one camp of critics is convinced that the essence of Measure for Measure is to be found in theological parallels, whereas another camp argues for a satisfactory dramatic unity in which the biblical allusions have only superficial relevance. As Shakespeare develops the setting for his drama in the second scene of Act I, however, his use of biblical allusion becomes much more explicit, and he opens with a Sodom-like representation of the Duke's Vienna. Shakespeare's structuring of the situation parallels the first scene, but with a dark side, almost parodying scene i. The civilized discourse on duty is replaced with irreverent, self-serving banter describing a world in which all social order is threatened. Lucio, like Vincentio, reveals his moral values and concerns, and the impression we receive is reinforced by the commentary of his companions. In contrast to the exchange of praise and formalities that introduced the Duke and Angelo, we have gratuitous slander and flippancy. Characteristic of Shakespeare's treatment of lower characters, the language has descended from 14


verse to prose, and according to the conventions of the time, the form of address descends from "you" to "thou." The humorofthe commentary elicits the audience's response to the comic qualities of the situation, but the scene never achieves the lightness of comic banter as we know it in Shakespeare's earlier work. The biblical language that permeates the opening lines weighs them down and prevents us from abandoning ourselves to the humor of the wits' verbal skirmish. The humor of scene ii is uneasy on two counts: it is expressed in language that prompts us to experience a sense of our own irreverence, as if we were enjoying the bawdy dialogue while in the midst of sacred symbols, and the controversy:in the dialogue centers around real human misery. The characters' cynicism is not like that of the solitary Jaques in As You Like It or Benedick's professed rejection of love in Much Ado About Nothing. Here, an entire social stratum appears to accept with equanimity the belief that human nature is irredeemably corrupt, with no faith in a higher order of existence that -could free them from their everyday plagues. Like the atmosphere of Troilus and Cressida, it is oppressive, despite the caustic humor. The beginning of this second scene tells us that a foreign war is likely, disrespect for both civil and religious laws is the rule of the day, and diseases-especially venereal diseases -afflict everyone who appears in this scene, with the exception of Oaudio, who faces an even worse fate. Mistress Overdone summarizes it for us in lines 78-80: Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk. 15


And inextricably woven into the wits' dialogue about all of this are explicit re minders that both Old and New Testament laws have been cast aside. The religious allusions begin with lines 4-6 in which the dialogue takes on a liturgical quality: 1st Gentleman: Heaven grant us its peace, but not the king of Hungary's! 2nd Gentleman: Amen. The clear pattern of the .priest's "Grant us peace" with the people's correspond ing "Amen" is unmistakable;. The effect draws the audience nearer to the profaned ritual, almostsoliciting their vocalized response. It is immediately followed by Lucio's comparison of his companions' attitude with the story of the pirate who abridged the Ten Commandments so as not to be prevented from stealing. Besides reinforcing the biblical context in which the action is to be viewed, the mention of the Commandments clarifies which Law is operative, however ineffectually, in Vienna. That reference leads into a discussion that plays on the meanings of "grace," ending in line 26, for which Richmond Noble (222) finds a source in the circular pattern of Romans 11 :6: And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace. The rhetorical footwork around the meaning of "grace" in this scene, and in the biblical source, confuses more than it clarifies. This, too, reflects the state of Vienna, which appears to have fallen from grace and mocks the concept of grace as a distant, obscure subject of debate. Later developments will show that it is not only the lower orders of society who have lost the sense of it. Such a concentration of biblical allusions aimed at Shakespeare's astute audience can hardly be explained as convenient, incidental references. As noted 16


earlier, these examples represent an uncharacteristic heavy-handedness on Shakespeare's part, and the intended audience was the least likely of assemblages to require being beat about the head and shoulders with biblical paraphrase to perceive that the dramatist was making use of an allusion or two. Why, then, is it here? The language in the opening scenes is very deliberately conditioning the audience. They are not only expected to appreciate the relevance of the biblical references in their immediate context but to make a special note of them that will be carried forward as an expectation and a mood into the rest of the play. By demanding the audience's attention and using the allusions in quick succession, Shakespeare gives them the opportunity to place the phrases within the biblical, mythical context from which the references are drawn. Once the frame of reference is established, departures from the Old Testament context--or the overall Judeo-Christian context -become conspicuous and, therefore, portentous. The lines that follow the very explicit references continue to draw the parallel in more subtle ways. Lucio's relentless verbal attack on his companions includes an image that is perhaps less easily associated with a specific source but is familiar because it is appears repeatedly throughout the Books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job to indicate the relationship between a state of sin and bodily weakness: Thy bones are hollow; impiety has made a feast of thee. (Iii 53-54) One typical biblical example is found in Psalms 31:10: My strength faileth because of mine iniquity, 17


and my bones are consumed. Pompey's news of the proclamation for tearing down the brothels furthers comparison of Vienna with notoriously sinful places such as Sodom. The punishment for Vienna is also localized destruction, though of a smaller scope than that applied to its biblical counterpart. The long-term effect on human behavior is obviously minimal in the present circumstances as well. With the introduction of Claudio in the latter part of the scene, the themes of imprisonment and imminent death are added to the list of woes among Vienna's citizenry. Even the outrageous Lucio is sobered by the prospect of seeing an acquaintance facing the ultimate penalty. He desists from his scoffing at others' misfortunes, recognizing that a real possibility of death has invaded his own cherished domain of license and frivolity. Claudio describes his situation in philosophical terms that reveal both an acceptance of guilt and a sense of victimization because of the unexpected imposition of so harsh a sentence. He expresses the dismay of an ordinary man who acknowledges his imperfections but wonders at a justice that requires the forfeiture of his life for failings that are inevitable in the human condition. His speech in I ii 118-19 expresses his understanding of the vagaries of divine justice: "The words of heaven; on whom it will, it will; On whom it will not, so: Yet still, 'tis just." The essence of his statement is from the latter part of Exodus 33:19: I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. This verse of Exodus immediately precedes the Hebrew deity's refusal to let Moses look upon his face, as cited above, suggesting that Shakespeare drew 18


consistently from this portion of the Bible for his characterization of justice as represented in the first part of Measure for Measure. It is interesting to note that both The Riverside Shakespeare(553) and Richmond Noble (222), among others, cite this as a probable reference to Romans 9:15-18 in which Paul quotes Exodus, obviously assuming that the New Testament is most probably the source rather than the original statement in Exodus. This focus on the ties of Measure for Measure with the accomplishment of the Atonement in the New Testament contributes to the frequent failure to perceive the balance between the old and new orders that provides the basis of the play's structure. Claudio is, as M. C. Bradbrook has declared, a representative of the state of original sin. He is also, as L. C. Knights has pronounced him, "scarcely a 'character' at all" (225). In the tradition of the Medieval stage, Claudio is our Everyman, a flawed but basically decent human being who is worked upon by temptation and whose life is the center of the battle between forces of virtue and vice. He can not be a hero of either tragedy or comedy, because he enters the scene already rendered powerless. He has accepted responsibility for his actions, and if he makes the honorable choice in the one decision the play allows him, he will opt for his own execution. As we shall see in his later interactions with Isabella and the Duke, the dramatic focus is not on his willingness or reluctance to accept death, but rather on the machinations of the characters who dictate that he reconcile himself to it. In her refutation of allegorical readings of Measure for Measure, Anne Barton says that in such interpretationsLucio comes off as "a rather shabby Satan"(54-5). Even among the strictly allegorical readings of the play such as those of Bradbrook and Knight, though, Lucio's possible mythical significance 19


is actually given little attention. To Knight, "Lucio is a typical loose-minded, vulgar wit" (89). His "condemnation is his triviality, his insincerity, his profligate idleness, his thoughtless detraction of others' characters" (90). Knight sees those qualities as so understandably offensive to the Duke that Lucio's severe sentence is appropriate. Although he indicates that Lucio's behavior and its punishment are important to our understanding of Christian ethics, he does not suggest that Lucio carries any particular mythical significance. Brad brook takes a similar view of Lucio, explaining the severity of his punishment in tenns of his having attacked the Duke's office, which would naturally provoke retaliation (395). Roy Battenhouse, even-though he reads Measure for Measure as a Mystery play, does not consider Lucio a major player in his scriptural cast. In .his analysis of Shakespeare's naming of characters, he notes that LuCio may be translated as "'light' in both morals and wit," (1036) and later refers to him as a "rake" who, like Isabella, is won over by the disguised Vincentio's temperate demeanor (10.54). He does not mention that the name "Lucifer" is also a variation on "light," which has considerable allegorical significance in its biblical context Once again, it may be that critical focus on a New Testament resolution precludes the possibility of Lucio's being anything other than the ordinary "Vice. 11 Conmtry to the critical assessments of Lucio's role cited above, there is evidence in the play to indicate that he may well be a Satan, his "shabbiness" notWithstanding. As I shall examine later, his influence in the play contributes in significant ways to the unease that audiences often feel about the outcome of Measure for Measure Lucio's introduction in Act I provides evidence that he is more important to the drama than simply as a representative of vulgar wit 20


among the lower characters. In many ways, Lucio controls the dialogue in scene ii. Part of his function is to provide information. He opens the scene with the report (or rumor) of the pending strife between the dukes and the King of Hungary, and he personally elicits most of the information about Claudio's situation through his questioning of Mistress Overdone and Claudio himself. He comes across as one who is "in the know," even though his exaggeration makes his representation of the facts somewhat suspect. The like the characters involved in these early scenes, comes to depend on him to supply the missing pieces of the story. There is enough honesty in his speech to give him an odd sort of credibility. For example, in his criticism of the two gentlemen he _does not defend himself by claiming virtues but rather by successfully indicting his companions' character. Similarly, when he expresses his concern for Claudio's fate, he allows his self-interest to show through. His clearly mischievous character suggests that he is to be viewed as one of Shakespeare's various representations of the Vice, but Lucio scatters about just enough fragments of accurate information and honesty to allow him to function as a truth-teller as well, like Shakespeare's fools in other plays. When we consider the dramatic effect of the contrast between scenes i and ii, we find structural evidence of Lucio's importance to the play. We should not dismiss him any more lightly than the Duke is inclined to do in his final judgment. Contrasts of characters and scenes are set up repeatedly in this play through parallelism and juxtaposition. By introducing Lucio and his sphere of influence immediately after the introduction of the Duke and his higher estate, both techniques are employed to place the characters in direct contrast with each other. Each provides background for the action of the play, 21


but the other tells a different story that is necessary to reveal the true state of affairs ip. Vienn.a. The Duke's exchange with Angelo allows the audience to see how Angelo's ascent to power came about, which Lucio presumably does not fully understand. However, Lucio's scene gives the lie to the image of Viennese government presented by the Duke and Angelo's formalities. Scene ii reveals the extent of corruption in the city and the alienation of the unruly masses from their leadership. In short, something is rotten in Denmark, and we kn_ow from the rules of Shakespearean drama and Renaissance philosophy that the source of the problem is to be found at the top of the sublunar hierarchy. In his role as inquisitor and truth-teller, Lucio becomes the ally of the audience as well as of Claudio: the one who may be able to ascertain the ulti mate cause of the unfortuna,te prevailing circumstances. For his part, Claudio is a man without God, as has sometimes been said of Hamlet. When Lucio advises him to send an appeal to the Duke, our abandoned Everyman can only reply: I have done so but he's not to be found. (Iii 170) It is appropriate that his sin, the sin that is central to the play, is of a sexual nature. As Bennett says of Renaissance religious thought, "While sex was not regarded as the cause of the fall of man, it was the result. Man, no longer immortal, was provided with a means of self-perpetuation through generation" (28). Sex is the "proper bane" that the bewildered Claudio speaks of in one of the most-quoted speeches of the play: Our natures do pursue, Like rats that ravin down their proper bane, A thirsty evil, and when we drink we die. (I ii 128-30) 22


