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Rhétorique, discours, silence

Words as the Measure of Measure for Measure: Shakespeare’s Use of Rhetoric in the Play

Jean-Marie Maguin

Résumés

Le document présenté s’éloigne de la forme traditionnelle de l’article historique ou littéraire. Il s’agit d’un catalogue analytique des figures les plus fréquentes – et de certaines plus rares – de la rhétorique de l’élocution utilisées par Shakespeare pour sa pièce. S’il est vrai que la rhétorique, conçue comme l’art de la persuasion, se rencontre sous diverses formes à toutes les époques, elle est moins consciemment cultivée dans notre monde. Shakespeare et ses contemporains en acquéraient l’emploi dans l’enseignement secondaire, et elle se présentait donc comme une ressource plus évidente pour eux. La densité exceptionnelle d’un type de figure donné est très révélateur de l’atmosphère générale du monde de la pièce et peut définir le profil d’un personnage. Ainsi, une préférence pour l’utilisation de similés (comparaisons incluant comparé et comparant) à celle de métaphores (comparaisons ne retenant que le comparant) impose au discours une structure pesante et didactique, fort différente de la condensation et de la rapidité avec lesquelles les métaphores nous introduisent dans une alternative poétique à la réalité quotidienne.

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Introduction

1Rhetoric is traditionally divided into three branches and five parts. The three branches classify eloquence according to the circumstances in which, and aims for which, speech is being used, each branch developing its appropriate style. Forensic rhetoric is judicial by nature; deliberative rhetoric is suited to careful debate and discussion; and epideictic rhetoric applies to encomium and commemoration. The five parts of rhetoric, as distinguished by Cicero, are argumentatio (the search for arguments contributing to a discussion of the theme in hand), compositio (the ordering of these arguments according to the most effective plan), elocutio (the choice of the most persuasive words and phrases), actio (the mastery of the body in conjunction with speech so as to persuade an audience, and memoria ( memory sufficient to free the speaker from reading his notes while he delivers his speech). Everyone having to cope with exacting public delivery (and this includes teachers and students) will immediately recognize the worth of these distinctions, and will try and acquire proficiency in each separate aspect.

2Rhetoric can no more be avoided in daily speech or in writing than Molière’s Monsieur Jourdain could avoid using prose. Whilst it looks as though we are moving into a domain that calls for unwandering attention and memory feats since it bristles with discouraging derivations from the Greek and the Latin, figures of rhetoric are but an ex post facto creation of scholars interested in putting into order spontaneous speech acts. The rhetoric of elocution, which is dealt with here, concerns those verbal forms born from our affects and the way in which they are solicited by circumstances. Affection, love, hatred, fear, horror, awe, etc., inspire linguistic and physical reactions – we shall not deal with the latter though theatre offers a choice field for them – that usage, within a given culture at a given time, raises to formulaic status without eliminating personal twists and preferences. Likewise, pressure from the environment creates circumstances calling for standard linguistic postures. Signalling one’s presence or needs to a third party elicits apostrophe; the need for information leads to various forms of questions; the necessity to obtain answers gives rise to forms of insistent speech; urgent encouragement, acceptance or denial are expressed through exclamatory forms.  Away from these basic stimuli, more sophisticated emotions or intentions, like mockery or irony, develop their own linguistic responses. We are taught rhetoric in the nursery, the street and the schoolyard ever before the subject is formally raised in a study course. To take sides in a popular debate, the purpose of rhetoric is not strictly ornamental – although it definitely moves into that area –, it is first and foremost born of gut feelings and lends expression to them.  It is honed into a tool to make language, man’s most distinctive gift, able to command, cajole, persuade others, and thus organize the social scene without recourse to physical intimidation.

3N.B. What follows is a descriptive catalogue of rhetorical figures. In each case, I try to indicate the general virtue of the formal feature and its impact in the particular context. It must be clearly realized that formal description is an indispensable preliminary to explication, commentary, and interpretation, but that divorced from these it is useless and priggish. The advice is therefore to memorize all the configurations carefully – even if you fail to retain the more exotic names – , along with one significant example or two taken from Measure from Measure, or some other work on your syllabus, so that you are from the first working in an interpretative frame of mind. All references are to the Arden 2 edition by J.W. Lever (1965).

The art of rhetoric

4“From ancient times to the present, rhetoric in the broad sense has meant the art of persuasion, in the narrow sense the studied ornament of speech, or eloquence” (Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics). Rhetoric, associated to the teaching of classical languages, was an important part of Elizabethan education. Treatises were written on the subject, the main being: Henry Peecham, The Garden of Eloquence, 1577; Angel Day, The English Secretory, 1586; Abraham Fraunce, The Arcadian Rhetoricke, 1588; George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, 1589.

5Rhetoric is not, however, an art or a science reserved for a few initiates. We use rhetorical figures all the time. They express our desire to communicate as effectively as possible in a given context. This may mean having to create surprise, or achieve clarity, or confusion, or again impart our reticence to communicate at all.

6When it comes to the play world, which is to a large extent a verbal construction, mimesis – here the representation through direct speech of people in the act of speaking – definitely implies a degree of deliberation and stylization not possible in spontaneous verbal exchanges when time presses. We may thus expect from the play a higher level of rhetorical preparation than is met in the business of real life.

7I have alphabetically listed below the most frequently found devices and figures without systematically establishing the difference between these two categories. To generalize, a device markedly affects both the form and tone of a passage while a figure affects the form mostly and more rarely the tone, its overall effect being more limited. The systematic repetition of a figure (see the accumulation of antitheses in Shakespeare’s sonnet 121 for example) amounts to a device.

Great rhetorical categories

8I shall follow Henri Morier in distinguishing six great categories of figures:

  1. Figures of identity  A = B: hypotyposis (also known as enargia), eternizing, opening gambits, chronographies, topographies, onomatopœia.

  2. Figures destined to bring together and establish parallels (A ± B): antithesis, asyndeton, metaphor, metonymy, simile, synechdoche.

  3. Figures of discrepancy (A ≠ B): amplificatio, anacoluthon, antanaclasis, anthimeria, antimetathesis (also called antimetabole), antiphrasis (which is part of irony), hendiadys, hypallage, litotes, oxymoron, paronomasia, syllepsis, zeugma.

  4. Figures of insistence: anadiplosis, anaphora, anastrophe, diacope, epanalepsis, epiphora, epizeuxis, homeoptoton, interpretatio, paregmenon, paroemion (also called alliteration), ploce, traductio.

  5. Tricks of speech: aposiopesis, apostrophe, correctio, ecphonesis (also known as exclamation), hyperbole, hypophora, interrogatio, quaestium.

  6. Speech ornaments: chiasmus, metabole, polysyndeton.

Rhetorical figures

Accumulatio

9(Lat. accumulation; Fr. accumulatio(n)):  A figure belonging to copia (q.v.) and sometimes treated as a branch of amplificatio (q.v.); a string of words or phrases mostly  tending towards the same meaning:

Elbow. […] my wife, sir, who, if she had been cardinally given, might have been accused in fornication, adultery,and all uncleanliness there. (2.1.78-80)

10N.B. Accumulatio is preceded here by acyron (q.v.).

Duke. […]                        Reason thus with life:
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep. A breath thou art,
Servile to all the skyey influences
That dost this habitation where thou keeps’t
Hourly afflict. Merely, thou art Death’s fool:
For him thou labour’st by thy flight to shun,
And yet run’st toward him still. Thou art not noble;
For all th’accomodations that thou bear’st
Are nur’st by baseness. Thou’rt by no means valiant;
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
Of a poor worm. Thy best rest is sleep;
And that thou oft provok’st, yet grossly fear’st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou are not thyself;
For thou exists on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou striv’st to get,
And what thou hast, forget’st. Thou art not certain;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects
After the moon. If thou art rich, thou’rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear’st thy heavy riches but a journey,
And Death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none;
For thine own bowels which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum
For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth, nor age,
But as it were an after-dinner’s sleep
Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth
Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld: and when thou art old and rich,
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty
To make thy riches pleasant. What’s yet in this
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid moe thousand deaths; yet death we fear
That makes these odds all even. (3.1.7-41a)

11N.B. This passage, remarkable for its eloquence though not for its originality, is a standard sermon on contemptus mundi (contempt of the world) which has its more recent roots in the Christian Middle Ages. It teems with metaphors (q.v.), similes (q.v.), antitheses (q.v.), paradoxes (q.v.), all framed by a double allegory (q.v.): that of Life and Death.

Isab. […]                                      O, you beast!
O faithless coward! O dishonest wretch! (3.1.135-36)

12Here accumulatio combines with ecphonesis (q.v.).

Ang. And she will speak most bitterly and strange.
Isab. Most strange: but yet most truly will I speak.
That Angelo’s forsworn, is it not strange?
That Angelo’s a murderer, is’t not strange?
That Angelo is an adulterous thief,
An hyporite, a virgin-violator,
Is it not strange, and strange? (5.1.38-44)

13N.B. The example above also combines anaphora (q.v.), quaestium (q.v.) and  isocolon (q.v.).

