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inner congruity with their character and antecedents, and scarcely true to the promise of the title.1 Evidently, though Shakespeare meant to supply his company with a comedy, he treated the conventions of Comedy merely with an outer deference.
The determining animus of the wonderful transformation which he wrought in the story of Promos and Cassandra belongs to a wholly different order of ideas and experience. He had exhibited in Twelfth Night the comedy of an honest, borné man infatuated with self-esteem; in Julius Cæsar, the tragedy of a man of high but narrow principles rigidly applied to a complex situation; in Hamlet, the tragic paralysis of a noble will under the spell of a restless imaginative sensibility. It was an intellect charged with the ironic sense of the disasters which await the wellmeaning in a world where only a passion for goodness can morally hold its own, that created the virtuous precisian Angelo out of the 'lewd tyrant' Promos, and the refined weakling Claudio out of the commonplace Andrugio; and that set over against both the sublime and unique figure of Isabel.
Angelo is best understood when approached from the side on which he is akin to Brutus. He is 'a precisian in power,' a man of austere principle, untried but perfectly sincere. But Brutus' simple and transparent nature forges its way through the drift of circumstances unchanged, provoking its own doom, but undergoing no moral collapse; while Angelo, after his first doctrinaire blunder, finds himself suddenly assailed at an unarmed point, and, with scarcely a thought, is ready to surrender the whole moral capital laid up in a blameless life as the price of the person of Isabel. The irony of his career is accentu
1 The title was probably axeth blood' in Whetstone (ed. suggested by the phrase Blood Hazlitt, p. 227).
ated by the unseen presence at his elbow of the moral Mephistopheles who has armed him with power and who awaits the destined hour to call him to account. It is characteristic of the temper of the play that Shakespeare thus substituted for Whetstone's absentee ruler this incredible but effective Friar.
Claudio owes still more than Angelo to Shakespeare's refining art. He is relieved with exquisite delicacy against the hideous throng whose sin the law identifies with his. His first words of keen humiliation instantly distinguish him from the brazen Lucio. He has the virtues and the failings of the impulsive temperament. His imagination is as rich. as Isabel's, but his will takes the colour of its changing visions. He cannot be said, like Angelo, to comply with or infringe a moral rule; he rather abandons himself to a stream of illuminated emotions, tending, as it may happen, to good or ill. Within a few sentences he is ready to encounter darkness as a bride,' and to shudder at the image of the 'cold obstruction' and the 'kneaded clod.' 'Conscience' makes a coward of him, a conscience inflamed with the vision of sensuous pleasures and pains.
Angelo and Claudio are failures in opposite schools of life; without much straining, we might say that they foreshadow the characteristic weaknesses of the Puritan and of the Cavalier. But, with whatever irony Shakespeare may have contemplated the pretensions of both ideals, so far as they were realised in his time, the character of Isabel assures us that a type of impassioned holiness such as inspired the finest embodiments of both, yet more akin on the whole to the austere and imperious holiness of Puritanism, appealed powerfully to Shakespeare when he wrote. In moral intensity, and also in her total absence of
humour, she is rather Miltonic than ShakespeareanMiltonic in the gracious way of the lady in Comus, save that she has the higher grace of a chastity which she is ready to die for, but which it does not occur to her to celebrate. Her obvious affinities with Portia make the contrast more glaring. Like Portia, she intervenes to check legal crime; but Portia's plea for mercy cannot compare in ethical grip any more than in tragic intensity with hers. Portia's is an eloquent exposition of the beauty of well-doing; Isabel's is penetrated to the core with distrust of human nature, when armed with the demoralising engine of power. Put forth in the first years of the momentous seventeenth century, this great though dramatically unequal play is full of prophetic intimations the scathing ridicule of tyrants may be put beside the courtly compliments, in the first scene, to a popular king. The temper of stern recognition of the heights and depths of good and evil pervades it; and through the web of ethical seriousness there runs a thread of that brooding intellectual curiosity apparent in the whole Hamlet period, the zest for probing the secrets of human nature, and finding 'what these seemers be'; for analysing character (whence the countless books of 'Characters' from Jonson's Every Man out of His Humour downwards); for beating at the gates of the unknown, and urging a charioted imagination to flights in the mystery beyond.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
SCENE I. An apartment in the DUKE's palace.
Escal. My lord.
Duke. Of government the properties to unfold, Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse; Since I am put to know that your own science Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice
My strength can give you: then no more remains,
as your worth is able, And let them work. The nature of our people, Our city's institutions, and the terms
For common justice, you're as pregnant in
6. lists, limits.
8. This passage is clearly corrupt. The Folio reads But that... able without a break. Several words are apparently wanting. Innumerable conjectures are recorded by the editors of the Cambridge Shakespeare, who first indicated a blank in
the text. Tyrwhitt's
But that to your sufficiency you put A zeal as willing as your worth is able, perhaps approaches Shakespeare's thought, though it certainly misses his expression.
II. terms for common justice, technical terms of law.
12. pregnant, ready.
As art and practice hath enriched any
I say, bid come before us Angelo.
[Exit an Attendant.
Lent him our terror, dress'd him with our love,
Look where he comes.
Ang. Always obedient to your grace's will, I come to know your pleasure.
There is a kind of character in thy life,
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd
But to fine issues, nor Nature never lends
18. with special soul, with deputy, deputyship. peculiar good-will.
30. belongings, gifts.