Robert Watson discusses how Claudio's description of the relationship of procreation and death reflect Renaissance thinking about the human condition. Within that framework, to personalities such as Angelo and Isabella who seek to remain righteous before God and the law, a denial of sexuality can become a way of reaching for the immortality that was lost in Adam's fall. Northrop Frye also states that the perennial association of sexuality and original sin is due to the fact that the forbidden knowledge of good and evil 11came into the world along with the discovery of self-conscious sex, when Adam and Eve knew that they were naked .. (Northrop Frye on Shakespeare 142). Once the seeds of doubt regarding the Duke's leadership have been planted in scene ii, the Duke reappears in scene iii with an opportunity to finish telling his side of the story. The explanation he offers the Friar confirms that the view of a dissolute society presented by the low characters is accurate. It also reveals that he is deceiving the populace and Angelo, whom he is testing, by disseminating false information to conceal his. continued presence in the city. As his explanation progresses, a kind of self-interest, not very different from Lucio's, emerges. When Friar Thomas wonders why the Duke doesn't simply administer punishment himself to end the rampant misbehavior among the citizenry, the Duke's reply does not dispel the doubts raised about his leadership. Although he accepts responsibility by saying, 11'Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them I for what I bid them do11 (I iii 38-39), he proceeds to reveal what seems to be a greater concern with shielding his name from association with the dirty business of punishment. Therefore, indeed, my Father, I have on Angelo imposed the office, Who may, in th' ambush of my name, strike home, 23


And yet my .nature never in the sight To do it slander. (I iii 39-43) Like Lucio, he undertakes to accomplish what seems to be necessary to right a .. grievous situation, but there is a personal motivation involved that is not consistent with the high-mindedness of the outward goal. The lines above precede the often-cited conclusion of this particular speech, in which he reveals his suspicions about Angelo's character: Lord Angelo is precise, Stands at a guard with enVy, scarce confesses that his blood flows Or that his appetite is more to bread than stone. Hence we shall see, If power change purpose, what our seemers be. (I iii 50-54) The speech is central to many critics' interpretations of the play because it fore shadows what the audience is about to learn about the weaknesses in Angelo's character, and it justifies the Duke's behind-the-scenes management of the situation. Critics and editors, including Noble (222) have often made an association between the reference to bread vs. stone in line 53 and the Gospel of Matthew 7:9, which asks, "And who among you, if his son ask him for a loaf of bread would give him a stone?" It would seem more likely, however, that the allusion is to Luke 4:3, which is delivered in a context more appropriate to the Duke's mearung: And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. The latter verse more accurately describes Angelo's situation in that it is the devil's effort to tempt the fasting Jesus to satisfy his bodily needs. The Duke's point is that Angelo sees himself as one who similarly can not be tempted by the things of the flesh. 24


However, the significance of the concluding lines should not be allowed to obscure whatthe Duke has revealed about his ow.n nature. His concern for the possible "slander" to his name reappears at intervals throughout the play as the omnipresent Lucio persists in offending him. The Book of Exodus to which Shakespeare has repeatedly alluded in the early scenes describes the Old Testament God of the Hebrews as being similarly protective of his name--so much so that of the ten commandments given to Moses, the laws protecting the sovereignty and name of the deity precede all others, delivered with the warnings that "I the LORD thy God am a jealous God" (Ex.20:5) and "the WRD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Ex. 20:7). The Bible translations current in Shakespeare's time followed the tradition of substi tuting LORD, as do the quotes from the King James Version I have used above, wherever the original characters for the name revealed to the Israelites had appeared, to preclude the possibility of offending with an erroneous translation. The emphasis on Exodus earlier in the scene also helps to keep this concept of the Name within the desired frame of reference. As soon as the Duke has delivered the second part of his explanation and given the audience a hint of what we might expect from the "precise" Angelo, the scene abruptly changes to the convent. Again, Shakespeare intro duces a new character by juxtaposing her appearance with relevant information about another character that links the two. The first thing we learn about Isabella is that she is also "precise," to the point of desiring more restraint than the convent affords. Having established that in a few words, Shakespeare reintroduces Lucio, who makes much of her devotion to the ascetic's life. Suspicious, Isabella accuses him of mocking her, but Lucio argues, 25


convincingly, that he holds her in the highest regard. Perhaps this exchange is intended in part to dispel any doubt as to whether Isabella is truly the chaste young woman she appears to be. Certainly, no other character's foibles have remained unexposed by the incisive Lucio. He perceives; rather, that her vulnerability is in her spiritual pride and flatters her by reinforcing the Renaissance notion that her renunciation of sexuality exempts her from the mortality imposed by original sin: I hold you as a thing enskied and sainted, By your renouncement an immortal spirit (I iv 34-35) Clearly, this statement of respect for Christian renunciation is not consistent with his attitude regarding Claudio's transgression. Immediately preceding this speech he has declared that he believes Claudio's actions merit thanks rather than punishment, and once he has responded to Isabella's concerns about his sincerity, he delivers the details of Claudio's offense in language that is permeated with images of earthly fertility that constitute a pagan hymn of praise to the forces of physical life and propagation: Your brother and his lover have embraced; As those that feed grow full, as blossoming time That from the seedness the bare fallow brings To teeming foison, even so her plenteous womb Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry. (I iv 40-44) Before Act I is concluded, the Duke's credibility suffers additional damage from Lucio in scene iv. Here he again states with confidence that the Duke has been untruthful about the circumstances of his departure: we do learn By those that know the very nerves of state, 26


His givings-out were of an infinite distance From his true-meant design. (I iv 52-55) Another function Lucio takes on in scene iv is encouraging Isabella and building her confidence. When she expresses her doubts about being able to help Claudio, Lucio responds with phrases that are reminiscent of other Shakespearean characters with dark purposes such as Cassius' urgings of Brutus or !ago's exhortations of Rodrigo: Our doubts are traitors And make us lose the good we oft might win, By fearing to attempt. (I iv 78-80) His pandering to Isabella's belief in achieving immortality through asceticism and undermining her confidence in the Duke demonstrate an ability to employ other techniques common to Shakespearean villains as well. Moreover, the suggestion that he has more in common with the serpent in the Garden than is initially apparent becomes more plausible. He has made himself the ally of the woman by offering her "inside" information on the motivations behind the enforcement of an apparently unreasonable law and by reassuring her that immortality can be gained through her personal efforts. Thus, he repeats the lie of Genesis 3:4: "Y e shall not surely die." Act I makes associations with events and characters from Genesis in order to establish the mythical background of the situation the audience sees in a modem setting. The early "creation" scene in which Angelo is deputized establishes his mythical identity as well as the Duke's. The Book of Exodus provides the appropriate context for most of the action: divine justice has been delegated, the Law has been written, and a judge has been chosen for the people. As the plot develops, we will see that the chronology of the myth is 27


slightly adjusted, but the deviations actually serve to reinforce the mythical emphasis by bringing together certain elements of the story in a more concentrated form. Each of the main characters can be viewed as a type that functions in more than oneperiod of the myth as well as in history. Angelo, who appears to be both Adam and Pharisee, has also been compared to the Puritan contingent that sought to more closely circumscribe human behavior and authority in Shakespeare's time. Isabella, though in some ways portrayed as a descendant of Eve, is essentially Christian by virtue of her association with the convent and her adherence to the ideal of chastity. However, her character is not yet developed well enough in Act I to indicate the extent to which she will represent the Christian view. The ever-present Lucio is the ancient Adversary of divine justice, and therefore of the Duke. Like Lucio, the other low characters and Claudio are timeless. They appear as Humanity and Everyman, experiencing the pleasures and suffering that have been their lot since the Fall. In terms of the drama unfolding in Act I, this early phase of the action contains significant tragic potential. Unlike the unhappy young lovers in Shakespeare's early comedies, Claudio and Julietta have no opportunity to flee into the "green world" of Nature and the subconscious to make the necessary discoveries and effect a happy ending. Both are already at the mercy of authority. Nearly everyone else is confined as well: Isabella in the convent, the lower characters in their physical infirmities and animal needs. Nature has become a prison to Mistress Overdone's society and confines Julietta in her pregnant body. Only the Duke, Angelo, Escalus, and Lucio (and to a lesser extent, Isabella) seem to move about with relative freedom, but most of even this group are heavily bound by duty. The general feeling of confinement 28


evokes the sense of tragedy in which characters are bound to destiny. Act I contains many of the characteristic features of Shakespearean tragedy that are fully developed inLear and Macbeth: Nature is inhospitable to mankind, women are tainted by unrestrained sexuality, an awareness of death permeates the dialogue, disorder rules in society, the humor is dark and profane, there are rumors of a foreign military threat, and the integrity of the authorities is subtly questioned. The biblical language adds weight to this dark undercurrent and reinforces the sense that the characters are confined within an ancient pattern of events as well as their current oppressive circumstances. Yet, Act I sustains the possibility of a comic resolution to the conflict, largely on the strength of Lucio's successful encouragement of Isabella to plead for Claudio's life. Ironically, this admitted adversary of the Law, who is slandered by even his nearest associates, is the primary and only spokesman for life, fertility, and action. Everyone else, insofar as we can see, readily gives up Claudio for dead. The Duke's long-term ineffectiveness and recent departure have allowed-perhaps required-Lucio to fill the void of leadership. This fact is a strong indictment of the Duke, and it is deeply disturbing in terms of the Duke's mythical importance. Vienna's upside-down society is in fact universal disorder. To Christian audiences the prospect of gods running rampant in Greek tragedy may be commonplace, but in this play the audience has not been allowed the comfort of observing some distant culture's god. The span of one Act doesn't allow much time to contemplate all of the implications of the situation, but the audience is prompted to experience some sense of the disparity between the Duke's behavior and their expectations, conscious or subconscious. Shakespeare, by his insistent emphasis on scriptural 29


associations, has created ajrameworkfor judgment.--a measure to be applied by the audience. 30


CHAPTER3 BEYOND ALLEGORY L. C. Knights makes a generalization about Shakespearean criticism in How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth? that may well be applied to Measure for Measure. "When A is made to describe X, a minor character or event, the description is not merely immediately applicable to X, it helps to determine the way in which our whole response shall develop" (36). The implications are twofold: first, that a pattern of audience response, set early in the play, will be invoked repeatedly throughout, and second, that when events occurring in the complications of the second and third Acts appear to take an unexpected direction, we would do well to look back to earlier scenes to perceive the play's structural and thematic unity. This latter suggestion in particular is pertinent to Measure for Measure. As the second Act introduces significant shifts in the focus on the problem and characters, the audience is required to adjust its understanding of what seemed apparent in Act I. The early pattern of introducing the problem and characters through juxtaposition and contrast continues as an ongoing, broadening process, but it leads us so far into the lower orders of Viennese society that we no longer recall how we arrived. By the middle of the second act, a reexamination of the totality of what has transpired thus far suggests that the Judeo-Christian myth has been invoked as part of a broader view of justice. The lengthy dispute over an incident at Mistress Overdone's house is the first significant change of pace since the beginning of Act I. The drawn out comic interlude expands the scope of the problem explored in this play. I 31