Lucio. Marrying a punk, my lord, is pressing to death, whipping and hanging. (5.1.520-21)

Acyron

14or impropriety, (Gr. & Lat., “wrong language”) “the use of a word opposite and utterly repugnant to what we would express” (Joseph). In plain English, acyron is called ‘malapropism’. The two most famous malapropists in Shakespearian drama are Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing and Elbow in Measure for Measure; both are law enforcement officers. Malapropism is a powerful source of comedy in drama as well as in real life. It will be noted that the name Elbow is itself repugnant to the character’s function who, in order to effect arrests, has chiefly need of his hands.

Elbow. I do lean upon justice, sir, and do bring in here two notorious benefactors.
Ang. Benefactors? Well, what benefactors are they? Are they not malefactors?
Elbow. If it please your honour, I know not well what they are. But precise villains they are, that I am sure of, and void of all profanation in the world, that good Christians ought to have. (2.1.48-56)

Esc. How know you that?
Elbow. My wife, sir, whom I detest before heaven and your honour  – (2.1.67-9)

15N.B. Acyron is combined here with amphibologia (q.v.).

Elbow [to Pompey]. Prove it before these varlets here, thou honourable man, prove it.

16N.B. Acyron is combined here with diacope (q.v.) and epanalepsis (q.v.).

Allegory

17 (Gr. allos, “other”, and agoreuein, “to speak”; Fr. allégorie, f.): a metaphor expanded or sustained through an entire speech, telling a story whose graphic terms symbolically represent and illuminate the ‘real’ situation. It belongs in the analogical mode which was the key intellectual mode or episteme in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, particularly clearly illustrated by cosmology. Analogy was justified both a priori and a posteriori by the belief that cosmological organization was founded on a providential order harmoniously repeated throughout the universe. Allegory as a figure is basic to fable and parable. It is worth determining in each instance the relative fullness of the figure in the context. Its weight may vary considerably, from that of a mere passing allusion to the presence on stage of a full-fledged allegorical figure (Rumour in 2 Henry IV, or Time in As You Like It).

Authority

Cla. Thus can the demi-god, Authority,
Make us pay down for our offence by weight. (1.2.112-13)

Youth

Duke. […]         none knows better than you
How I have ever lov’d the life remov’d,
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies,
Where youth, and cost, witless bravery keeps. (1.3.7-10)

18See also parable, which designates a didactic narrative or drama belonging in the allegorical mode.

Justice vs Iniquity

Esc. Which is the wiser here, Justice or iniquity?

19N.B. Escalus designates Elbow and Pompey, using the names of two popular Morality play allegories.

Life and Death

 Duke. […]           Reason thus with life:
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep. A breath thou art,
Servile to all the skyey influences
That dost this habitation where thou keeps’t
Hourly afflict. Merely, thou art Death’s fool:
For him thou labour’st by thy flight to shun,
And yet run’st toward him still. Thou art not noble;
For all th’accomodations that thou bear’st
Are nurs’d by baseness. Thou’rt by no means valiant;
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
Of a poor worm. Thy best rest is sleep;
And that thou oft provok’st, yet grossly fear’st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou are not thyself;
For thou exists on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou striv’st to get,
And what thou hast, forget’st. Thou art not certain;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects
After the moon. If thou art rich, thou’rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear’st thy heavy riches but a journey,
And Death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none;
For thine own bowels which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum
For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth, nor age,
But as it were an after-dinner’s sleep
Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth
Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld: and when thou art old and rich,
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty
To make thy riches pleasant. What’s yet in this
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid moe thousand deaths; yet death we fear
That makes these odds all even. (3.1.7-41)

20N.B. This passage, remarkable for its eloquence though not for its originality, is a standard sermon on contemptus mundi (contempt of the world) which has its roots in the Christian Middle Ages, and before that in ancient classical philosophy. It teems with metaphors (q.v.), similes (q.v.), antitheses (q.v.), paradoxes (q.v.), all framed by the double allegory: that of Life and Death.

Alliteration

21(Fr. alliteration, f.): see paroemion.

Amphibologia

22(Gr. amphi”on both sides, “bolos “a throw” and logos “word”: ambiguity of grammatical structure, often occasioned by mispunctuation. ; Fr. amphibologie, f.): A vice of construction which introduces ambiguity. Amphibologia can be deliberate to protect the author of a message, or accidental with comical results.

23To illustrate the first case, remember the note sent by a cardinal concerning the fate of the imprisoned king of England, Edward II: ‘Edwardum occidere noli timere bonum est’. Pointed like this: Edwardum occidere noli, timere bonum est’, it means: ‘Do not seek to kill Edward, it is good to fear’, whilst pointed like this: ‘Edwardum occidere noli timere, bonum est’, it means ‘Do not be afraid to kill Edward, it is good’.

 Esc. How know you that?
Elbow. My wife, sir, whom I detest before heaven and your honour (2.1.67-9)

24‘before heaven and your honour’ may mean ‘witness heaven and your honour’, or ‘even more than I detest heaven and your honour’.

25N.B. Amphibologia is combined here with acyron (q.v.).

Amplificatio(n)

26(Lat. enlargement; Fr. amplificatio(n), f.) also known as ‘pathepeia’ (Fr. pathépéia, f.): a device which consists in the deliberate exaggeration in the expression of pathos:

Isab. O, I do fear thee Claudio, and I quake
Lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain,
And six or seven winters more respect
Than a perpetual honour. (3.1.73-6)

27Interestingly, Isabella’s address to Claudio reveals her to be manipulative in quickly following up amplificatio (ll. 73-4) by its opposite, meiosis (l. 75), (q.v.). See also ‘auxesis’.

Anacoluthon

28(Gr. “wanting sequence”; Fr. anacoluthe, f.): “a change of construction in a sentence that leaves its beginning uncompleted, ordinarily seen as a fault, as betraying a lazy or confused mind” (Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics ). Anacoluthon, felt to be a vice of language, or the sign of textual corruption, has often invited emendation, which removes the difficulty more or less ingeniously.

Ang. Let’s write good angel on the devil’s horn – 
‘Tis not the devil’s crest. (2.4.16-17)

29 The reading of this line and a half as being marked by anacoluthon is an editorial initiative of the Arden 2 editor, J.W. Lever. I find it quite winning. Other editors, like Brian Gibbons (New Cambridge, 1991) for example, do not see that the flow of thought is interrupted and use a comma after ‘horn’. See my own glossing of the passage under ‘metaphor’.

Anadiplosis

30 (Gr. “doubling”; Fr. anadiplose, f.), also known as ‘gradatio’: the repetition of the last word of one clause or sentence at the beginning of the next. Infrequently used by Shakespeare. (It is one of the favourite figures of euphuistic rhetoric. It has, in monologue, a logical value – expressing the two premises of a syllogism for example. In a dialogue, the effect achieved may be that of an echo).

Cla. Thus can the demi-god Authority,
Make us pay down for our offence by weight.
The words of heaven; on whom it will, it will;
On whom it will not, so; yet still ‘tis just. (1.2.112-15)

Elbow. […] I do lean upon justice, sir, and do bring in here before your good honour two notorious benefactors.
Ang. Benefactors? Well, what benefactors are they? (2.1.48-51)

Anaphora

31(Gr. “a carrying up or back”; Fr. anaphore, f.) also called ‘epanaphora’: (Fr. épanaphore, f.): the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of each sentence or line in a series. Anaphora does not presuppose repetition in consecutive sentences or lines although a high frequency of the repetition makes it the more characteristic:

Isab. There is a vice that most I do abhor,
[…]
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. (2.2.29…33)

32Anaphora combines here with isocolon (q.v.).

Ang. […]         as you are well express’d
By all external warrants – show it now,
By putting on the destin’d livery. (2.4.136-7)

Ang. And she will speak most bitterly and strange.
Isab. Most strange: but yet most truly will I speak.
That Angelo’s forsworn, is it not strange?
That Angelo’s a murderer, is’t not strange?
That Angelo is an adulterous thief,
An hyporite, a virgin-violator,
Is it not strange, and strange? (5.1.38-44)

33N.B. The example above also combines quaestium (q.v.), isocolon (q.v.) and accumulatio (q.v.).

Anastrophe

34(Gr. “a turning upside down”; Fr. anastrophe, f.): An unnatural inversion of the word order destined to focus attention on particular words or simply to comply with the accentual or rhyme requirements of verse.

Duke. Of government the properties to unfold
Would seem… (I.1. 3-4)

Duke.  […] The nature of our people,
Our city’s institutions, and the terms
For common justice, y’are as pregnant in
As art and practice hath enriched any
That we remember. (1.1.9-13)

Cla. This day my sister should the cloister enter (1.2.167)

Duke. Bound by my charity, and my bless’d order,
I come to visit the afflicted spirits
Here in the prison. (2.2.3-5)

Antanaclasis

35(Gr. “to reflect”, “to bend back”; Fr. antanaclase, f.): in plain English ‘punning’. Like paronomasia (q.v.) a figure of deliberate ambiguity consisting in the repetition at close interval of the same word taken in two senses or more; homophones and homographs provide the staple material of this figure:

  • Grace

Lucio. Grace is grace, despite of all controversy; as for example, thou thyself art a wicked villain, despite of all grace. (I.2.24-6)

36Lucio uses ‘grace’ ‘in three different senses 1) thanksgiving, 2) propriety, 3) divine mercy manifested towards sinners’ (Lever).

