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Angelo

Shakespeare and the Casting Couch

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Stories about women summoned as supplicants to the portals of men with the power to grant their wishes, for a price, are common across professions, across countries, across millennia. Shakespeare dramatized the dilemmas some of these women faced in more than one of his plays.

In both Henry VI Part 3 and Measure for Measure, for example,
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Tempter or Tempted?

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In Measure for Measure (2.2.197), Angelo confronts, possibly for the first time in his life, the temptation of lust. And since this is new to him and because he is highly moralistic, he is troubled and confused. He reacts by asking himself a series of questions for which he has no answers.

What’s this? What’s this? Is this her fault,
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Seduction or Harassment?

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Shakespeare delights in the seduction ceremonies of bright men with even brighter women. These dialogues, whether between adolescents like Romeo and Juliet, more mature characters like Henry V and Princess Katherine, or seasoned adults like the widow Lady Grey and the sexual harasser King Edward, in this scene (3HenryVI 3.2.36), give Shakespeare opportunities to employ dazzling webworks of rhetorical exchanges.
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Sexual Extortion

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In Measure for Measure (2.4.95), Angelo, the classic sexual harasser, adopts a method of sexual extortion similar to King Edward’s in Henry VI Part 3 (3.2.36).  Both men begin with oblique insinuations about their desires, which can be innocently misread. When the women, Isabella in Measure for Measure and Lady Grey in Henry VI,
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Always obedient to your Grace’s will

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Always obedient to your Grace’s will,
I come to know your pleasure.
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Source:
Act 1
Scene 1
Line 27

Source Type:

Spoken by:

‘Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus

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‘Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall. I not deny
The jury, passing on the prisoner’s life,
May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try. What’s open made to justice,
That justice seizes. What knows the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? ‘Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find,
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Source:
Act 2
Scene 1
Line 18

Source Type:

Spoken by:

Yet show some pity

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Isabella
Yet show some pity.
Angelo 
I show it most of all when I show justice,
For then I pity those I do not know,
Which a dismissed offense would after gall,
And do him right that, answering one foul wrong,
Lives not to act another. Be satisfied;
Your brother dies tomorrow; be content.
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Source:
Act 2
Scene 2
Line 127

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Spoken by:
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Themes:
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At what hour tomorrow Shall I attend your Lordship?

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Isabella
At what hour tomorrow
Shall I attend your Lordship?
Angelo
At any time ‘fore noon.
Isabella

‘Save your honor!

Exeunt Isabella, Lucio, and Provost.

Angelo
From thee: even from thy virtue.Irony
What’s this? What’s this? Is this her fault,
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When I would pray and think, I think and pray

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When I would pray and think, I think and pray
To several subjects. Heaven hath my empty words,
Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue,
Anchors on Isabel.

Blood, thou art blood.
Let’s write “good angel” on the devil’s horn

God in my mouth,
As if I did but only chew His name,
And in my heart the strong and swelling evil
Of my conception.
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Source:
Act 2
Scene 4
Line 1

Source Type:

Spoken by:

Themes:
,

Admit no other way to save his life

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Angelo
Admit no other way to save his life—
As I subscribe not that, nor any other—
But, in the loss of question, that you, his sister,
Finding yourself desired of such a person
Whose credit with the judge, or own great place,
Could fetch your brother from Metaphorthe manacles
Of the binding law,

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