believe the importance of this segment has generally been underestimated in the various interpretations of Measure for Measure. The commonly accepted view of this scene; as expressed by Barton (546-47) and others, is that it illustrates Angelo's judicial ineptitude when confronted with the reality of his duties, which primarily consist of resolving the mundane disputes of ordinary, often unattractive; people. Escalus demonstrates thejudicial skills that Angelo lacks. He turns the tedious proceeding into a witty exchange and derives enough information from it to initiate reforms in the staffing of the constable's office. This comic judgment scene is consistent with Shakespeare's use of lower characters in subplots thatparallel and elucidate those of the major characters in both his comedies and tragedies. However, this particular application of the technique in Measure for Measure integrates the low characters into the larger plot in unique ways. By its length alone Act II scene i breaks the rhythm of the play. All of the preceding scenes have considerably fewer lines, maintaining a rapid pace of changing scenes and characters. Here, a small amount of information is extracted very slowly from a great deal of commentary and extraneous detail. The change of pace is an opportunity for the audience to reflect on the totality of what has been presented so far. The current action returns the focus from the biblical context to worldly concerns, presenting a microcosmic judgment scene that foreshadows the ultimate determinations to be effected by the Duke. The differences between the two judgments are as significant as the similarities. The low characters inhabit a world that is the inverse of Angelo's. Their complaints are almost incomprehensible at the beginning of the dispute 32


that comprises most of the lengthy scene, partly because of the malapropisms substituted for key words. The "misplacing," however, is not simply a matter of inserting inappropriate words for comic effect, later to be made famous by Sheridan's Mrs. Malaprop, but it is a representation of the situation in terms that express the opposite of what we believe to be the intent of the constable's statements. Suspected malefactors are accused as "benefactors" (line 49); Elbow's wife is "detested," (line 66); the suspect Pompey and his mistress are "respected" (line 154), and so on. Elbow, the representative of justice in their community, speaks a language that identifies offenses in terms of honor, and vice versa. His upside-down description of the case is remarkable only to his superiors, generating no comment or indication of misunderstanding among the lower class. In their view, it seems that "suspected" and "respected" are closely related and perhaps interchangeable. As the action develops, this inverted view of reputations will prove to be an accurate assessment of their superiors as well. Lucio's earlier comments in Act I apply this lower world's standard of justice to Claudio's offense as he concludes, "if myself might be his judge,/He should receive his punishment in thanks" (I iv 27-28). The testimony considered relevant to the dispute by the participants lends additional insights into the difference between their world and that of the authority figures. The people and circumstances are firmly bounded by the limits of physical nature, and the characters are identified with their physical characteristics and creature habits. The reason for Elbow's wife's visit to Mistress Overdone's house is vaguely explained in terms of a pregnancy-related desire for prunes. Pompey's explanation of the events wanders into digressions on the type of dishes used in the house and Master 33


Froth's preference for a warm chair in a particular tavern. Pompey defends Froth by directing Escalus to view the man's face as an indication of his character. When Escalus begins to actively direct the discussion, he plays on the meaning of Pompey Bum's surname as a measure of the man: Troth, and your bum is the greatest thing about you so that in the beastliest sense you are Pompey the Great. (IIi 217-219) He also adds to his understanding of the situation with inquiries as to Froth's income and the number of Mistress Overdone's marriages. To know the people in the lower segment of Viennese society is to recognize their bodily features and ascertain their sources of livelihood and physical comforts. This contrasts directly with the characterization of the Duke, Angelo, and Isabella in terms of abstractions: social responsibility and reputation. The dispute in Act II, scene i also provides a view of the social structure of the underside of Vienna. It reinforces information gained in Act I regarding the significance of Mistress Overdone's business establishment as a center of interest and foc3.1 point of contention with the authorities. The present dispute originated in Mistress Overdone's house, and the witnesses are either employees or patrons of the house. Elbow, as constable, is the only one of the low characters who is not a supporter of Mistress Overdone's enterprise, but his complaint against it indicates that its presence affects him not only as a problem for the law but also as a threat to his household. It seems fair to say then, that the bordello is the community's center and that Mistress Overdone may be its most influential citizen. Overall, the view of the underside of Vienna presented through the low characters introduces the second level of consciousness in Measure for 34


. Measure. In contrast to the Judeo-Christian issues of sin and punishment with .which the higher estate struggles, this world's struggles remain within the natural world of food, drink, shelter, procreation, disease, and aging. It is the pagan world suggested earlier in Lucio's comments to Isabella in Act I describing the consequences of Claudio's sin in terms of physical nature rather than spiritual implications. In this "lower" world, the consequences of Claudio's behavior are the irreversible biological processes leading to birth that can be observed among all growing organisms. In Angelo's world, Claudio's sexual activity has set him on the irreversible course toward death, as mandated by law and scripture. The inhabitants of Lucio and Mistress Overdone's society form a species, a Dionysian mass of humanity, assembled around the personification of excess; Mistress Overdone. Presiding over her community of employees and patrons, she holds a matriarchal position, as a sort of earth-cult goddess. Her history of nine husbands associates her with images of the devouring female nature that for Christian cultures invokes the void of pre-existence, recognized as the grave as well as the womb. To the Renaissance mind, this convergence of birth and death in the female represented the terrible aspect of nature. As various scholars have noted, it was "the easy road to Lear's hell" (Paglia 94), cursed by the raging father-king as "the sulpherous pit, burning, scalding, stench, consumption" (King Lear IV vi 128-29). In the Renaissance's definition of nature, the "underworld" of Vienna is the lower of two levels occupied by humans, described by Frye as "the world of the four elements which moves in cycles ... particularly the Dionysian world of energy, ... for practical purposes, identical with the wheel of fortune" 35


(Fools of Time 14). In an Old Testament context, it is also the pagan world in which the Hebrews' God struggled for dominance, The higher, purely human level of nature functions only in a society governed by order and degree: in Frye's words, "the world represented by the Christian paradise and the Classical Golden Age" (Fools of Time 14). The latter world is that aspired to by the Duke, Angelo, and Isabella.. In Measure for Measure their story of Christian redemption is superimposed on the ancient order of physical nature. The representation of that ancient order opens the door to a broader view of the worlds of myth and of drama. It in fact allows the playing out of the tragicomedy of the Judea-Christian plot on the stage of classical tragedy. There are numerous opportunities afforded the playwright by choosing such an approach. The classical orientation provides precedent and dramatic justification for examining the prevailing religious myth of one's own contemporary society on the stage. In a time when religious tensions were high and the penalty might be severe for appearing to come in on the wrong side of the Protestant/Catholic conflict, this is no small consideration. The limits of acceptability were not neatly drawn, since the Protestant James I on occasion behaved as if he were a Catholic sympathizer, all the while defending the orthodoxy of the Church of England against Puritan reformers. Regardless of how the play is interpreted overall, there is clearly enough religious material and philosophy of government included to present a risk of misunderstanding. Placing the action in dramatic perspective for the audience may have provided necessary protection from,offending against various individual sensitivities, while allowing Shakespeare to exploit the topical theme of biblical justice. 36


A joint focus on Christian justice and the dramatic treatment in Measure for Measure makes sense also in terms of the playwright's professional development. Shakespeare had produced Hamlet prior to this play and had moved away from his earlier style of comedy in the "problem" plays, Troilus & Cress ida and All's Well that Ends Well, the most recent of the plays thatmight still be classified as comedies. Measure for Measure is his last comedy. Anne Barton and others have speculated that Measure for Measure reveals in its structure and resolution that Shakespeare no longer found the genre to be a satisfactory vehicle for his creativity. At the very least, it seems clear that the play was written with a consciousness of the dramatic techniques employed in tragedy. Whether or not Shakespeare had become dissatisfied with the artistic possibilities of comedy, he did focus his efforts elsewhere after 1604, producing nearly all of his great tragedies in that period. Since he was in the early stage of developing his skills as a tragic playwright, it seems reasonable that he would measure himself against the standards set in the classics. There is a dramatic self-consciousness in the Duke's direction of the "play within a play" that many critics have observed and compared with similar structures elsewhere in Shakespeare, especially Prospera's role in The Tempest. Other indications of dramatic self consciousness in Measure for Measure connect it with earlier forms of drama as well as its Biblical sources. I believe that Shakespeare's techniques of characterization provide another indication of a classical association besides the pagan and tragic elements identified earlier. The allegorical significance of the major characters' roles in Measure for Measure has been described fairly consistently among the critics who 37


have ventured to do so.For example, Isabella is identified with positive, Christian qualities such as Wisdom and Mercy, Lucio represents Vice, etc. Roy Battenhouse focuses more specifically on the characters' names as indicators of how we are to view their roles in the Mystery. He concludes that they are consistently relevant to the biblical and dramatic role to which each corresponds; for example, Angelo's name evokes "angel," which signifies "minister" or "deputy" and of course carries connotations of a pure, spiritual being, predecessor of the mass of humanity, near to heaven yet fallible (1035). His study finds that all of the major characters are similarly labeled. This continues the allegorical tradition of the Bible itself in which each person's name identifies his role in the historical drama. The God of the Hebrews is clear about the significance of names, as in Genesis 17:5 when a new covenant is established with Abraham: "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee." Abram's original name might be roughly translated as "one of noble descent" or "the Father is glorified" which is inadequate to express the scope of his new role as "father of a multitude." Notes on this verse in The New Jerusalem Bible emphasize that "for the ancients a name did not merely indicate but actually made a thing what it was, and a change of name meant a change of destiny." Similar usage persists throughout the Gospels as well. We have already seen how Escalus' dialogue with the low characters plays on the physically descriptive quality of their names. Elbow, as another example, introduces himself to the Justices as one who "lean[s] upon justice" (II i 47) and Pompey later adds that "he's out at Elbow" (II i 59). Since they are to be viewed as a species and a lower society, they do not 38


figure. directly as individual players in the Mystery. A few other characters, such as the Provost, represent a social function and a point of view and are identified by title rather than a name. As the pattern of naming conventions becomes apparent by the early part of Act II, it seems that everyone has been allocated a place in a social order, complete with a corresponding label, with the possible exception of Escalus. Although he is introduced in the first lines of the play, the scene ends with Escalus himself wondering what his role is to be: it concerns rile To look into the bottom of my place. A power I have, but of what strength and nature I am not yet instructed. (I i 77-80) Angelo admits that he does not entirely understand his own place, and that the matter requires further discussion. The next time we see them speak to each other is at the opening of the second Act where Angelo begins with "We must not make a scarecrow of the law," and Escal us fails to move him with his argument in favor of leniency toward Claudio. As the action progresses, Escalus is used repeatedly as a foil for Angelo in the context of administering justice, but his character does not appear to be defined according to the conventions applied to the characters of either the upper or lower orders of society as discussed above. Throughout the first two Acts he is portrayed very sympathetically as a wise and temperate practitioner of the law, which is remarkable since hardly anyone else emerges from Act I untainted by suspicion or outright ridicule. The care Shakespeare has taken with his characterization seems to exceed the requirements of a foil. We have, after all, the opinions of various others at all levels of society, including Claudio, 39


the Provost, Lucio, and Isabella, to tell us that Angelo is an extremist who is out of touch with the people, andthey variously emphasize that temperance and mercy are needed. If we take Escal us' role at "face value," that is, at the level of the action, one might argue thathis name reflects his association with justice, a variation on "scale," a measure against which to weigh Angelo. This is consistent, up to a point, with Battenhouse's analysis of how the major characters are named. Battenhouse does not bother to interpret Escalus' name, however, and does not assign him a major role in the Mystery. In Whetstone's play a character roughly corresponding to Escalus was simply called the "Secretary," and his function was to provide a voice of reason in contrast with the excesses of the corrupt judge. In a Christian context and in this drama, the Duke's ultimate authority establishes the divine standard of justice, and in biblical history human justice resembles Angelo's flawed government rather than the example of Escalus. In this matter of naming, and in terms of the mythical significance of the action, Escalus seems to be a bit of an anomaly. The key here, I believe, is in the advice from Knights with which this discussion began. Act II reveals much detail that was previously unknown, and some of it demands a reevaluation of what we thought we understood commgm. The possibilities for Escalus' significance in Measure for Measure may be obscured primarily by the circumstances under which we are introduced to the play as opposed to the experience of the audience for whom it was originally performed. An interesting note on the original performance (which is the only recorded performance during Shakespeare's lifetime) is that some 40


scholars believe that the Duke's role, the fifth largest of any character in all of the plays attributed to Shakespeare, may have been played by the author himself. Francis Fergusson, from a slightly different point of view, states that the Duke's scenes would take on added significance if the lines were spoken by the playwright himself, so he chooses to imagine him in the role regardless of what evidence exists to confirm or disprove his actually having played it. I believe indulging in Fergusson's experiment as we reexamine the opening scene of Measure for Measure provides answers to questions raised in the discussion of Act II above. The playwright's voice in the opening of a play, whether it be heard in some form of chorus, in a soliloquy, or through some other indication of the author's presence, may constitute an invocation. If we imagine Shakespeare himself opening Measure for Measure with the single word "Escalus," before the original audience which knew him and knew nothing of the play, what might they hear in that name? I submit that in that context it might be at least as likely to suppose that they were hearing an invocation of Aeschylus by the playfully self-conscious Shakespeare as to identify the name as simply a call to an elder gentleman with an unfamiliar Latinate name of Escalus. Unfortunately, this opening speech has been confused by an apparent lacuna, which has diverted editors' and critics' attention to reconstructing the original lines rather than establishing their significance in the introduction of the play. Regardless of what may have been lost in the transcriptions of the opening speech, what remains of the original wording clearly indicates a deferential acknowledgment of the elder Escalus' experience in matters of justice and government in the Duke's self-conscious introduction of the play's theme: 41