  • Coinage / venereal disease (+ Velvet cloth / syphilitic symptoms):

Lucio. Behold, behold, where Madam Mitigation comes! I have purchased as many diseases under her roof as come to – 
2 Gent. To what, I pray?
Lucio. Judge.
2 Gent. To three thousand dolours a year.
1 Gent. Ay, and more.
Lucio. A French crown more. (1.2.41-8)

37dolour = pain / dollar = Spanish piece of eight; French crown = a popular coin worth about 7 shillings / the bald patch caused by syphilis. This pun takes up the theme of the earlier word play on near homophones (see paronomasia): ‘piled’ qualifying French velvet and ‘pilled’ describing the loss of hair resulting from syphilis (I.2.32-3). It is possible, as some maintain, that there is a further quibble on ‘French velvet’ used for clothes making, as well as for small patches hiding lanced chancres on the face of syphilitic patients.

  • Sound = Healthy / resounding

38 (as hollow bones would. Syphilis affects bones as it develops in the patient):

1 Gent. Thou art always figuring diseases in me; but thou art full of error; I am sound.
Lucio. Nay, not, as one would say, healthy: but so sound as things that are hollow; thy bones are hollow.              (1.2.49-52)

  • Do = perform an action / enjoy a woman

Mis. O. Well! What has he done?
Pom. A woman.

  • Maid = virgin / young of some fish

Mis. O. What? Is there a maid with child by him?
Pom. No: but there’s a woman with maid by him. (1.2.84-5)

39This pun on maid (= virgin) and maid (= the young of certain fish, OED 7, Lever) develops the earlier metaphor “Groping for trouts in a peculiar river” (83). Furthermore, the blasphemous allusion to the Virgin Mary as the Catholic archetype of the venerated maid with child is clear.

  • Stand = be spared / stand erect; seed = agent kept for the next crop / male agent of reproduction,

  • b) put in = intercede / make a bid to buy something:

Pom. All houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be plucked down.
Mis. O. And what shall become of those in the city?
Pom. They shall stand for seed: they had gone down too, but that a wise burgher put in for them. (1.2.88-92)

40This is a clear example of Pompey’s totally reversible speech. Obscenity and money are closely meshed together once again, while the link between intercession and a price to pay, artificially introduced by the quibble, heralds Angelo’s bargain with Isabella.

  • Sexual pun on anthroponym:

Esc. Your mistress’ name?
Pom. Mistress Overdone.
Esc. Hath she had any more than one husband?
Pom. Nine, sir; Overdone by the last. (2.1.196-9)

  • Sense and sensuality:

Ang. […]                          She speaks, and ‘tis such sense
That my sense breeds with it. (2.2.142b-43)

41N.B. This aside of Angelo’s marks a turning point in the plot, epitomised by the pun on ‘sense’ meaning ‘reason’ (first occurrence) and ‘sensuality’ (second occurrence). The change of meaning is triggered off by ‘breed’ which suggests tumescence.

42Repeated in 2.4.74.

  • Trunk = tree / Human body:

Isab. In such a one* as, you consenting to’t, * nature
Would bark your honour from that trunk you bear (3.1.70-71)

  • Man’s head, wife’s head, maidenhead:

Prov. Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off a man’s head?
Pom. If the man be a bachelor, sir, I can; but if he be a married man, he’s his wife’s head; and I can never cut off a woman’s head. (4.2.1-4)

43N.B. Pompey plays on Scripture (Ephesians 5.23) where Paul describes the husband as the wife’s head; then stresses that he cannot cut what the woman has already lost: her maidenhead. This word play prepares for the head trick whereby the head of Ragozine will be brought to Angelo instead of that of Claudio.

Anthimeria

44A grammatical scheme frequent in Elizabethan English. It consists in using one part of speech for another. “Shakespeare uses pronouns, adjectives, and nouns as verbs” (Joseph,  63):

Adjective as noun:

Ang. Say what you can: my false o’erweighs your true. (2.4.169)

Noun as verb:

Duke. [to Mariana]         For his possessions,
Although by confiscation they are ours,
We do instate and widow you with all
To buy you a better husband. (5.1.420-23)

Anthroponymy

45(Gr. anthroponym, man’s name; Fr. anthroponymie, f.): a list or accumulation of people’s names. The device goes back to the earliest epics, like Homer’s Iliad, or the long genealogies encountered in the Old Testament (Genesis 5 and Genesis 10). The purpose of the latter is to account for the descent and legitimacy of a given individual or line. In the history plays, they animate the off-stage world, supplementing as they do the supporters of the people represented on stage. (Rhetorical treatises do not appear so far to have taken this figure into consideration; given its importance, a name is tentatively proposed here.) The stability of the aristocratic structure meant that the names dropped were easily identifiable by audiences as names of well-known contemporary families and helped create an effet de réel. In the example that follows, which only includes made-up names, the aim is reversed since only commoners and the dregs of society are listed.

Pom. [now working in the prison] I am as well acquainted here as I was in our house of profession: one would think it were Mistress Overdone’s own house, for here be many of her old customers. First, here’s young Master Rash; he’s in for a commodity of brown paper and old ginger, nine score and seventeen pounds; of which he made five marks ready money; marry, then, ginger was not much in request, for the old women were all dead. Then is here Master Caper, at the suit of Master Three-pile the mercer, for some four suits of peach-coloured satin, which now peaches him a beggar. Then have we here young Dizie, and young Master Deep-vow, and Master Copper-spur, and Master Starve-Lackey the rapier and dagger man, and young Drop-heir that killed lusty Pudding, and Master Forthright the tilter, and brave Master Shoe-tie the great traveller, and wild Half-can that stabbed pots, and I think forty more […] (4.3.1-28)

46N.B. This list of nicknames helps flesh out the picaresque world which is that of Pompey and Mistress Overdone, each name revealing a trait of their personality or their trade. It also confirms Shakespeare’s choice of semantically significant character names in this play: the antiphrastic Angelo; Isabella (invariably beautiful); Escalus (punning perhaps on the ‘scales of Justice’, as suggested by Brian Gibbons, the New Cambridge editor); Lucio (playing on the senses of ‘light’ meaning ‘radiant’ and ‘wanton’); Elbow (thus ill-armed for arrests); Froth (an insubstantial, brainless young gallant); Abhorson (both abhorrent in himself and the son of a whore); Mistress Overdone (whose name so eloquently gives away her occupation). In drama, the tradition of semantically charged character names goes back to Morality plays; humour plays, contemporary with Measure for Measure also followed this tradition.

Antimetathesis [also known as antimetabole]

47 (Gr. “counterchange”; Fr. antiméthathèse, f., antimétabole, f.): it consists in repeating words or phrases in reverse order from the original.

Nun. Then, if you speak, you must not show your face;
Or if you show your face, you must not speak. (1.4.12-13)

Elbow. Varlet, thou liest! Thou liest, wicked varlet! (2.1.164)

Isab. If he had been as you, and you as he (2.2.64)

Ang. When I would pray and think, I think and pray

To several subjects. (2.4.1-2)

Duke. Love talks with better knowledge, and knowledge with dearer love. (3.2.146)

Abhor. If it be too little for your thief, your true man thinks it big enough. If it be too big for your thief, your thief thinks it little enough (4.2.41-4)

Duke. [to Isabella] What’s mine is yours, and what is yours is mine         (5.1.534)

48The phrase is proverbial.

Antiphrasis

49(Gr. To express by the opposite; Fr. antiphrase, f.): a device which consists in saying the opposite of what one means. It is a major device to express  irony and sarcasm.

Isab. Hark, how I’ll bribe you: good my lord, turn back.
Ang. How! Bribe me?
Isab. Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you. (2.2.146-8)

Duke. [to Angelo] We have made enquiry of you, and we hear
Such goodness of your justice that our soul
Cannot but yield you forth to public thanks,
Forerunning more requital. (5.1.5-8)

50In the same vein, see 5.1.10-14.

Antithesis

51(Gr. “opposition”; Fr. antithèse, f.): a figure expressing a clash of words, images, or thoughts. One of the most frequent figures. Proverbs often make use of it, as evidenced by the gnomic turn of Claudio’s comparison in the first example below.

Lucio. Why, how now, Claudio? Whence comes this restraint?
Cla. From too much liberty, my Lucio. Liberty,
As surfeit, is the father of much fast (1.2.116-18)

Lucio. […]          when maidens sue,
Men give like gods; but when they weep and kneel,
All their petitions are as freely theirs
As they themselves would owe them. (1.4.80-3)

Isab. Better it were a brother died at once,
Than a sister, by redeeming him,
Should die for ever. (2.4.106-8)

52N.B. Isabella’s rhetoric puts forward a false antithesis between sudden physical death and the eternal death of the soul. The real antithesis would be between death followed by redemption and the eternal death of the unredeemed soul. Whether this move is accidental or deliberate must be decided in performance or in reading.

Cla. I have hope to live, and am prepar’d to die. (3.1.4)

Isab. There is a devilish mercy in the judge,
If you’ll implore it, that will free your life,
But fetter you till death. (3.1.64-6)

Duke. […]         Provost, a word with you.
Prov. [advancing] What’s your will, father?
Duke. That, now you are come, you will be gone. (3.1.172-5)

53N.B. Here antithesis, through the contradiction in terms of will and stage movement, makes for hard-earned comic relief after the pathos of the prison scene (3.1).

Isab. I had rather my brother die by the law, than my son should be unlawfully born. (3.1.188-90)

54N.B. This double antithesis is structured by chiasmus (q.v.).

