Sunday, August 26, 2007

More Measure for Measure

Today our Logos Reading and Discussion group from Lake Murray met to discuss Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Several of us had seen it on Tuesday, but several had not. The conversation was quite animated with Bill and Guy (Kitty's husband) joining us. All together, we had ten people attending -- enjoying the wonderful lunch that Kitty prepared for us. Keith had sent along creme bruleee in order to celebrate Kitty's birthday this week, half chocolate and half fig and walnut.

Back to the discussion: our main discussion revolved around the motivation of the two main characters: the Duke and Isabella. Bill didn't like either character; he couldn't forgive Isabella for putting her virginity above her brother's life and he saw the Duke as the true villain who was trying to control everyone and could have stopped the chain of events at any time. I happen to like and admire Isabella; purity was something that was greatly valued in past time periods, much more than it is today. Giving up her body would have ruined her soul, so I don't blame her in a way. I do agree that the Duke is a far less than stellar character; his refusal to tighten the laws himself and instead have Angelo do so was reprehensible. He couldn't stand to lose the popularity of the people; his too-gracious mercy was also evident at the closing of the play when everyone was forgiven and the laws again relaxed.

The ideal of Christianity wasn't truly represented by anyone but Escalusm whose name means "scales." He provided the balance, the wisdom, the moderation, in which the Law should be applied and judged, unlike the too-permissive Duke or the too-legalistic Angelo. We also discussed the place of women in that time and the lack of choices they had. In addition, we talked about marriage contracts, how they worked, and why Claudio's "sin" wasn't really a sin at all, but a "letter of the Law" or Phariseic offense. The discussion led around to sin and how God sees it, and how none of us are perfect, no not one, which I believe is one of the themes of the play. Also the Church was talked about, whether the Puritans were being singled-out by Shakespeare or whether the Catholic Church was being criticized as well. All these different aspects made the discussion a very spirited exchange -- all in good, clean fun.

Lisa, the one who was blessed by the garden tea yesterday, jumped right in and argued with Bill and others on several fronts. I found out later that she had received her undergraduate degree in English from Harvard. No wonder she was so much fun to argue and discuss with! She stated her opinions with confidence and wasn't afraid to have her ideas disagreed with; Bill was much the same. Kristen jumped in, as did Kitty and myself as well as the men, so our discussion was extremely spirited and deep -- just the way I had hoped it would be.

We also shared some of our favorite quotes; mine was from the end of Act I and was spoken by Lucio, of all people: "Our doubts are traitors,/ And make us lose the good we oft night win/ By fearing to attempt." I deal with self-doubt so very much, so these lines hit home, despite the character stating it, who was Lucio the Lecher. More than a little ironic....

So now I shelve my Shakespeare volume and begin to think about our next month's book for discussion: Jane Eyre. I know it well, and am very much anticipating a wonderfully animated discussion next month when Logos gathers again.

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