Of government the properties to unfold Would seem in me t'affect speech and disburse, Since I am put to know that your own science Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice My strength can give you:. (I i 3-7) But the Duke will prove to be a dramatist as well as a politician, and in that capacity, it would also "seem t'affect speech and discourse" to hold forth on justice before his elder companion. If Shakespeare himself spoke these lines, the connection with Aeschylus' dramatic precedent in deferential terms would be quite clear, delivered with an appropriate recognition of his predecessor's stature. Although I know of no body of research that attempts to determine the extent to which Shakespeare may have known Aeschylus, if at all, his work has been compared to that of the Greek tragedian by his contemporary, Ben Jonson, and many other critics including Fergusson. Fergusson believes that direct Aeschylean influence is unlikely, buthe compares the dilemmas of Hamlet and Orestes and asserts that "Hamlet is certainly more like Orestes" than other characters proposed as sources ( 190). He suggests that Shakespeare developed a sense of revenge tragedies with characters similar to Orestes through a knowledge of assorted folk tales derived from "prehistoric rites of spring that gave rise to classic myths of the Orestes type." As stated above, Hamlet is generally placed immediately before Measure for Measure in the chronology of the canon, so it is not surprising that the two plays should reflect an in similar themes. If Jonson was moved to hold up Aeschylus as a measure of dramatic excellence, then it is certainly not improbable that Shakespeare, despite his "little Latin and less Greek," had at 42


least a cursory knowledge of the story of Agamemnon and how it was told by Aeschylus. A cursory knowledge would be adequate for an understanding of what it tells us about the evolution of justice in terms of divine and natural law. Without a definitive answer to the question of Aeschylean influence, I believe that Measure for Measure parallels the mythical and dramatic structures evident in the Oresteia, even if that pattern is merely incidental to the similarity of the underlying myths. Robert W. Corrigan offers this summary of the Aeschylean precedent: "Practically everyone seems to agree that the action of The Oresteia deals with the transfiguration of the patterns of justice and the metamorphosis of persuasion from a morality of vengeance and vendetta to a morality of social law and the ultimate achievement of true justice" (Corrigan 13). Corrigan's statement regarding Aeschylus' trilogy needs only a substitution of the play's name to provide an equally effective summary of elements common to critical studies of Measure for Measure. Although Aeschylus is generally acknowledged as the "Father of Greek Tragedy," it is also commonly agreed that The Oresteia is not so much a pure tragedy as it is a history of the victory of justice and democracy in which dramatic technique such as characterization is subjugated to the necessities of the story line. By invoking Aeschylus, Shakespeare could put his audience on notice as to the type of drama they should expect to see and prepare them to evaluate it as a dramatic form not directly subject to the standards of contemporary comedy or tragedy as they were known to the Elizabethans. The Mystery that Shakespeare presents here requires that kind of understanding for a full appreciation of the playwright's technique. The presence of Old Escalus as the 43


play progresses helps to keep the action in dramatic perspective and in a historical that emphasizes the "modernity" of the Duke's JudeoChristian demonstration of justice. Escalus, true to his namesake, counsels mercy in contrast to Angelo's iron-fisted rule, and he also evaluates the dramatic significance of the events he observes, as in his judgment scene regarding the incident of Elbow's wife: Which is the wiser here: Justice or Iniquity? (IIi 172) His categorization of the persons before him as characters from Medieval allegory is typical of his interpretation of the action in scenes that follow. He vents his exasperation with the bawds' persistence in their vice by exclaiming "This would make mercy swear and play the tyrant" (Ill ii 19-5), and describes his experience of Angelo's obduracy as "my brother-justice have I found so severe, that he hath forc'd me to tell him he is indeed Justice" (III ii 252-54). By this he directs us to consider the allegorical, morality-play qualities of the situation. Escalus' assistance with the interpretation of the dramatic form is quite significant precisely because all of his attempts to apply the allegorical model point to the fact that the situation at hand can not be understood in those terms. It is impossible to separate Justice and Iniquity in the Elbow case, and Angelo is not Justice itself. It would seem that Shakespeare is using Escalus' character to direct attention toward medieval theatre but away from pure allegory. Escalus arrives at correct interpretations when he relies on his ability to speak the language of the low characters' primitive society. The Dionysian forces that govern Mistress Overdone's world are the driving forces 44


of Greek tragedy. During Angelo's reign on stage as tragic hero, Escalus' commentary "weighs" the benefits of punishment and mercy, and critics have generally accepted him as sympathetic to the play's point of view. Pompey's defiant response to his threats at the end of the Elbow dispute indicates that Escalus is probably not equal to the task of restoring order to Vienna, but Shakespeare does not attack his philosophy with the energy directed toward the sophistries of the major characters, as I will examine later. Escalus is ultimately shown to be ineffective in the final judgment scene because the illusion and duplicity of character that prevail in this newer myth confound him. Judgment in Aeschylean tragedy is a matter of putting the hero's actions before the law of the gods and determining the sentence for the violation. In the Duke's scripted judgment scene, the crimes are as obscure as they were in the Elbow case, but the complexity and deceit of the hero's character do not allow for discovery of the facts through Escalus' method of direct inquiry. Only the Duke's application of "craft against vice" can bring about the proper resolution. When Angelo's corruption is revealed Escalus can only say "I am more amaz'd at his dishonor than at the strangeness of it" (V i 379-80). Escalus remains here as a shadow of an older theatre and an older myth, revered for the insights he bas provided on the necessity of imposing mercy and justice on the old law of retributive violence. He draws our attention to the Dionysiac origins of theatre, which Nietzsche insists was pure religion, the Mystery of the Greeks. Other Scholars see the Oresteia as portraying the victory of democratic rule in Athens as Apollo delegates the power of judgment to a human jury. In the context of the mythical cycle that 45


informs the law of King James's rule, a more complex approach to justice and government is needed to counter deceit and defiance of authority. For this reason, the Duke explains to Angelo, "Old Escalus, though first in question, is thy secondary" (I i 46). 46


CHAPTER4 THE PLAYERS Several of the difficulties that plague studies of Measure for Measure become apparent as the conflict between Angelo and Isabella develops. One of the most prominent of these is that Isabella and Angelo demonstrate a complexity of character that seems more appropriate to tragedy than comedy. And as players in a Mystery, it seems that Angelo and Isabella should not reveal moral equivocation to the extent that they do. Their development, however, is generally consistent with the requirements of the Biblical storyline established in the first Act. Isabella's suit to Angelo on behalf of her brother evolves into two theological debates that reveal the philosophical bases and resulting psychological complications that drive the Pharisee and the saint on their tragic course. As the following examples will indicate, Shakespeare appears to have developed much of the dialogue from the documentation of St. Paul's spiritual struggle in the latter chapters of the Book of Romans. His inner turmoil as a man of the Old Law reshaping himself into the Christian "man new made" supplies both Angelo and Isabella with elements of their theological arguments. Angelo's dialogue with Escalus at the beginning of Act II reinforces his allegiance to an "eye for an eye" application of justice from which he would not depart even if the law were to descend on him as the transgressor: When I that censure him do so offend, Let mine own judgment pattern out my death And nothing come in partial. (IIi 29-31) 47


His pre-Christian fixation on the unmitigated application of the law is reminiscent of Shakespeare's characterization of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Angelo's assertion of confidence in his standing before the law echoes Shylock's demands: What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong? If you deny me, fie upon your law! There is no force in the decrees of Venice . I stand for judgment. (Merchant of Venice IV i 89, 101-03) Portraying Angelo as a man of the old Law, spiritual brother to Shylock, Shakespeare again takes advantage of the Elizabethan stereotype of the Jew stubbornly clinging to the Old Law. Frye (Northrop Frye on Shakespeare 143) and Fergusson (116) both stress that Shakespeare exploits the stereotype as a convenient way of directing his audience's attention to the character's identity, but he then proceeds to contrast it with his humanity, particularly in the famous, eloquent "Hath not a Jew eyes?" (III i 59) speech in Merchant of Venice. Similarly, although Angelo's philosophy comes from the old law, his cruelty is rooted not in the law but in his refusal to claim his own humanity, as the Duke has told us early in Measure for Measure. Angelo is therefore taken by surprise when it emerges, perverted by years of suppression and denial. The characterization in Measure for Measure opens the drama of divine justice to a greater exploration of how the inevitable pattern of myth is asserted through the free will of complex human personalities. Although Shakespeare must, like Aeschylus, subordinate characters to plot, for which he has been duly criticized, he does so in terms of the psychological attributes of the personae that allow us to understand their ultimate responsibility for choosing 48


their destinies. Aeschylus also took care to ensure that his characters clearly stated their personal resolve to commit the series of acts that constitute the drama of revenge. Agamemnon's fall was foreordained by the sins of previous generations as well as the sacrifice of his daughter, but it is also very clear that Clytemnestra has her own personal reasons for killing him, including her desire for power and her adulterous relationship. The Oresteia does not dwell on the development of her resolve, however; it is enough that we hear in her own words that she has chosen her course. The biblical types that inhabit Shakespeare's Mystery are given to self-examination and philosophizing, true to the requirements of modem drama and their biblical prototypes. The characterization is so effective in Acts II and III that when the imposition of the necessary ending to the plot essentially silences them we are left with a sense of loss and disappointment. Angelo's role takes on the appearance of a tragic hero in Acts II and Ill. In his impatient dismissal of the Provost's cautious questioning of Claudio's sentence, he reveals that he has succumbed to hubris: Go to; let that be mine Do you your office, or give up your place, And you shall be well spared. (II ii 13-15) His "let that be mine" echoes "Vengeance is mine ... saith the Lord" as quoted in Romans 12:19, referring back to the original injunction of "To me belongeth vengeance and recompense" in Deuteronomy 32:35. Angelo has claimed the full authority of divinity, and even though the Duke has charged him with exercising such authority, we recognize that his unmerciful use of it is rooted in a pride which gives it a quality of usurpation. By claiming ownership of the 49


exclusive realm of divine retribution Angelo has obviously exceeded the limits of his place in the universal chain of being according to both Renaissance philosophy and Judea-Christian doctrine. Vienna's new ruler has fallen from grace and only greater chaos can follow. In the same dialogue with the Provost, Angelo is in the process of giving instructions regarding the disposition of Julietta when Isabella arrives. The two women almost cross paths as is indicated by the sequence of Angelo's lines: Well; let her be admitted. See you the fomicatress be remov'd. (II ii 22-23) Their proximity in this scene suggests the lackof distinction among individual women and their connection with illicit sex in Angelo's mind, which becomes evident later in his indecent proposal to Isabella as well as his vulnerability to being fooled by the substitution of another woman in his bed. Like other Shakespearean tragic heroes, and the patriarchal tradition he represents, Angelo is alienated from the feminine. Linda Bamber has defined the circumstances under which we see the misogyny emerge in Shakespearean tragedy. In Hamlet, Lear, Othello, and other plays where anti-female sentiments and "sexual loathing" appear in Shakespeare, the prerequisite condition is that the hero is out of his proper relation to his world, similar to Angelo's fallen state. "It is only when his sense of his own identity is threatened that the hero projects onto women what he refuses to acknowledge in himself. Only when he finds himself cowardly, appetitive, shifty, and disloyal does the sexuality of women disgust him" (Bamber 14). so