Lucio. O pretty Isabella, I am pale at mine heart to see thine eyes so red […] (4.3.150-51)

55N.B. The first term of the antithesis consists of a metaphor (q.v.), while the second term states an unadulterated reality.

Isab. Besides, he tells me that, if peradventure
He speak against me on the adverse side,
I should not think it strange, for ‘tis a physic
That’s bitter to sweet end. (4.6.5-8)

Aposiopesis

56(Gr. “a becoming silent”; Fr. aposiopèse, f.): a device consisting in leaving a sentence unfinished, thus expressing some reticence or emotion.

57Not illustrated as such in the play, although Isabella’s lack of answer to the Duke’s proposal, at the end of the play, raises a major question that various stage directors have tried to meet in different ways: by having Isabella take the Duke’s hand to signify her acceptance; by dropping his hand and exiting on her own to signify her refusal; by turning off the lights on the stage to preserve the mystery of the ending.

Apostrophe

58 (Gr. “to turn away”; Fr. apostrophe, f.): Addressing one’s speech to someone or something. Apostrophe may be interrogative or exclamatory:

Duke. Escalus.
Esc. My lord. (1.1.1-2)

Duke. […] Now, pious sir,
You will demand of me, why I do this. (1.3.117)

Isab. […] Good sir, adieu.         (1.4.90b)

Asyndeton

59(Gr. “unconnected”; Fr. asyndète, m.): a device which consists in juxtaposing elements of speech that should normally be coordinated (the contrary of polysyndeton [q.v.]):

Duke. [to Lucio] You sirrah, that knew me for a fool, a coward,
One all of luxury, an ass, a madman (5.1.498-500)

Auxecis

60(Gr. increase, amplification; Fr. auxèse, f.) This figure is also known as ‘incrementum’ (Lat. increase) or ‘progression’. John Hoskins (in Direccions for Speech and Style, London, 1599) describes the figure as “A kind of amplification which by steps of comparison scores every degree till it come to the top, and to make the matter seem the higher advanced sometimes descends the lower […] an ornament in speech to begin at the lowest, that you better aspire to the height of amplification.”

Duke. For you must know, we have with special soul
Elected him our absence to supply ;
Lent him our terror, drest him with our love,
And given his deputation all the organs
Of our own power. (1.1.17-21)

61In the example above, auxecis is pointed up by isocolon (q.v.).

Cla. The weariest and most loathed worldly life

 That age, ache, penury and imprisonment

 Can lay on nature, is a paradise

 To what we fear of death.              (3.1.128-31)

Chiasmus

62(Gr. “a placing crosswise”; Fr. chiasme, m.): “criss-cross placing of sentence members that correspond in either syntax or meaning, with or without word repetition” (Oxford Dictionary). Chiasmus is different from antimetathesis in playing on four distinct elements rather than on two repeated:

Duke. […] Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine so proper as to waste
Thyself upon thy vertues, they on thee. (1.1.29-31)

63The example above also combines zeugma (q.v.).

Esc. Had time coher’d with place, or place with wishing (2.1.11)

Ang.  […]                          What’s open made to justice,
That justice seizes. (2.1.21-2)

Cla.  To sue to live, I find I seek to die,
And seeking death, find life. (3.1.42-3)

64Here, chiasmus structures paregmenon (q.v.).

Isab. I had rather my brother die by the law, than my son should be unlawfully born. (3.1.188-90)

65Here chiasmus structures a double antithesis (q.v.).

Elbow. […]                        Bless you, good father friar.
Duke. And you, good brother father. (3.2.11-12)

66Here paregmenon (q.v.) is made more piquant by chiasmus.

Chronography

67(from the Greek, to state time, Fr. chronographie, f.): Any device through which speech copes with a statement of time. All the more essential in drama as Renaissance theatre conditions did not lend themselves to impart such information to the audiences except mechanically through the use of striking clocks. Insistence was necessary when it came to putting across the fact that it was dark since performances in the public theatres took place in the afternoon and in open-roofed buildings. Chronographies evolved from elaborate and even lurid pieces, sorely visible insets in the texture of dramatic speech, to much more integrated passages possessing their own poetic virtue.

Isab. […]                soon at night

 I’ll send him certain word of my success. (1.4.88-9)

68Bear in mind that the stake of the main plot turns the whole play into a race against time. Chronographies thus become essential.

Ang. This will last out a night in Russia
When the nights are longest there. (2.1.133-34)

Duke. Ere twice the sun hath made his journal greeting
To yonder generation […]. (4.3.88-9)

Conceit

69Any rhetorical figure fully worked out, particularly expanded metaphors or similes, for examples see under ‘metaphor’ and ‘simile’.

Copia verborum

70(Lat.  abundance of speech), based on repetion and variation. An ideal of rhetoric expounded by Erasmus, for examples of this type of style, see under ‘metaphor’.

Correctio

71(Lat. correction; Fr. correctio(n), f.): a figure which consists in following up a natural statement by a ‘corrected’ form of the same, which may be metaphorical or hyperbolical:

Lucio. Hail virgin, if you be – (I.4.16)

Isab. […]         as schoolmaids change their names
By vain though apt affection. (I.4.47-8)

Isab. O just but severe law! (II.2.41b)

Ang. The law has not been dead, though it has slept (2.2.91)

Diacope

72(Gr. “cleft”, “gash”; Fr. diacope, f.): a word, or words, repeated at brief interval. It often expresses deep excitement. It is close to epizeuxis (q.v.), except that the repeated words are separated by one word or more:

Elbow. Prove it before these varlets here, thou honourable man, prove it. (2.1.85-6)

Lucio. Come, sir, I know what I know. (3.2.148)

Isab. Hear me! O hear me, hear! (5.1.34)

73The structural figure of epanalepsis (q.v.) combines here with ecphonesis (q.v.) and diacope.

Digression

74(Lat. Digressio; Fr. digression, f.) The chief topic of the speech is deserted by the speaker in favour of some anecdote or description. The motivation may be widely different. Digression may result from a wish to delay an important revelation and increase the audience’s impatience. It may also express a desire to confuse the audience by breaking the thread of a discourse. It may simply denote a weakened intellectual function (cf. Polonius in Hamlet).

Pom. Sir, she came in great with child; and longing, saving your honour’s reverence, for stewed prunes; sir, we had but two in the house, which at that very distant time stood as it were in a fruit-dish, a dish of some three pence, your honours have seen such dishes, they are not china dishes, but very good dishes, – 

Esc. Go to, go to: no matter for the dish, sir.

Pom. No indeed, sir, not a pin: you are therein in the right: but to the point. As I say this Mistress Elbow being, as I say, with child, and being great-bellied, and longing, as I said, for prunes; and having but two in the dish, as I said, master Froth here, this very man, having eaten the rest, as I said, and as I say, paying for them very honestly; for as you know, Master Froth, I could not give you three pence again – 

Froth. No, indeed.

Pom. Very well: you being then, if you be remembered, cracking the stones of the foresaid prunes – 

Froth. Ay, so I did indeed.

Pom. Why, very well: I telling you then, if you be remembered, that such a one and such a one were past cure of the thing you wot of, unless they kept very good diet, as I told you – 

Froth. All this is true.

Pom. Why, very well then – 

Esc. Come, you are a tedious fool. To the purpose […] (2.1.88-115)

75N.B. Pompey is a master in the art of digression used to confuse the issue. The x-screen he raises covers his retreat before the accusation of bawdy practices. When called to order, he drowns his judge in obsequiousness and immediately launches into a new digression under the colour of a (needless) recapitulation, and manages to shift audience by enrolling Froth as witness to his deposition. At this game he beats both Angelo and Escalus.

Divisio

76(Lat. division; Fr. divisio(n), f.):  A mode of dilation whereby the subject of speech is broken down into subcategories. This figure is sometimes comprehended under distributio.

Isab. No ceremony that to great ones longs,
Not the king’s crown, nor the deputed sword,
The marshal’s truncheon, nor the judge’s robe,
Become them with one half so good a grace
As mercy does. (2.2.59-63)

77Here divisio combines with homeoptoton (q.v.).

Isab. Hark, how I’ll bribe you: good my lord, turn back.
Ang. How! Bribe me?
Isab. Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you.
Lucio. [to Isab.] You had marr’d all else.
Isab. Not with fond sickles of the tested gold,
Or stones, whose rate are either rich or poor
As fancy values them: but with true prayers (2.2.146-52)

78N.B. Shakespeare endows Isabella with a sense of provocation and brinkmanship here attested by the ironically antiphrastic sense of ‘bribe’ (146), gradually and elaborately corrected by the figure of divisio that follows:’not…or…but’ (150-52).

Ecphonesis

79(Gr. to cry out; Fr. ecphonèse, f.): an exclamation.

Isab. O, let him marry her! (1.4.49)

Isab. Alas, what poor ability’s in me
To do him good!              (1.4.75-6)

Elbow. O thou caitiff! O thou varlet! O thou wicked Hannibal! (2.1.171-2)

80In the example above, we also find metabole (q.v.), accumulatio (q.v.) and acyron (q.v., ‘Hannibal’ for ‘cannibal’).

