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King Edward

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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Now, princely Buckingham, seal thou this league

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King Edward
Now, princely Buckingham, seal thou this league
With thy embracements to my wife’s allies
And make me happy in your unity.
Buckingham, to Queen Elizabeth
Whenever Buckingham doth turn his hate
Upon your Grace, but with all duteous love
Doth cherish you and yours, God punish me
With hate in those where I expect most love.
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Source:
Act 2
Scene 1
Line 30

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Is Clarence dead?

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King Edward
Is Clarence dead? The order was reversed.
Richard
But he, poor man, by your first order died,
And that a wingèd Mercury did bear.
Some tardy cripple bare the countermand,
That came too lag to see him burièd.
God grant that some, less noble and less loyal,
Nearer in bloody thoughts,
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Source:
Act 2
Scene 1
Line 89

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Now tell me, madam, do you love your children?

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King Edward
Now tell me, madam, do you love your children?
Lady Grey
Ay, full as dearly as I love myself.
King Edward
And would you not do much to do them good?
Lady Grey
To do them good I would sustain some harm.
King Edward
Then get your husband’s lands to do them good.

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My gracious lord, Henry, your foe, is taken

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Nobleman
My gracious lord, Henry, your foe, is taken
And brought your prisoner to your palace gate.
King Edward
See that he be conveyed unto the Tower.
Nobleman exits.
And go we, brothers, to the man that took him,
To question of his apprehension.—
Widow, go you along.—Lords, use her honorably.
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Source:
Act 3
Scene 2
Line 120

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