Isabella, though Angelo's counterpart in terms of her "severity" and alienation from the opposite sex, represents an opposing force in terms of the Judea-Christian pattern. As she begins her plea to Angelo, we can hear sentiments that characterized the severe and isolated sect of the early Christian community. As noted above, Romans documents Paul's battle of the will, finding that he is more disposed to commit the sins of the flesh that he wills against rather than the good toward which he forces his will. Isabella's extreme devotion to asceticism appears to have created for her the unnatural opposite of the Christian dilemma: she must struggle to align her behavior with her feelings for her brother rather than give in to her stronger inclination toward legalistic morality. Her feeble beginning reveals her problem: There is a vice that most I do abhor, And most desire should meet the blow of justice; For which I would not plead, but that I must; For which I must not plead, but that I am at war 'twixt will and will not. (II ii 29-33) She seems to be considering the admonition in 1 John 5: 16: If any man see his brother sin a sin, which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. Claudio's sexual sin is indeed a sin unto death in Isabella's judgment, as revealed by her reaction to Angelo's lewd proposal as a matter of her own life and death, not just Claudio's. Lucio must push her back into the fray when she gives up at Angelo's first rebuttal of her argument, recognizing her lack of emotional involvement and conviction on behalf of Claudio's predicament: You are too cold. If you should need a pin, You could not with more tame a tongue desire it; (II ii 45-46) 51


With Lucio's coaching, Isabella warms to her purpose, gaining in eloquence and making a case that much more closely resembles Christian mercy and forgiveness. Her choice of words continues to flow from the New Testament: How would you be If He, which is the top of judgment, should But judge you as you are? O,.think on that, And mercy will then breathe within your lips, Like man new made. (II ii 75-79) She evokes the lines on judgment from Matthew 7:1-2 which most scholars recognize as the source of the play's title and employs additional references drawn from St. Paul: And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:23-4 Her speech effectively identifies Angelo's position in the old order from which he might be reborn by choosing mercy. Angelo, however, simply counters by claiming that his stance is impersonal, mandated by a law that exists independently of the enforcer. Angelo appears to sincerely believe in his complete identification with his public persona, the unnatural man that the Duke and Lucio have described. As Isabella continues to plead her case, Lucio's eager approval signals us that Angelo is affected, despite his outward resistance to all her arguments. At this point other forces become evident in the interaction, not consciously recognized by Angelo and Isabella, but reflected in Lucio's enthusiastic responses. Frye has described this movement as "eventually the serpent of Eden thrust[ing] itself up between Justice in his black robes and Purity in her white robes, and tell[ing] them both that they're naked" (Northrop Frye on 52


Shakespeare 146). The serpent is the voice of a much greater power that surges upward into the cold, black-and-white world of the Old and New Testaments. Nature itself, the fecund, dangerous force that rages unchecked in Mistress Overdone's world and on the stage of tragedy has crept into Isabella's language. Isabella departs from her recitations of biblical truths and begins to use the natural imagery of thunder, oak, myrtle, ape, and imaginary angels with the spleens of mortals. She identifies the power of heaven with the pagan name of Jove and the thunderbolts of Zeus (II ii 111-16). There is a theatrical element in her speech as well, as she compares "proud man" to an "angry ape play[ing] such fantastical tricks before high heaven." Cherrell Guilfoyle's background material in Shakespeare's Play within Play documents that in the tradition of the Mysteries the devil was represented as a usurper who impersonated his rightful ruler and was therefore sometimes called "the ape of God" as the Antichrist was the "ape of Christ" (46). Isabella's transition to the new language of the pagan and the theatrical is reflected in Lucio's exuberant, sexually suggestive approval: 0, to him, to him, wench! he will relent. He's coming; I perceive't. (U ii 123-25) The virgin he previously hailed as "a thing enskied and sainted" has been transformed into a "wench." We see a corresponding change in Angelo. His unwavering insistence on enforcing the penalty for Claudio's offense is interrupted as he responds to the person of Isabella rather than her argument for the first time in the lengthy discussion. He seems confused, dazed even, as he asks, "Why do you put these sayings on me?" (line 133). Isabella then strikes 53


home by asking him to search his heart for inclinations like those for which Claudio is condemned. In an aside, Angelo admits "She speaks, and 'tis such sense that my sense breeds with it" (lines 141-42), recognizing that Isabella has found a level of communication which seduces both his reason and his sensual nature. Isabella betrays signs of her own confusion. It appears that the upsurge of Dionysian forces has engulfed the remainder of the scene in the world of subconscious desires. As she proceeds to speak recklessly of making Angelo a "bribe," even Lucio becomes uneasy and then expresses his relief when she recovers from the near foux pas by identifying the bribe as gifts of prayer: "You had marred all else" (line 148). He then rushes her out of the room as soon as the next day's appointment with Angelo is set. In this atmosphere of sensuality and disorientation, Angelo comes to dramatic recognition and reversal: Is this her fault or mine? The tempter, or the tempted, who sins most, ha? Not she; nor doth she tempt; but it is I That, lying by the violet in the sun, Do as the carrion does, not as the flow'r Corrupt with virtuous season. (II ii 162-7) Angelo at once comes to know himself as a man vulnerable to temptation, and he finds that his weakness has shown him to be the equal of those like Claudio whom he persecutes. His aspirations to living on a higher moral plane have not freed him from the wheel of fortune, and the wheel has begun to tum for him. Here Shakespeare has made one of his adjustments of chronology, inserting a quick "replay" of the Fall of Man in Angelo's recognition of his true circumstances. Apparently invisible to Angelo, Lucio has tempted him through 54


the woman, leaving him to wonder at the "cunning enemy" (line 179) who has brought him to this state. Angelo's language is now filled with imagery from nature, as was Isabella's, but his revulsion at the fact of his physical being and its mortality causes him to see it in morbid images of death and decay. McDonald compares Angelo to Macbeth because he shares the "intransigent unwillingness to contemplate a world that will continue without him" (116). Nietzsche's discussion of the horror of Apollonian man when he is forced to realize the defeat of his knowledge by unconquerable, Dionysian nature is applicable here, particularly in his conclusion that this "tragic perception ... requires, to make it tolerable, the remedy of art" (96), or as the Duke puts it, the remedy of "craft against vice" (III ii 277). Angelo's horror at his circumstances prompts him to momentarily consider sparing Claudio, but when he reappears in scene iv, he reassumes the severe Old Testament figure of authority, even though he is experiencing pain and confusion. He seeks in vain to regain the righteousness he has lost. He has prayed, but without conviction: Heaven in my mouth, as if I did but only chew on his name. (II iv 3-4) The divine Name, which in an earlier time was sacred and powerful, can not dispel his obsessive thoughts of Isabella. The metaphor implies that the name does not actually leave his mouth, that in Angelo's extreme adherence to the spirituality of the old order, prayer can only fail because the Name that is too sacred to speak must remain mutilated in the mouth of the sinner. Shakespeare appears to draw from Romans again as he does so frequently in the Angelo/Isabella dialogues. In Romans Paul expounds on the need for 55


expressions of faith and confession on the part of the Jews who have "sought to establish their own righteousness" (Rom. 10:3), urging: .The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth ... For ... with the mouth confession is made unto salvation ... For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek for the same Lord that is over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (Rom. 10:8-12) But Angelo finds that the word has no power over the physical nature which now psychologically and (as expressed in his vision of sinful mortality above) physically consumes him. In classical terms, Angelo's Appollonian illusion of law and degree, his "seeming," is drowned in the Dionysian wave of tragedy's equivalent of the "green world" -in Vienna, the law of the urban jungle. He expresses both recognition and denial in admitting "my gravity I Wherein (let no man hear me) I take pride I could I, with boot, change for. an idle plume" (II iv 9-11). This outlines his current position, indicating that he finds himself ruined by his pride in useless pretensions but that he will nevertheless maintain the secret of his abhorrent passions. His "Let's write 'good angel' on the devil's hom, I Tis not the devil's crest" is a bitter admission that he is a counterfeit, a false successor to the Duke. In Angelo's own terms, counterfeit is also a metaphor for bastardy, which he condemns in his next encounter with Isabella only a few lines later. It were as good To pardon him that hath from nature stol'n A man already made, as to remit Their saucy sweetness that do coin heaven's image In stamps that are forbid. (II iv 42-46) Here he equates the begetting of illegitimate children with the crime of murder in words that recall his own recent acceptance of the stamp of the Duke's image. 56


The emphasis on illegitimacy and bearing a false image makes Angelo a sort of bastard son of the Duke. In terms of the Mystery, when Angelo admits and then embraces this false seeming, he makes a transition from fallen man to willfully misrepresenting the image of divine authority. He thereby confirms Isabella's description of "proud man" as "angry ape," progressing from fallen man aping God under the "devil's hom" to the counterfeit son aping the Christ. Critics have usually grouped Angelo with characters from Shakespearean comedy, including Malvolio and Jaques, self-important outsiders who rail against society and refuse integration in the comic ending. Angelo is very different, however, because of the recognition that is clearly evident in his soliloquies. Unlike the misfits of the comedies, he agonizes over his dramatic situation before reaffirming the course that will ensure his downfall. In committing to his fate, Angelo resembles Shakespearean tragic heroes such as Macbeth and Richard III, swearing defiance while consciously marching into certain defeat. When Angelo and Isabella are reunited for their second appointment, the sensual undercurrent again colors the meaning of their dialogue, but Isabella refuses to consciously acknowledge Angelo's purpose. Without Lucio's influence, she falls back into the language of Christian argument, which Angelo cleverly counters with his own legalistic debate. He notes the difference from their last encounter, suspecting her of dissimulation: Your sense pursues not mine. Either you are ignorant, Or seem so [craftily]; and that's not good. (II iv 74-75) 57


Although the moral debate that takes place in this scene pits them against each other, their arguments again demonstrate that their philosophies and tactics are actually very similar. As Isabella had previously argued that Angelo might be forgiven his offense against the law by performing the greater good of allowing Claudio to escape the death penalty, Angelo gives her a similar choice, supposedly hypothetical at this point. She might also save Claudio by sinning in the name of mercy. Her response supports Angelo's earlier argument that divine justice will exact retribution, regardless of the reason for the sin: "I had rather give my body than my soul." Angelo promptly reminds her that he did not ask for her soul. Although in his next speech he gives up this line of pursuit, admitting his sophistry, ''Nay, I'll not warrant that; for I can speak against the thing I say," he has turned up yet another difficulty in her belief system. Her efforts to separate the soul from the body seem to tighten the bond between the two because of the soul's vulnerability to misuses of the body. Angelo follows up by demonstrating that she is much more willing to gamble on his chances of being forgiven for dispensing with the law than her own. Ultimately, she admits that she, like Angelo, has argued both sides of the issue: "It oft falls out, to have what we would have, we speak not what we mean" (II iv 117-18). Isabella's logic is that of the early Christian martyrs. She reveals a masochistic acceptance of pain and a sensual attraction to death in her reply to Angelo's posing of the choice between saving her brother and preserving her chastity: Th'impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies, And strip myself to death, as to a bed That longing have been sick for, ere l'ld yield 58