Isab. Unhappy Claudio! Wretched Isabel!
Injurious world! Most damned Angelo! (4.3.121-22)

Epanalepsis

81(Gr. repeating twice; Fr. épanalepse, f.): a figure which consists in starting and finishing a speech unit with the same word. The effect is one of circularity.

Duke. […]      […] so our decrees,
Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead  (1.3.27-8)

Elbow [to Pompey]. Prove it before these varlets here, thou honourable man, prove it.

82N.B. Epanalepsis is combined here with acyron (q.v.) and diacope (q.v.).

Ang. Blood thou art blood. (2.4.15)

83N.B. Epanalepsis is used here to strengthen the sententia (q.v.).

Isab. Hear me! O hear me, hear! (5.1.34)

84The structural figure combines with and reinforces ecphonesis (q.v.) and diacope (q.v.).

Epiphora or epistrophe

85(Gr. a bringing to or upon; Fr. épiphore, f., or épistrophe, f.): the ending of a series of speech units with the same word or words.

Isab. O Prince, I conjure thee, as thou believ’st
There is another comfort than his world,
That thou neglect me not with that opinion
That I am touch’d with madness. Make not impossible
That which but seems unlike. ‘Tis not impossible (5.1.51-5)

86N.B. In this example, epiphora is preceded by anaphora (q.v.) and the extract is further structtured by homeoptoton (q.v.).

Epizeuxis

87(Gr. a fastening upon; Fr. épizeuxis / épizeuxe, f.): the repetition of a word or words for emphasis, close to diacope, except that the words repeated follow one another:

Esc. Go to, go to: no matter for the dish, sir.              (2.1.95)

Isab. Spare him, spare him! (2.2.84)

Isab. Good, good my lord, bethink you (2.2.88)

Isab. As all comforts are: most good, most good indeed (3.1.55)

Isab. O fie, fie, fie! (3.1.147)

Isab. [to the Duke] And given me justice. Justice!  Justice!  Justice! (5.1.26)

Exclamation

88see ‘ecphonesis’.

Extenuation

89see ‘meiosis’.

Hendiadys

90(Gr. “one through two”; Fr. hendiadyn, m.): The use of two substantives connected by a conjunction to express a single complex idea:

Duke. Would seem in me t’affect speech and discourse (I.1.4)

Duke.  […] The nature of our people,
Our city’s institutions, and the terms
For common justice, y’are as pregnant in
As art and practice hath enriched any
That we remember. (1.1.9-13)

Esc. If any in Vienna be of worth
To undergo such ample grace and honour (1.1.22-3)

Lucio. I hold you as a thing enskied and sainted (1.4.34)

Lucio. He, to give use to use and liberty (1.4.61-2)

91Hendiadys is a figure of frequent occurrence inShakespeare.

Homeoptoton

92(Gr. “to fall alike”; Fr. homéoptoton / homéoptote, m.): a parallelism of structure or phrasing. This figure is close to and sometimes difficult to distinguish from metabole (q.v.) or isocolon (q.v.):

Isab. No ceremony that to great ones longs,
Not the king’s crown, nor the deputed sword,
The marshal’s truncheon, nor the judge’s robe,
Become them with one half so good a grace
As mercy does. (2.2.59-63)

93Here homeoptoton combines with divisio (q.v.).

Esc. Well, heaven forgive him; and forgive us all. (2.1.37)

Duke. The very mercy of the law cries out
Most audible, even from his proper tongue:
‘An Angelo for a Claudio; death for death,
Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure;
Like doth quit like, and Measure still for Measure’ (5.1.405-9)

94See also ‘isocolon’.

Hypallage

95(Gr. “exchange”; Fr. hypallage, f.): a change in the relation of words whereby a word instead of agreeing with the word it logically qualifies, is made to agree grammatically with another word. It amounts to a poetic switching of property or quality between things, concepts, or sentient creatures. Puttenham called hypallage “the changeling”.

Elbow. If it please your honour, I am the poor Duke’s constable […] (2.1.47-8)

96In this example, the effect of hypallage is comical. Elbow means ‘the Duke’s poor constable’.

Hyperbole

97(Gr. “overshooting”, “excess”; Fr. hyperbole, f.): an exaggeration of the truth for the sake of emphasis:

Isab. [about her brother] Yet hath he in him such a mind of honour,
That had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he’d yield them up (2.4.178-80)

98This climax of hope in Isabella gives the measure of the anticlimax experienced later in the prison when Claudio begs her to defer to Angelo’s demand. Note how, unwittingly, the figure of the ideally altruistic brother develops into that of the monstrous many-headed hydra.

Duke. O place and greatness! Millions of false eyes
Are stuck upon thee […] (4.1.60-61)

Hypophora

99(Gr. anticipating an objection; Fr. hypophore), f., also called ‘rogatio’: a device which consists in putting questions to oneself so as to answer them. Hypophora is different from interrogatio (q.v.) or rhetorical question:

Ang. What’s this? What’s this? 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 flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. (2.2.163-8)

100N.B. The rest of Angelo’s soliloquy (1.2.168-81) makes repeated use of hypophora, until the figure becomes the choice tool for Angelo’s soul searching. Compare this to Isabella’s rhetorical questions also in soliloquy:

Isab. To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,
Who would believe me? (2.4.170-11)

Impropriety

101see ‘acyron’ and ‘amphibologia’.

Incrementum

102see ‘auxecis’.

Interrogatio

103(Lat. interrogation; Fr. interrogatio, f.) or rhetorical question (Fr. question oratoire, f.): a device which consists in asking one or several questions not in the expectation of an answer but as a form of vehement assertion.

Ang. […]               What knows the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? (2.1.23-4)

Isab. […]                How would you be
If He, which is the top of judgement, should
But judge you as you are? (2.2.75-7)

Ang. [on Isabella’s entrance] O heavens,

Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,

 Making both it unable for itself

 And dispossessing all my other parts

 Of necessary fitness? (2.4.19-23)

Isocolon

104(Gr. Identical member of a sentence; Fr. isocolie, f.): A parallelism of construction between elements of similar volume, imparting a specific rhythm to speech.

Duke. For you must know, we have with special soul

 Elected him our absence to supply ;

 Lent him our terror, drest him with our love,

 And given his deputation all the organs

 Of our own power. (1.1.17-21)

105In the example above, isocolon points up auxecis (q.v.).

Duke. […]             Moe reasons for this action

At our more leisure shall I render you (1.3.48-9)

Mis. O. Thus, What with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk. (1.2.75-7)

Ang. And she will speak most bitterly and strange.
Isab. Most strange: but yet most truly will I speak.
That Angelo’s forsworn, is it not strange?
That Angelo’s a murderer, is’t not strange?
That Angelo is an adulterous thief,
An hypocrite, a virgin-violator,
Is it not strange, and strange? (5.1.38-44)

106N.B. The example above also combines anaphora (q.v.), quaestium (q.v.), and accumulatio (q.v.).

List(s)

107A device pertinent to accumulation. Lists may concern objects or people, or place names. For lists of people’s names, see ‘anthroponymy’.

Litotes

108(Gr. “plainness”, “simplicity”; Fr. litote, f.): a figure through which affirmation is expressed through the denial of its contrary:

Esc. I think no less […] (2.1.137)

Pom. [about Elbow’s wife] Once, sir? There was nothing done to her once.  (2.1.140)

109N.B. The play’s naughtiest litotes.

Duke. […] or you imagine me too unhurtful an opposite. (3.2.159-60)

Meiosis

110(Gr. “lessening”; Fr. meiosis, f., atténuation, f.) or extenuation: belittling for self-justification, or else scorn or derision. The opposite of amplification (q.v.) hyperbole (q.v.) and auxecis (q.v.).

Isab. O, I do fear thee Claudio, and I quake
Lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain,
And six or seven winters more respect
Than a perpetual honour. (3.1.73-6)

111Interestingly, Isabella’s address to Claudio reveals her to be manipulative in quickly following up amplificatio (ll. 73-4) by its opposite, meiosis (l. 75), q.v.; the last two lines form a striking if artificially dramatised antithesis (q.v.).

Metabole

112(Gr. transition, change; Fr. métabole, f.): a parallelism of construction; close to homeoptoton though generally more limited in scope. The purpose of the parallelism is frequently to set off the element of variation.

Esc. Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.
Some run from brakes of ice and answer none,
And some condemned for a fault alone. (2.1.38-40)

113The structural parallel and the rhyme point up the sententia (q.v.).

Metaphor

114(Gr. “to transfer”; Fr. métaphore, f.): an abridged form of comparison in which the first term or ‘tenor’ (Fr. compare, m.) is removed, leaving only the second term or ‘vehicle’ (Fr. comparant, m.) The terms ‘vehicle’ and ‘tenor’ were first used by Richards. Where simile (q.v.) offers a fully visible parallel between the element of reality discussed and its proposed analogy, metaphor offers an immediate poetic alternative, a substitute for reality or the accepted norm. Metaphor may be contained in a single word or else expanded (Fr. filée), sometimes to the point of systematic development as found in conceit. Concatenated metaphors derived from discrepant levels of thought or reality are called ‘mixed metaphors’. These constitute a vice of thought (and expression); their effect is often comical.

Coining / moral testing:

Ang. Let there be some more test made of my metal,
Before so noble and so great a figure
Be stamp’d upon it. (1.1.48-50)

115N.B. This expanded metaphor of Angelo’s is steeped in dramatic irony since his election  as deputy is precisely the test planned by the Duke. Coins and coinage as a means to purchase venereal diseases comes to the fore in 1.2.41ff. The image of coining is found again in a simile used by Angelo in II.4.42-6.

Food making / policy:

Duke. We have with a leaven’d and prepared choice

 Proceeded to you. […] (1.1.51-2)

Being eaten (cannibalism) /  reward of carnal sin:

Lucio. […] thy bones are hollow; impiety has made a feast of thee. (1.2.52-3)

116N.B. Carnal sin sucks the marrow of men alive. A key image in the play and a fit one to introduce, two lines later, the news of Claudio’s arrest and doom for incontinence with Juliet. Compare this with Isabella’s exhortation:

Isab. […]                 Even for our kitchens
We kill the fowl of season: shall we serve heaven
With less respect than we do minister
To our gross selves? (2.2.85-8)

117The notion of cannibalism / human sacrifice still underlies here Isabella’s food metaphor. She immediately follows it up with interrogatio (q.v.).

Poaching / illegitimate copulation:

Mis. O. But what’s his offence?
Pom. Groping for trouts in a peculiar river. (1.2.82-3)

118Groping for trout implies walking quietly upstream and tickling the belly of the fish hidden under rocks or in holes in the river bank. Obscene parallels are irresistible. The theme is further developed in the pun on maid (= virgin) and maid (= the young of certain fish, OED 7, Lever), 1.2.84-5.

Managing authority in the state / managing a horse:

Cla. Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness,
Or whether that the body public be
A horse whereon the governor doth ride,
Who, newly in the seat, that it may know
He can command, lets it straight feel the spur (1.2.147-51)

119The image recurs at 1.3.20.

Sighing / fragility:

Lucio. […] thy head stands so tickle on thy shoulders, that a milkmaid, if she be in love, may sigh it off. (1.2.161-3)

Copulation / ‘game of tick-tack’:

Lucio. […] thy life, who I would be sorry should be thus foolishly lost at a game of tick-tack. (1.2.179-81)

120N.B. Down the edge of the board used for this game, scoring was indicated by inserting pegs into holes. Tick-tack was a variety of backgammon.

Dissemination:

Duke. And he supposes me travell’d to Poland;
For so I have strew’d it in the common ear. (1.3.14-15)

Law / cruelty / horse management:

Duke. We have strict statutes and most biting laws
The needful bits and curbs to headstrong jades,
Which for this fourteen years we have let slip (1.3.19-21)

Justice incapacitated:

Friar.                       It rested in your Grace
To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleas’d (1.3.31-2)

121Compare with 1.2.148-51.

Insincerity:

Lucio. I would not, though ‘tis my familiar sin,
With maids to seem the lapwing […] (1.4.31-2)

Chief political motives / human anatomy:

Lucio. […] by those that know the very nerves of state (1.4.53)

122The lapwing was famous for its ability to dissemble in order to save its young.

Temperament / natural experiences… Nurture vs Nature:

Lucio. […] Lord Angelo; a man whose blood
Is very snow-broth; one who never feels
The wanton stings and motions of the sense;
But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge
With profits of the mind, study and fast. (1.4.57-61)

Danger of indecision:

Lucio. Our doubts are traitors (1.4.77)

Wasting away the dissuasive power of the law:

Ang. We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape till custom make it
Their perch, and not their terror. (2.1.1-4)

Plea for a light-handed process of justice:

Esc. Let us be keen, and rather cut a little

 Than fall, and bruise to death. (2.1.5-6)

Awareness is the sine qua non condition of opportunism:

Ang. […]                    ‘Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take’t,
Because we see it; but what we do not see,
We tread upon, and never think of it. (2.1.23-6)

123N.B. This expanded metaphor is structured by antithesis (q.v.). It also constitutes a tautology (ie a statement of the obvious, or pleonasm (q.v.), generally regarded as a logical vice. It reveals a degree of cynicism quite inappropriate in a magistrate.

The pilgrimage of life:

Ang. […]                  See that Claudio
Be executed by nine tomorrow morning;
Bring him his confessor, let him be prepar’d,
Fot that’s the utmost of his pilgrimage. 2I.1.33-6)

124N.B. A medieval religious commonplace originating in the Bible (see Genesis xlvii. 9).

People in authority disguise their faults (medical field):

Isab. Because authority, though it err like others,
Hath yet a kind of medecine in itself
That skins the vice o’th’top. (2.2.135-7)

125N.B. Isabella immediately follows this up with another expanded metaphor or conceit (q.v.) about heart and tongue presented in an antithetical relationship. The density of the imagery used by the character is very striking. See below.

Heart vs tongue:

Isab. […]                 Go to your bosom,
Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know
That’s like my brother’s fault. If it confess
A natural guiltiness, such as is his,
Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue
Against my brother’s life.              (2.2.137-42)

126N.B. Isabella pursues her main argument that there should not be any contradiction in the magistrate between his sentences and his own faults, while Angelo is sticking to his own line: imperfection in the magistrate does not reflect on his sentences. Much of the impact of this conceit results from the everyday life simplicity of its opening: ‘Go…and knock’.

Ang. […]                   Heaven is in my mouth,
As if I did but only chew his name,
And in my heart the strong and swelling evil
Of my conception. (2.4.4-7)

127N.B. The simile is sandwiched between two metaphors.

The devil’s method of fishing for souls:

Ang. O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint,
With saints dost bait thy hook! (2.2.180-81)

128N.B. The metaphor is strengthened by ecphonesis (q.v.) and paregmenon (q.v.).

The devil’s appearance and deeper nature:

Ang. Let’s write good angel on the devil’s horn – 
‘Tis not the devil’s crest. (2.4.16-17)

129N.B. This remark of Angelo’s has elicited a profusion of comments that have often darkened rather than illuminated the issue. The devil is traditionally represented with horns advertising his bestial and dangerous nature. Let us suppose we call him ‘good angel’… Angelo’s hypothesis is cut short as he realises it is untenable since the horn is not the devil’s ‘crest’, ie the heraldic device surmounting the shield or helmet of a knight making him recognisable. It would be too simple if the devil chose an appearance that would advertise his nature. The question of the devil’s masquerading as a good angel is dealt with by Saint Paul (II Corinthians 11.14) and reflected in Hamlet (II.2. 600 ff).

Men want women to conform to the notion of them fashioned by males, posing as Providence (here that they are ontologically weak):

Ang. […]                 as you are well express’d
By all external warrants – show it now,
By putting on the destin’d livery. (2.4.136-7)

On Life and Death:

 Duke. […]               Reason thus with life:
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep. A breath thou art,
Servile to all the skyey influences
That dost this habitation where thou keeps’t
Hourly afflict. Merely, thou art Death’s fool:
For him thou labour’st by thy flight to shun,
And yet run’st toward him still. Thou art not noble;
For all th’accomodations that thou bear’st
Are nurs’d by baseness. Thou’rt by no means valiant;
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
Of a poor worm. Thy best rest is sleep;
And that thou oft provok’st, yet grossly fear’st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou are not thyself;
For thou exists on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou striv’st to get,
And what thou hast, forget’st. Thou art not certain;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects
After the moon. If thou art rich, thou’rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear’st thy heavy riches but a journey,
And Death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none;
For thine own bowels which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum
For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth, nor age,
But as it were an after-dinner’s sleep
Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth
Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld: and when thou art old and rich,
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty
To make thy riches pleasant. What’s yet in this
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid moe thousand deaths; yet death we fear
That makes these odds all even. (3.1.7-41)

130N.B. This passage, remarkable for its eloquence though not for its originality, is a standard sermon on contemptus mundi (contempt of the world) which has its roots in the Christian Middle Ages and ancient classical philosophy. It teems with metaphors, similes (q.v.), antitheses (q.v.), paradoxes (q.v.), all framed by a double allegory (q.v.): that of Life and Death.

Copulation:

Lucio. Who, not the Duke? Yes, your beggar of fifty; and his use was to put a ducat in her clack-dish […] (3.2.122-3)

131N.B. The ducat being a ducal coin would have borne the effigy of the Duke. The clack-dish was the wooden begging bowl and, metaphorically, the woman’s sex.

Copulation and conception:

  • 1  Funnel.

Duke. Why should he die, sir?
Lucio. Why? For filling a bottle with a tun-dish1. (3.2.165-6)

Beyond mercy:

Esc.  [to Misress Overdone] Double and treble admonition, and still forfeit in the same kind! This would make mercy swear and play the tyrant. (3.2.187-8)

What is left to be done before achieving success:

Duke. […]       Come, let us go;
Our corn’s to reap, for yet our tithe’s to sow. (4.1.75-6)

Love of secrecy and mystification:

Lucio. […] the old fantastical duke of dark corners […]              (4.3.156)

132N.B. Lucio puts his finger here on the main feature of the Duke’s personality. The phrase is made more arresting by the use of paroemion (q.v.).

Persistency:

Lucio. Nay, friar, I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. (4.3.177)

Sin overflows all measure:

Duke. […]          in Vienna,
Where I have seen corruption boil and bubble
Till it overturn the stew […] (5.1.315-17)

133N.B. The cauldron of the witches will do just that. There’s a play on words, since stew means both a dish cooked in a pot, an a brothel. The background of the phrase is proverbial. Lucio refuses to part company with the Duke.