My body up to shame. (II iv 101-03) This speech distills the potent psychology of martyrdom as expressed in numerous verses in Romans. For example, Paul links sacrificial death and unity with Christ in Romans 6: 3-5: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death .... For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Further, in Romans 7: 4 Paul indicates that the union with Christ is a marriage to Him whom the Christian joins in death: Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him that is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Isabella, the ardent young novice, has directed her passions into this marriage and speaks of embracing death as readily as the Apostle. Angelo finally loses patience with her failure to understand his purpose and reminds her that she is a mortal woman, demanding that she "show it now, I By putting on the destin'd livery" (II iv 137-38). Her resistance to his advances turns his sensuality to a sadistic complement to her willingness to be martyred: I have begun, And now I give my sensual race the rein. Redeem thy brother By yielding up thy body to my will, Or else he must not only die the death, But thy unkindness shall his death draw out To ling'ring sufferance. Answer me to-morrow, Or by the affection that now guides me most, I'll prove a tyrant to him. (II iv 159-69) 59


The choice that Angelo gives Isabella is the one often faced by the early Christian martyrs -she can abandon her virtue, prostituting herself to the enforcers of the old order, or take responsibility for the vengeance her resistance will bring on her "brethren." She remains alone at the end of the scene, consoling herself with assurances that Claudio shares her ideals. Although she has no desirable alternatives, her summation of "Then Isabel live chaste, and brother, die; I More than our brother is our chastity" still implies that she has carried her devotion to righteousness over mortal existence to its hollow extreme. For all her expressions of willingness to lay down her own life, it is Claudio who must die for her jdeals. Her resolve to prepare him for "his soul's rest" contrasts with Juliet's despair at facing a life that will be "a dying horror" without Claudio. It is more closely related to Angelo's earlier assertion that he would impose the death sentence even if the accused were his brother. Isabella's interpretation of Christian teaching is as legalistic as Angelo's view of the old law. Her focus is on the aspect of early Christianity that is reflected in the Pauline injunctions against becoming tainted by the sins of a brother. She interprets brotherhood in terms of the letter of the new law rather than the spirit of it. Thus, Isabella is ultimately willing that a sinner should be executed to save a saint rather than the reverse. Her rejection of "ignomy in ransom" (II i v Ill) condemns Claudio to be the one who accepts crucifixion as a criminal among thieves. Her quick acceptance of the Duke's scheme to save Claudio with the bed-trick sums up her philosophy: I have spirit to do any thing that appears not foul in the truth of my spirit. (III i 205-07) 60


The statement is circular, implying that her determination of right action is self referential. The Friar/Duke's proposal for accommodating Angelo's lust does not raise moral questions for her because it comes from her chosen authority, the Church. The fact that Angelo and Mariana will commit exactly the same "sin unto death" for which Claudio is to pay the penalty seems to completely escape her notice. Perhaps I should recognize here that a great deal of critical effort has been expended over the years on the question of whether the Elizabethans would have considered Claudio's offense a crime. Although this has bearing on whether Shakespeare could count on their being disposed toward mercy, it should not obscure the fact that no character in Measure for Measure except for Lucio, argues that fornication is not a crime. The Duke as Friar tells Isabella that Mariana's virtue will not be harmed by the bed-trick because he represents an authority that can make that determination in her case. There is no indication tliat he believes Claudio is free from guilt. As the tragic portion of the plot unfolds, Angelo and Isabella are on a course toward death in their refusal to abandon spiritual pride, but the life at stake is Claudio's. Dramatic recognition and reversal have only served to make Angelo more cunning and ruthless in his pursuit of Isabella and his persecution of Claudio. True to the "Judge not" implied in the play's title, however, the playwright does not condemn these characters any more than he condemns Shylock. He consistently reveals Isabella's pretenses and undermines her philosophy because the story demands it. In the mythical context, Mankind remains without hope between these two extremes of human righteousness, the Pharisee and the saint. The opposition of the Mosaic Law with Christian 61


righteousness has done nothing but to bind Everyman even more firmly to his impending death. 62


CHAPTERS THE DIRECTOR With Angelo's commitment to his destructive course, the tragic movement of the first half of the play is nearly complete. As the Duke made way for him in the first half of the play, Angelo is removed from the stage while the Duke resumes his direction of Vienna's drama. His role becomes a composite of manifestations of divine authority in the world; The pattern of Angelo's evolution through spiritual states mirroring the Pharisee, Devil, and Antichrist is evident in all of the major characters, including the Duke. For the remainder of the play he alternates among the trinity of his aspects, concealing and revealing himself as required for the unfolding of the drama. The quality that sets the Duke apart is that his employment of disguise constitutes a conscious, deliberate transformation. There is also an anachronistic pairing of events such as Adam and Eve's sentencing with confession and absolution in the same scene that typifies Shakespeare's technique throughout the play. If Shakespeare needed any precedent for this technique, he would have been able to find it in the Mysteries. Prosser's analysis of the artistry employed in the Mysteries cites examples of precisely this type of merging of persons and events as a means of concentrating related mythical patterns into a single, more powerful impression. In the Duke's first clandestine interaction with his subjects, Shakespeare makes two anachronistic adjustments. The Duke/Friar questions the unhappy Julietta to ascertain the sincerity of her repentance, performing the Christian duty that corresponds to his disguise, but he also replays the judgment of Eve, 63


pronouncing her "mutually committed" sin with Claudio to be "of a heavier kind than his," reminding her that she carries the woman's ancient sentence of childbearing. Julietta provides the correct responses to his questioning, particularly with regard to her relationship with Claudio: Duke: Love you the man that wronged you? Juliet: Yes, as I love the woman that wrong'd him. (II iii 24-25) By this she affirms, at least on one level of understanding, the great commandment of the New Testament, to love one's brother as one's self, and as Bradbrook observes, the Duke "absolves" her, excluding her from the judgment that is to come (Ornstein 78). Juliet passes the test that Isabella faces, weighing her love for Claudio against her love of self and finding forgiveness for the man who wronged her. Having ascertained Juliet's sincerity, the Duke blesses her but offers poor comfort, repeating the news that Claudio is to die. His holy ministrations leave Juliet in despair, crying that her life is a "dying horror." This is the first of several judgments in which the beneficiary is to lament receiving life rather than death. The pattern was laid earlier when Elbow exulted at Escalus' "sentencing" ofPompey: Thou seest, thou wicked varlet, now, what's come upon thee. Thou art to continue now, thou varlet, thou art to continue. (II i 189-91) Prosser's study indicates that repentance was one of the concepts frequently portrayed outside its proper theological context in the Mysteries. Thus, Cain might be presented with an opportunity to repent after the murder of Abel, which he would refuse, confirming that he had chosen his fate (68-69). This is not unlike Shakespeare's treatment of Angelo in Measure for Measure, demonstrating through other characters' counsel and Angelo's soliloquies that 64


he has had the opportunity to reconsider before proceeding in his original course. Prosser contends that the anachronistic use of repentance in Old Testament stories was "realism" on the part of the playwright whereby he recognized the audience's contemporary understanding of the applicability of repentance to a situation such as Cain's and used the concept to elucidate the character's state of mind, distorting the "facts" of the myth but reinforcing the significance, just as Shakespeare does in this play. The disparagement of earthly life in the Duke's counsel to Claudio carries the same Old Testament message delivered to Julietta. His reminder that Claudio "exists on many a thousand grains that issue out of dust" (III i 204) echoes the finality of Adam's sentence: "dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3: 19). This neatly parallels the scene with Julietta, and momentarily regresses Everyman and Everywoman to the experience of their origins as Adam and Eve. This performance of the Friar's duty may also be intended to demonstrate that institutionalized religion's only answer to suffering is acceptance of death. Robert N. Watson speculates that these scenes may reflect an awareness of commentary by Marlowe, Hobbes, and Montaigne on the Church's role as pacifier of the masses who do not possess material power (421-2). Marlowe reportedly dressed his Mephistopheles as. a friar in Dr. Faustus in 1592 (Miles 132). In Shakespeare's case, the duplicity of the Friar/Duke is necessary to the plot, and the well-known convention of portraying priests as crafty characters lent itself to his purpose. Dramatically, it is most important that the Duke steadfastly maintain the threat of death for Claudio, without hope of salvation in this life or any other, so he may stage his rescue at the proper time. The illusion of death is as dramatically necessary to 65


the Duke's play-within-a-play as it is to Shakespeare's plot in Measure for Measure or to the transfonnation of Old Testament law's severity into New Testament mercy. In all cases, the effect is dependent on inducing tragic fear and pity, while salvation is secretly held in reserve for the ultimate conclusion. Claudio's response to the Friar/Duke's words of "comfort" is the curt summary, "To sue to live, I find I seek to die" (Ill i 42). Whether the platitudes offered by the Duke are compared with Old Testament lamentations on the condition of mankind or the New Testament's "He that loveth his life shall lose it" (John 12:25), they succeed in diminishing Claudio's hope through his disappointment at not receiving earthly assistance from the Friar rather than any new resolve to face death. This is made clear in his grasping at the chance of salvation in Angelo's proposition to Isabella. The brevity of Claudio's thanks conveys the bitter sarcasm of an Everyman imagining the terrors of death who receives as consolation the same depreciation of physical existence that drives Angelo to condemn him. Isabella's rejection finalizes Claudio's abandonment for the sake of a paradoxical philosophy of valuing death over life that he barely comprehends. Her disgust at his overriding desire to survive despite her appeal to his honor moves her to "pray a thousand prayers for [his] death" (III i 145). She momentarily succeeds in tempting him with her erotic fascination with the grave but can't hold him. It appears that her appeal to Oaudio for moral support has put her subconscious in control again, casting her in the role of seductress. Here we see even more clearly than in the confrontation with Angelo the force of the passion Isabella has directed toward the martyr's deadly marriage. Claudio at first gives her hope by bravely responding in her morbid language: 66


I will encounter darkness as a bride, Hugging it in my arms. (III i 82-83) Isabella is obviously oveJjoyed, exclaiming, "There spake my brother; there my father's grave did utter forth a voice," which is her first genuinely emotional response to Claudio's situation. However, when Claudio learns that Angelo's indecent proposal offers him a way out he begs to live, which Isabella sees as so unnatural that she suspects he is a bastard, not the brother she just recognized. She calls Claudio's willingness to sacrifice her virginity a kind of incest, which is an apt moral analogy, but it is also an admission of the sexual nature of their confrontation. From Angelo's life-denying spiritual void, the powerful sexuality oflsabella's attraction to the martyr's "bed" appears to be virtue, and it seduces him whereas a woman of "double vigor, art, and nature," (II ii 183) holds no attraction. Mariana, whose introduction on stage is accompanied by a love song, is clearly more like the latter type than Angelo's ideal of virtue. This lends credence to his claims that perception of "levity" in Mariana's character was the real reason for breaking the marriage contract. Claudio's speech on the terrors of the unknown is often compared to Hamlet's most famous soliloquy, which comparison confirms that Everyman is no tragic hero looking into the abyss of human existence. Claudio is not an idealist but an empiricist. Like Pompey, he is "a poor creature that would live" embracing the only life he knows, which in Isabella's black-is-white view is a similarly filthy life: Thy sin's not accidental, but a trade. Mercy to thee would prove itself a bawd. (Ill i 148-49) 67