Metonymy

134 (Gr. “change of name”; Fr. métonymie, f.): The substitution of one word for another with which it stands in close relationship. A figure related to synechdoche (q.v.). Metonymy often uses subject for adjunct, or the reverse, and effect for cause:

zodiac – year:

Cla. […] nineteen zodiacs have gone round,
And none of them been worn […] (1.2.157-8)

Fruit – wantonness:

Lucio. […] they would else have married me to the rotten medlar. (4.3.171-72)

135Medlar: Standard slang for prostitute (as a fruit, the medlar was popularly thought best for eating when rotten).

Names

136For people’s names see ‘anthroponymy’.

Onomatopœia

137(from the Greek, the making of words;  Fr. onomatopée, f.): The formation or the use of words which imitate sounds such as ‘hiss’, ‘snap’, ‘buzz’, ‘clash’, ‘murmur’. Onomatopœia can develop into imitative harmony or expressive alliteration.

 Lucio.[…]  a game of tick-tack. (1.2.180-81)

Pom. Whip me? No, no, let carman whip his jade (2.1.252)

Orcos

138(Fr. orcos): a device which consists in using an oath to protest one’s good faith or add weight to one’s statement:

Isab. Woe me! For what?

139N.B. The brevity of this incomplete line contributes to give weight to the exclamation and the question that follows.

Duke.  By mine honesty,
If she be mad, as I believe no other,
Her madness hath the oddest frame of sense (4.1.62-4)

Lucio. By my troth, Isabel, I loved thy brother […] (4.3.155)

Oxymoron

140(Gr. “pointedly foolish”; Fr. oxymore, m.): an antithesis reduced to the two clashing terms bought together. Intensive use of this figure results in paradoxism.

Isab. There is a devilish mercy in the judge (3.1.64)

Paradox

141(Gr. “opinion”, Fr. paradoxe, m.) : A figure of thought which consists in expressing an opinion completely deviating from the norm. Insistence on paradox results into paradoxism.

Cla. […]             Liberty,
As surfeit, is the father of much fast (1.2.117-18)

Duke. […] And Liberty plucks Justice by the nose,
The baby beats the nurse (1.3.29-30)

Lucio. […]             if myself be his judge,
He should receive his punishment in thanks (1.4.27-8)

Ang. Might there not be a charity in sin
To save this brother’s life? (2.463-64)

Isab.             O worthy Duke,
You bid me seek redemption of the devil. (5.1.29-30)

Duke.              By mine honesty,
If she be mad, as I believe no other,
Her madness hath the oddest frame of sense,
Such a dependency of thing on thing,
As e’er I heard in madness. (5.1.62-65)

142N.B. This feigned paradox, reminiscent of Polonius’s remark about Hamlet’s madness (‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t’ 2.2.207-8), marks the beginning of the Duke’s resolution to act in order to turn the tables on Angelo.

Ang. I am sorry that such sorrow I procure,
And so deep sticks it in my penitent heart
That I crave death more willingly than mercy (5.1.472-4)

Parathesis

143(Gr. “to place beside”; Fr. parathèse, f.): a brief remark slipped in the middle of a sentence; parathesis is different from parenthesis (q.v.) in being syntactically complete:

Duke. I have deliver’d to Lord Angelo – 
A man of stricture and firm abstinence – 
My absolute power and place here in Vienna (1.3.11-13)

Isab. […]             But man, proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured – 
His glassy essence – like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks […] (2.2.118-22)

Ang. I – now the voice of the recorded law – 
Pronounce a sentence on your brother’s life              (2.4.61-2)

Paregmenon

144(Gr. “to lead aside”, “change”; Fr. paregménon, m.): The repetition of a word under one or more derived forms (belongs to the category of polyptoton [Fr. polyptote, m.]):

Elbow. If these be good people in a commonweal, that do nothing but use their abuses in common houses, I know no law. (2.1.41-3)

Ang. Why dost thou not speak, Elbow?
Pom. He cannot, sir: he’s out at elbow. (2.1.59-60)

145N.B. Out at elbow = devoid of wit to reply.

Elbow. […] one that serves a bad woman; whose house, sir, was, as they say, plucked down in the suburbs; and now she professes a hot-house; which I think is a very ill house too. (2.1.62-6)

146N.B. Repeated with a variant in II.1.75-6.

Isab. […]             How would you be
If He, which is the top of judgement, should
But judge you as you are? (2.2.75-7)

147N.B. Here paregmenon serves as a hinge to interrogatio (q.v.).

Isab. I am come to know your pleasure.
Ang. [aside] That you might know it, would much better please me,
Than to demand what ‘tis. (2.4.31-3)

Cla.  To sue to live, I find I seek to die,
And seeking death, find life. (3.1.42-3)

148Here paregmenon is structured by chiasmus (q.v.).

Isab. [to Claudio] I’ll pray a thousand payers for thy death (3.1.145)

Elbow. […]             Bless you, good father friar.
Duke. And you, good brother father. (3.2.11-12)

149N.B. As in the previous example, paregmenon is structured by chiasmus (q.v.).

Parenthesis

150(Gr. “to put in beside”; Fr. parenthèse): part of a sentence, interjected in another:

Lucio. Hail virgin, if you be – as those cheek-roses
Proclaim you are no less – can you […] (1.4.16-17)

Esc. Let but your honour know – 
Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue – 
That in the working of our own affections (2.1.8-10)

Ang. […]             yea, my gravity
Wherein – let no man hear me – I take pride (2.4.10)

Paroemion

151 (Gr. “proverb”; Fr. parémion, m.): the technical name for alliteration. It consists in the repetition of the same consonant at close interval especially, but not only, when it occurs in a stressed syllable. Alliteration was, historically, the first principle of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Paroemion may be simple or complex:

Duke. Mortality and mercy in Vienna
Live in thy tongue, and heart. (1.1.44-5)

152N.B. Here, I would speak of ‘consonance’ since stress does not bring out paroemion to the full.

Cla. […] Liberty,
As surfeit, is the father of much fast (1.2.117-18)

153Paroemion in the example above is backed up by consonance (surfeit), and points up the proverbial nature of the statement.

Cla. Like rats that ravin down their proper bane (1.2.121)

Duke. When evil deeds have their permissive pass,
And not the punishment. (1.3.38-9)

Duke. […] the doubleness of the benefit defends the deceit from reproof. (3.1.258-9)

Paronomasia

154(Lat. paronomasia, from Gr. “onoma”, noun, Fr. paronomase, f.): different from antanaclasis in that the pun is achieved through words which are not homonyms, but paronyms, or nearly identical:

1 Gent.  […] I had as lief be a list on an English kersey, as be piled, as thou art pilled, for a French velvet. (1.2.31-3)

pleonasm

155(Gr. superabundant, otiose; Fr. pléonasme, m.): Stating the obvious.

Ang. […]             ‘Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take’t,
Because we see it; but what we do not see,
We tread upon, and never think of it. (2.1.23-6)

156N.B. The introduction of the metaphor by the adjective ‘pregnant’ shows that Angelo is aware that he is stating the obvious. It reveals a degree of cynicism quite inappropriate in a magistrate.

Polyptoton

157(Gr. “repeated fall”; Fr. polyptote, m.) The use of successive derivations from the same root. Paregmenon (q.v.) and traductio (q.v.) are varieties of polyptoton.

1 Gent. […] ‘twas a commandment to command the captain and all the rest from their  functions (I.2.12-13)

Lucio. […] What’s thy offence, Claudio?
Cla What but to speak of would offend again. (1.2.124-6)

Polysyndeton

158(Gr. “many connections”; Fr. polysyndète, m.): the figure opposite to ‘asyndeton’ (q.v.); it consists in the multiplication of conjunctions of coordination between words belonging in the same clause. Polysyndeton slows down the rhythm of delivery and often gives the sentence a solemn or majestic ring.

Duke. [to Angelo] Hast thou or word, or wit, or impudence,
That yet can o thee office? […] (5.1.362-3)

159N.B. The repeated conjunction tells the beads of Angelo’s sins.

Progression

160see ‘auxecis’.

Question

161see ‘hypophora’, ‘interrogatio’, and ‘quaestium’.

Quaestium

162(Lat. ‘question’): an accumulation of questions bringing to bear rhetorical pressure.

Isab. Someone with child by him? My cousin Juliet?
Lucio. Is she your cousin?              (1.4.45-6)

Esc. How would you live, Pompey? By being a bawd? What do you think of the trade, Pompey? Is it a lawful trade? (2.1221-3)

163See also II.2.8-9; II.2.163-4; and especially 3.2.42-50.

Ang. And she will speak most bitterly and strange.
Isab. Most strange: but yet most truly will I speak.
That Angelo’s forsworn, is it not strange?
That Angelo’s a murderer, is’t not strange?
That Angelo is an adulterous thief,
An hypocrite, a virgin-violator,
Is it not strange, and strange? (5.1.38-44)

164N.B. The example above also combines anaphora (q.v.), isocolon (q.v.) and accumulatio (q.v.).

rhetorical question

165See ‘interrogatio’.

Sententia

166pl. sententiae (Lat. judgment, opinion; Fr. sentence, f.): A short wise saying; a maxim. A frequent ornament of speech.