By the time the Duke begins his machinations in earnest it is clear that Claudio's suffering will not elicit mercy from the judge, the man of the cloth, or the saint, because none, of them values his physical existence. Claudio's bitterness brings up the problem with Measure for Measure that seems to present the greatest difficulty with the allegorical readings. Mary Lascelles is among those who hold that the obvious irony in the treatment of the Duke's character rules out the possibility of his representing anyone other than a human personality (66). She is certainly correct in identifying the irony in this play. It is evident that Shakespeare is undermining the public pretensions of the Duke throughout, beginning with the pairing of the Duke and Lucio in Act I. Once Lascelles rejects the possibility that the Duke has any religious significance, she ultimately concludes that his experiences demonstrate in general the dramatic difficulties of arriving at true justice. My summary of course oversimplifies her argument, but the point is that the ironic tone of the play has caused her and a great many other critics to discount the preponderance of explicitly religious material in this play, thereby losing the sense of the overwhelming potency in this mix of myth and drama that the playwright has concocted. Knights directs students to read Shakespeare as poetry above all else, considering all language and technique deliberate and essential to the whole (11). Unfortunately, much of the language and technique displayed in Measure for Measure became, as Lucio might say, "not the fashion" within a few years after its introduction The only critics who cared to associate themselves with it threw out the Mystery in favor of Morality, neutralizing God as Divine Providence, forcing Isabella into the ill-fitting costume of Mercy, etc. These 68


readings had to discount the evident irony in the play in favor of maintaining the moral principles. The standoff between the allegorists and the purely secular readings of Measure for Measure has been resolved by those who take a high middle ground, admitting that there are allegorical elements and that there is also an ironical treatment. Unfortunately, to retain the high middle ground, the critic must explain the juxtaposition of allegory and irony, which has led to the thesis of the personally and/or artistically disillusioned William Shakespeare who created this problem involuntarily-or even perhaps intentionally so that his audiences might share his angst -or the other thesis of the Shakespeare who just didn't write a very good play this time. A review of the work of C. J. Sisson, L. C. Knights, and F. R. Leavis, taken in combination, can serve to debunk all of these popular explanations of why there is an apparently irreverent treatment of the subject in Measure for However, their work doesn't provide a satisfactory interpretation of the play because each of these critics identifies tha,t exist in the others' work, canceling each other out, as it were. What then, after all, are we to make of Shakespeare's lying, egomaniacal Duke who appears to play God? First of all, I think we must return to Matthew 7:1-2 that presumably gives this play its name: Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; And with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. How does one judge a Mystery or individual characters within it? As discussed earlier, the Duke is a composite of myth and dramatic convention. As mythical divinity, he acts entirely within the framework of his biblical context,jealously defending the sanctity of his name, apparently blessing the substitution of 69


another bride for the intended partner in the husband's bed (Frye, in Northrop Frye on Shakespeare 151, cites the example ofthe story of Jacob and Leah), and alJows mankind to struggle and die under the Mosaic Law although he has always had the power to intervene. On the dramatic level, Prosser's discussion of the critical avenues available for examination of the Medieval Mysteries outlines how to evaluate the exploitation of creative possibilities in the genre, even though the plot is the province of myth. Her analysis of characterization is founded on this principle: "a character is not judged 'good' by standards of reality, by the degree to which it mirrors a real person. Characterization is judged good by the degree to which it serves its function in the given play," ( 60) and one of the criteria that is applied in common with any other drama is that each character's behavior be plausible. I believe that Prosser's analysis of the Mysteries can reveal the essence of Shakespeare's approach to characterization in Measure for Measure. He dissects the psychology of Angelo and Isabella because he must reveal the motivations of the Pharisee and the martyr, but he does not give them the freedom to become something else without the intervening "art" of the Duke. Angelo is most likely correct in believing that pardoning Claudio would prevent him from restoring order as the Duke charged him, and very probably would "make a scarecrow of the law," from what we know of Pompey and Lucio. Similarly, Isabella's bizarre mix of inappropriate passion and detachment in response to Claudio's misery may make her disturbingly unsympathetic, but Angelo's proposition is clearly despicable and we do not expect her to save Claudio by accepting it. 70


The darkness of Meamre for Measure revealed in the characterization is the result of human nature out of its proper relation to Renaissance and Judea Christian Nature. It is the unnatural desire of the Pharisee and the saint to attain a life that does not include the physical aspects of earth-bound mankind. It is the law of retribution that leads Angelo to demand Claudio's death for the sin that he equates with murder, the law of vengeance that Angelo claims for himself, the law that drives Isabella to disown her brother on grounds of incest, the law that commands Orestes to kill his murderous, avenging mother. It is the tragic hero's Appollonian struggle for individuation that inevitably dooms him to be reclaimed into the anonymity of humanity by Dionysian nature. In Measure for Measure, the Duke is the self-proclaimed agent of Art, the only force that can redeem the confusion and depravity of the situation that has been created by what Gregory Lanier has identified as Angelo's tragic fragmentation, which is necessarily reflected in his society (21). Whether he is the Judeo-Christian God of the Mysteries and the Bible, the Aeschylean Apollo, or a human representative of government, the pattern of cause and effect has produced the same results. The attempt to curb lawlessness through an unbending application of retributive law produces even greater disorder. Only an intervention employing art that teaches the individual his/her proper place in a new order can redeem the entire society from its own destruction. The irony of the Duke's situation, like that of the Old Testament God, the gods of Aeschylean tragedy, or the human king, is that he too must become an actor in the drama and undergo his own transformation to bring about a new order. Shakespeare's view of evolving divine justice appears again in The Tempest, where the seemingly all-powerful Prospero is reintegrated into society 71


only after he learns to apply mercy in dealing with the evil that disrupted it. Central to the irony is the implication of the existence of an even higher law than that of the divinity who assumes that he is all-powerful. This, I believe, is one of the lessons that the Duke's creator is learning from the comparison of the Aeschylean celebration of divine justice as revealed in the Oresteia and the roots of his own culture's dramatic celebration of the Mysteries. The Greeks recognized the law of moira, which even Zeus, the mightiest of the Gods, must not violate. In an essay on free will as circumscribed in the Oresteia, N. G. L. Hammond writes that moira is "apportionment," governing limits within spheres of being. Among the tenets of the law of moira are the following: "Human death is final; bloodshed can not be undone; virginity can not be regained" (99-100). In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Yahweh declares himself to be his people's only god and any limitations on those powers are voluntarily defined by himself; for example, after the great flood, he makes the promise that he will never again bring total destruction against the earth's creatures in retribution for human sins. The handling of the irony in Measure for Measure suggests that Shakespeare probed the question of whether the concept of Grace in the Mystery might be the equivalent of moira. The word appears prominently in the dialogue from Act I examined earlier where the emphasis is on the apparent absence of grace, and it reappears frequently in the concluding judgment scene as a much-repeated form of address to the returned Duke. The word seems to carry a double meaning particularly in the greeting of the Duke by Angelo and Escalus: "Happy return be to your royal Grace" (V i 3). The implication is that grace has returned to Vienna with the Duke, and perhaps more importantly that 72


his grace has returned to the Duke. Of course, Angelo's chastened "I perceive your Grace, like pow'r divine, I Hath look'd upon my passes" (Vi 369-70) is an underpinning of the allegorical readings that declare the Duke to be Divine Providence. Lascelles eagerly attacks Wilson Knight for assuming that this. figure of speech should be interpreted as anything but the simile that it is, basing her reading of it on the amazing claim that it is the single instance of a possible implication that the Duke is anything other than the Duke of Vienna (66). A very broad level of irony is suggested in what appears to be a natural counter-movement in Vienna whereby the lower classes react to Angelo's severity by adapting, in a sense that anticipates Darwinism, to the new order. The irony is in the Duke's belief that he is in control of his world and is the sole agent of change in reversing the action of his drama. As discussed above, the playwright/director has become an actor with some unexpected twists ahead in the plot. The Duke becomes an actor intentionally, but his role is affected by forces he doesn't anticipate. The larger movement of the lower order of Viennese society infiltrating its institutions contributes to a sense of confusion and characters milling about before the action is truly reversed. With the confusion comes an expansion of the corruption we have observed in the higher characters. Pompey, as the executioner's assistant, has progressed from supplying bodies for sexual purposes in his old trade to supplying bodies to the lust for death that now prevails and supports his new trade. As indicated repeatedly in the characterization of Pompey, he is an animal that will survive, accommodating himself to the requirements of his environment. The prison is full of old acquaintances, transforming the metaphorical confinement of the 73


characters in earlier scenes to true imprisonment. There is no need to ask as Americans do in election year whether anyone in the populace has become "better off' under the existing government. Shakespeare adds a sense of sacrilege to the portrayal of what has happened to Mistress Overdone's world. Although the second half of the play relies more on imagery and patterns to make the biblical analogies, as opposed to the borrowed dialectic that was so prevalent in the first half, Pompey has begun spouting scriptural concepts. He paraphrases the Pauline description of the husband as head of the wife from Ephesians 5:23: "if he be a married man, he's his wive's head, and I can never cut off a woman's head" (IV ii 3-5), and draws a moral conclusion from it. In the same scene he evaluates the hangman's profession in terms of the hangman's frequency of asking forgiveness. He and his supervisor, Abhorson, also engage in a significant debate on whether their occupation is a mystery. Notably, Pompey indicates that a mystery must include an expression of art Your whores sir, being members of my occupation, Using painting, do prove my occupation a mystery; but what mystery there should be in hanging, if I should be hang'd, I cannot imagine . (IV ii 36-40) Besides perverting the meaning of "mystery," Pompey seems to have become a critic. One might well suspect there is a message here regarding the bawd's view of what constitutes art. On the one hand, considering the source, it ridicules the notion that anything that bears the commonly accepted marks of art constitutes a "mystery," in the sense of true art, and on the other it may suggest that a bawd needs the overt markings of artistic standards to recognize true art. It may also suggest, since hanging is practiced at the command of the higher 74


characters as part of their theology, or "mystery," that a bawd's recognition of "mystery" in art is nearer the mark than their vision of the "mystery" in religion. His commentary remains safely ambiguous because we must weigh the source with the words, but it is intriguing. The change in Lucio's role in the second half of the play indicates that he also has adapted to the new situation. He no longer attempts to help those threatened by the new law because it is "not the wear" (Ill ii 74). The new fashion is to commit mischief under cover of the law, much as Pompey has adapted. He informs on Mistress Overdone and causes her to be imprisoned, apparently because she knows the secret of his illegitimate child. Obviously, he has learned from Angelo how to hide indiscretions legally. In short, when restrictive law becomes the rule of the day, every scoundrel masquerades in the image of respectability. Besides his conversion to informer, Lucio becomes an admitted liar when tells the Friar/Duke about his perjured testimony regarding his child, so now the audience needs to be more suspicious of Lucio as truth teller. The irony of the Duke's situation continues to develop until the play finally comes to judgment. True to the conventional representation of friars, when he is most involved in the duties of the clergy he is the most dependent on deceit and questionable philosophy. Perhaps the cover of the disguise frees him to act the part of "Duke of dark comers" that Lucio claims to know, or perhaps the restrictions imposed by the earthly powers of a poor Friar force him to reinterpret the extent of "his little authority" in order to accomplish his ends. In any case, he becomes a sort of Holy Spirit-as-trickster when he sheds the image of the Father. To benevolent ends, he eavesdrops, he manipulates emotions, he 75


schemes, and he lies --frequently. M. C. Bradbrook writes that the implications of Shakespeare's representation of the clergy were so offensive to Catholics that Spanish censors cut Measure for Measure in its entirety from one of the Folios that survives today (121). Others, however, take a view more like that of Hawkins who believes that Shakespeare absolutely approves of the Duke (36). The Friar of Romeo and Juliet uses the "cover" of his robes to commit a forbidden act of compassion. Here, Shakespeare fulfills the requirements of the plot in his representation of the Friar, showing in him both divine inspiration and useless philosophizing as they may coexist in the Church, the earthly body of the divinity. Lucio demonstrates a definite affinity for the Duke/Friar, significantly "shadowing" his steps in the world, keeping the opposite of everything the Duke professes to represent before his face as he attacks his reputation. Lucio shows even more of the shrewdness he displayed in earlier scenes, seeming to have an intuitive sense of the Duke/Friar's true identity and vulnerabilities as he asks very effective questions. His inquiries seem designed to tempt the Duke to reveal himself, forcing him into the ironic stance of an actor/hero struggling to avoid dramatic recognition as well as simple identification. Lucio forces him to see what his reclusiveness and absence have done to his reputation, an image very different from the Duke's perception of himself. He tempts him to reveal himself as the Creator of Angelo by speculating that Angelo, the Adam-man, was "not made by man and woman after this downright way of creation," asking "Is it true, think you?" (Ill ii 104-06) Lucio also reveals unusual insight in saying "It was a mad fantastical trick of [the Duke] to steal from the state, and usurp the beggary he was never born to" (Ill ii 92-94). Earlier scenes suggest 76


only that the Duke pretends to be away on official business, certainly not "beggary," but a duke--or God--in a monk's robe does "usurp the beggary he was never born to." Lucio's slanders sufficiently pierce the Duke's disguise to cause him to burst out in a brief soliloquy at the end of the scene, protesting the slanders that rulers innocently incur. The formality of the soliloquy indicates that Lucio has uncovered his original self, the Father of the trinity, reverting to speaking in verse as opposed to the prose that is the convention in the "comic" second half of the play. He delivers a brief formal statement on honor and the plight of the slandered king. I believe what we are meant to observe here is the learning process of a god descended into human form. This speech has generally been identified as an instance of Shakespeare's recognition of James's sensitivity to criticism. His illustration of how difficult it is to be both God and human should have pleased the King. The Friar/Duke's insecurity about what appears to have happened to the sanctity of his name drives him to ask Escalus for his opinion of the Duke. The reply encapsulates the irony of the Duke's, and the Judea-Christian divinity's, situation: "One that, above all other strifes, contended especially to know himself' (III ii 232-3). In fact, as Lucio has so successfully proved, he does not. The Duke-as-divinity has fallen from Grace, and must take responsibility for it. Angelo's extremism may be Angelo's own free choice, but he also mirrors his Creator in ways never before suspected. The disintegration of Vienna is not just a reflection of Angelo's tragic disintegration, it is the Duke's. Like Angelo and Isabella, the Duke has refused until now to take on a physical form and learn what it means to be human. In a celibate existence he has 77


shunned the female, as indicated in his statement to Friar Thomas: "Believe not that the dribbling dart of love can pierce a complete bosom" (I ii 2-3). He has provided the example that allows Angelo and Isabella to assume that they, too, can be whole unto themselves and have no respect for Dionysian nature. Through the human experience, he comes to learn what the Greek tragedians knew. As Nietzsche states it, "The gods justified human life by living it themselves-the only satisfactory theodicy ever invented" (30). In the Judeo Christian Mystery a new example, a new pattern, must be set if humanity is to be saved. 78


CHAPfER6 JUDGMENT The conclusion of Measure for Measure as comedy is perhaps even more explicit in its references to its biblical source than the initial scenes of the play that take so much of their dialogue from scripture. The technique in the latter, comic portion of the play relies on reenactment and imagery rather than dialectic, and it has been more successful in conveying its religious significance to audiences. In spite of all the disagreements about interpretations of Measure for Measure most scholars agree that the conclusion of the play is a portrayal of Christian Judgment. Although the Mystery was out of favor in Shakespeare's time, the Atonement and Judgment survived as popular themes, as they have less explicitly in the twentieth century. Shakespeare's use of a more visually-oriented representation of the completion of the Atonement is appropriate to the movement toward comedy, and it mirrors the pattern of its biblical source, acting out the script written in the prophesies of the Old Testament. The use of familiar theatrical conventions also may have served the more practical purpose of ensuring that the audience placed the conclusion of the play in the proper biblical context, as the explicit scriptural references do in the early scenes. If the complications of the Friar/Duke's activities and the psychology of the Angelo/Isabella conflict drew attention away from the theological implications, the traditional presentation of Judgment with its trumpets and procession into the city could be counted on to bring the audience back to the proper perspective. 79


This final movement rapidly replays the events that complete the Atonement. Dr. Johnson's observation that Shakespeare seems to have invested less effort in the final scenes appears justified. I believe this may be due in part to the fact that he was working with well-worn material that left little need for, or interest in, elucidation. However, the Duke's briefly-stated judgments themselves attract attention and disturb because the audience is left to form its own conclusions as to how well they represent justice. Until then, the action proceeds as we should expect. Escalus explains that the Duke's purpose in staging his return ashe has is to provide an opportunity for "a dispatch of complaints, and to deliver us from devices hereafter, which shall then have no power to stand against us" (IV iv 11-14). In other words, his purpose is the remission of all sins. With the bed-trick the Duke has "borrowed" the body of Mariana, whom Battenhouse identifies as a composite of Mary 3Jld "Anna the immaculate mother" and she willingly consents, according to the biblical script (1035). As the "unfolding star calls up the shepherd," the Duke prepares to be reborn into Vienna, counseling the Provost not to put himself "into amazement as to how these things should be" (IV iii 203-4). Mter his return to the city, he temporarily resumes his disguise and submits himself to judgment by the representatives of his own Old Law, accusing them of taking the role of predatory fox when "poor souls come ... to seek the lamb" (V i 297-98). Under his direction, Isabella learns charity from the true Christian spirit of Mariana, the dead Claudio is resurrected, Lucio is sentenced to dreaded confinement, and Isabella presumably will "put on the destin'd livery" and become the Bride of Christ. The Lord has returned "to dwell with them and they shall be his people" (Rev. 21:3). 80


The Atonement's secular implications appear to support absolutist monarchy. The Judeo-Christian society is a kingdom, regardless of whether the Old or New Law is in effect. The order that is reestablished affirms King James's emphasis on paternity and lineage, as noted in Watson's discussion of the socio-economic importance of government-controlled reproduction (420). Hawkins also associates the message conveyed in the Christian Atonement with Protestants' valuation of marriage over the ideals of monasticism in Catholic tradition (25). The Christian resolution of Measure for Measure carries comedy's valuation of the ordinary over the tragic hero's extraordinary striving for individuation (Bamber 39). Continuing the comparison of Measure for Measure with the classical precedent of the Oresteia draws attention to important similarities that suggest Shakespeare and Aeschylus incorporated a similar sense of irony in the telling of their stories. In both representations of the myth, the governing Apollonian deity realizes that the ancient cycle of death must be broken and devises a way to reverse his own law. A notable similarity is that in both cases the final judgment of the tragic hero is in the hands of a character who applies feminine wisdom. Isabella, like Athena, is allowed to cast the deciding vote on the hero's fate. Another significant correspondence is that both female characters have been coached by the male deity to choose in favor of a patriarchal order to replace the Old Law. Isabella's vote, like Athena's, is cast with a legalistic justification that leaves doubts about the conviction behind it. Athena excuses Orestes partly because she appears to accept his argument that he is not guilty of matricide because Clytemnestra was a bad mother. Isabella also resorts to a suspicious legalism in her defense of Angelo. She begins with the less-than-81


convincing "I partly think" (V i 445) and proceeds to exculpate him on the grounds that "his act did not o'ertake his bad intent," which is conspicuously contrary to Jesus' definition of the new law whereby the desire to commit a sin such as adultery is equated with the act. Robert Goheen says that Aeschylus reveals his dissatisfaction with the resolution in favor of paternity by portraying the argument as "rationalistic rather than fully rational" (122). Isabella's questionable defense strongly suggests that the same might be said of Shakespeare's justification of the new order installed by his culture's myth. The Duke's judgments of individual offenders affirm the values of comedy and Dionysian nature whereby the individual's freedom must be sacrificed for the preservation of the species. Thus, Angelo's preference for facing the death penalty according to his own code of honor and the fate of the tragic hero is denied him in favor of reintegration into society. Although he is not truly reformed by his experience, he accepts his fate insofar as the Duke deems it necessary for his purposes; that is, Angelo proves to be a "creature that live" as evidenced by the "quick'ning of his eye" (Vi 497) when he realizes that he is not actually guilty of killing Claudio. Bamardine survives because his brutish refusal to be awakened to the Duke's illusion of death has found the loophole in the divine law that exempts him from its force. The Duke's divine code of honor prohibits him from executing Barnardine until the confirmed criminal achieves an awareness of the law. The Duke can only send a friar with him to continue the attempts at awakening. Paul explains this point of the law in Romans 8:7: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 82


Lucio's punishment reveals that the Duke/Christ has not entirely learned forgiveness himself or come to terms with his vulnerability to slander. Unlike the integration of the furies into Apollo's new order, which converts their dark powers to its service, Lucio is forcibly confined or "tormented," in the original meaning of the word, which seems to him worse than any other possible punishment. His protests and the Duke's continued anger indicate that the New Order will still contain an Adversary. Isabella is also only partially reformed. The loving example of Mariana persuades her to affirm life by pleading for Angelo, but the legalism of the argument summarized above indicates that she has not learned to forgive, but has simply found a logical way to exculpate Angelo because the circumstances require it. The inability of Angelo and Isabella to be transformed by their experience proves that the Duke's intervention was necessary because human efforts to achieve righteousness are destined to fail. The situation at the end of Measure for Measure leaves the story at the end of the Book of Revelation. Another Judgment is still to come after this reintegration and "resurrection" of the unrighteous as well as the righteous. What has been affirmed is the law of Grace, or moira that safeguards sutvival. The marriage of the Duke/Christ and his Bride performs his own "old contracting," preventing him from declaring himself exempt from the laws of physical nature and human experience. The comic convention of marriage as applied in the Judeo-Christian Mystery is an affirmation of earthly existence. Society's interests take precedence over any individual desire for separation, and celibacy can not be the pattern for sutvival. 83


This conclusion of the Judeo-Christian version of the pattern also present in the Oresteia proves less satisfying than the Greek myth because the individuals have not truly accepted it. Angelo and Isabella in particular have had their ability to choose their destiny snatched away in a manner that invalidates the human experience of individuation as played out in tragedy. The only consolation is that the entire mythical cycle is not yet complete, whereas the Greek cycle has been relegated to history. We are left, however with some sense of Lucio's observation on Claudio's plight, preferring the "foppery of freedom" to "the morality of imprisonment" (Iii 133-34), even if that freedom leads to a tragic end. In the mythical cycle represented in Measure for Measure the final judgment conveys the disturbing implication for the audience that its own future has been defined by Elbow's taunting of Pompey: "Thou art to continue, thou varlet. Thou art to continue" (IIi 191-92). Besides the affirmation of human survival, the law of Grace that rules the Duke/Christ and his domain is a law of measures and balances. It is not "measure for measure" in the sense of "an eye for an eye" (Vi 411) that the Duke offers Isabella as one final temptation before Mariana persuades her to "forgive" Angelo. It is a law like that of moira that provides a counter movement to circumscribe even the actions of the gods. Each of the characters contrasted and juxtaposed in Shakespeare's portrayal takes the measure of his/her counterpart, with the scope extending beyond the limits of the play. The Duke measures Angelo, but, ironically, Angelo is the measure of the Duke. Likewise, the gods judge humankind, but humanity mirrors them, as God and King mirror each other. Further, the gods measure humankind by taking on physical forms, but the experience of humanity takes the measure of the gods. 84


Shakespeare measures Greek tragedy, but it also measures him. Ultimately, at the highest level, like an additional Ptolemaic sphere drawn to enclose the universe, theatre measures life, gods and all. 85


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