Esc. Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.
Some run from brakes of ice and answer none,
And some condemned for a fault alone. (2.1.38-40)

167The 1623 folio italicizes the passage further pointed up by rhyme and metabole (q.v.); ‘brakes’ must probably be read as ‘breaks’.

Esc. Mercy is not itself, that oft looks so;
Pardon is still the nurse of a second woe. (2.1.280-1)

Ang. Blood thou art blood.  (2.4.15)

168N.B. Here the sententia is made more arresting by the use of epanalepsis (q.v.).

Lucio. Cucullus non facit monachum: honest in nothing but in his clothes […] (5.1.261-62)

169N.B. The Latin sententia translates as ‘The hood does not make the friar holy’ / ‘L’habit ne fait pas le moine’. This may certainly serve as an epitome for the play, whether Angelo or the Duke be concerned.

Duke. [to Escalus] Good night to your redress […] (5.1.297)

Simile

170(Lat. like; Fr. comparaison, f.): A comparison of one thing with another, explicitly announced by the word “like” or “as”: (for the difference with ‘metaphor’,  see ‘metaphor’).

Generosity vs selfishness:

Duke. Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves. (1.1.32-3)

171N.B. In the example above, the practical nature of the comparison makes it a quasi sententia (q.v.). As a parallel, Brian Gibbons (New Cambridge edition, 1991) quotes Matthew 5.15-16 :  ‘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.’

Fiddling with moral law:

Lucio. Thou conclud’st like the sanctimonious pirate, that went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scrap’d one out of the table.
2 Gent. ‘Thou shalt not steal’?
Lucio. Ay, that he raz’d. (1.2.7-11)

Nature:

Duke. […] nature never lends
The smallest scruple of her excellence
But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines
Herself the glory of a creditor,
Both thanks and use. (1.1.36-40)

Liberty:

Cla. […]             Liberty,
As surfeit, is the father of much fast (1.2.117-18)

Excess:

Cla. […]             Our natures do pursue
Like rats that ravin down their proper bane,
A thirsty evil; and when we drink, we die. (1.2.120-2)

Excessive neglect and excessive correction:

Cla. […] but this new governor
Awakes me all the enrolled penalties
Which have, like unscour’d armour, hung by th’wall
So long, that nineteen zodiacs have gone round,
And none of them been worn […] (1.2.154-8)

172N.B. The expanded simile in the example above sums up the Duke’s improvident government of Vienna. Compare with the Duke’s diagnosis in 1.3.23-31.

Excessive neglect in political management:

Duke. […]             Now, as fond fathers,
Having bound up the threatening twigs of birch,
Only to stick it in their children’s sight
For terror, not to use, in time the rod
Becomes more mock’d than fear’d: so our decrees,
Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead,
And Liberty plucks Justice by the nose,
The baby beats the nurse and quite athwart
Goes all decorum.              (1.3.23-31)

173N.B. This passage shows the Duke substantially agreeing with Claudio expressing the same idea through a comparison of a different kind (see I.2.154-8). The strength of discourse here is based on a dense combination of expanded simile, metaphor q.v. and paroemion q.v. (decrees / Dead to infliction), epanalepsis (28) q.v., allegory q.v. (29) and paradox (30) q.v. All the images tend towards the illustration of one idea: neglect of political management. Redundancy underprops dramatic communication, both within speech and between opsis (the visual) and akoustikon (sound).

174Lucio. Your brother and his lover have embrac’d;
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. (1.4.40-4)
Note how the expanded simile concludes on a metaphor (44).

Supernatural power of women’s plea to men:

Lucio. […]             when maidens sue,
Men give like gods (1.4.80-1)

Mercy and redemption:

Isab. […]             How would you be
If He, which is the top of judgement, should
But judge you as you are? O, think on that,
And mercy then will breathe within your lips,
Like man new made. (2.2.75-9)

175N.B. Isabella’s argument is that the supreme judge sent his Son to redeem man of Adam’s sin, thus showing mercy, which Angelo denies Claudio. Observe how the decisive simile is preceded by interrogatio (q.v.), the latter hammering on the key notion by resorting to paregmenon (q.v.). This is typical of the rhetorical density of Isabella’s speech once she overcomes her original reticence in her plea to Angelo at the beginning of 2.2.

The law works with the future in mind:

  • 2  the law.

Ang. […]             Now ‘tis2 awake
Takes note of what is done, and like a prophet
Looks in a glass that shows what future evils,
Either new, or by remissness new conceiv’d,
Are now to have no successive degrees,
But ere they live, to end.  (2.2.94-9)

176N.B. This simile helps Angelo develop the basic antithesis ‘sleeping law vs waking law’ (see II.2.91) bringing sin in line with the fate of mortal humanity (2.2.99).

177Man =an ape giving involuntary shows to angelic creatures:

Isab. […]             But man, proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured – 
His glassy essence – like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal. (2.2.118-24)

Ill-guided and excessive solicitude can be fatal (medical field // political field):

Ang. [on Isabella’s entrance]             O heavens,
Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,
Making both it unable for itself
And dispossessing all my other parts
Of necessary fitness?
So play the foolish throngs with one that swounds,
Come all to help him, and so stop the air
By which he should revive; and even so
The general subject to a well-wish’d king
Quit their own part, and in obsequious fondness
Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love
Must needs appear offence (2.4.19-30)

The glory of martyrdom:

Isab. That is, were I under the terms of death,
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 I’d yield
My body up to shame.(2.4.100-104)

178N.B. “Unconsciously Isabella provokes Angelo’s sadistic lust with the talk of whips…rubies…strip…bed…longing” (Gibons, note 101, 124).

Female fragility induced by vanity:

Ang.             Nay, women are frail too.
Isab. Ay, as the glasses where they view themselves,
Which are as easy broke as they make forms. (2.4.123-25)

179N.B. Isabella’s simile has proverbial roots.

  • 3  Women.

Isab. For we3 are as soft as our complexions are             (2.4.128)

Marriage with Death:

Cla. […]             If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride
And hug it in my arms. (3.1.82-4)

Syllepsis

180(Gr. “a taking together”; Fr. syllepse, f.): a grammatical figure which consists in using a single verb dependent on several subjects of mixed number or gender. Sometimes the statement made will be true of one subject and not apply to the other(s); sometimes the statement will be true for each subject separately but sound odd or surprising when applied collectively. Syllepsis, where deliberate, may promote wit and humour. “Syllepsis is different from ‘zeugma’ [q.v.] in that a verb, expressed but once, lacks grammatical congruence with at least one subject with which it is understood” (Joseph, 58):

Duke.  […] The nature of our people,
Our city’s institutions, and the terms
For common justice, y’are as pregnant in
As art and practice hath enriched any
That we remember. (1.1.9-13)

Duke. […]             none knows better than you
How I have ever lov’d the life remov’d,
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies,
Where youth, and cost, witless bravery keeps. (1.3.7-10)

181N.B. Syllepsis is frequent in Renaissance English.

Synecdoche

182(Gr. “act of taking together”; Fr. synecdoque, f.): a special type of metonymy (q.v.) wherein the part is substituted for the whole, or sometimes the whole for the part:

Isab. [within] Peace, hoa, be here!
Duke. The tongue of Isabelle. (4.3. 105-6)

183Tongue / voice, for the person.

184N.B. The distinction between metonymy and synechdoche has led to a time-honoured debate.

Tapinosis

185(Gr.. lowering: Fr. tapinose, f.): A concatenation of hyperbolic words or phrases  all derogatory and insulting. The reverse of auxecis (q.v.).

Elbow. [to Pompey] O thou caitiff! O thou varlet! O thou wicked Hannibal! (2.1.171-72)

Isab. [to Claudio]             O, you beast!
O faithless coward, O dishonest wretch! (3.1135-6)

Topography

186(from the Greek, to state  location, Fr. topographie): Any device through which speech copes with a statement of location.

Isab. [about Angelo] He hath a garden circummur’d with brick,
Whose western side is with a vineyard back’d;
And to that vineyard is a planched gate,
That makes its opening with this bigger key.
This other doth command a little door
Which from the vineyard to the garden leads (4.1.28-33)

187N.B. The configuration of Angelo’s abode and appointed place for the tryst is that of the hortus conclusus or enclosed garden of Scripture (cf. the Song of Songs). This makes the meeting at hand ironically symbolical.

Zeugma

188(Gr. “means of binding”; Fr. zeugma, m.): The use of a single verb with a compound subject. (Syllepsis [q.v.] is a form of zeugma).

Duke. […] Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine so proper as to waste
Thyself upon thy vertues, they on thee. (1.1.29-31)

Conclusion

189The world of Vienna is one in theory riven on the one hand between the city and its suburbs, between the world of the ducal court (of which not much is made), the convent of the Clares, Angelo’s abode, and on the other the prison and the seedy world of Mistress Overdone and her customers. The law, the central concern of the play, does not apply to the city as exactingly as it does to the suburbs. The brothels are a case in point:

Pom. All houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be plucked down.
Mis. O. And what shall become of those in the city?
Pom. They shall stand for seed: they had gone down too, but that a wise burgher put in for them. (1.2.88-92)

190The play on the verb ‘put in’, meaning both ‘put in a good word for them’ and ‘made a bid for them’ comes as an early example of the money-sex nexus that is rife in the play world. There begins a general migration from the suburbs to the city, although the shift does not entail that manners will acquire more polish. The prison, haunted by “the old fantastical duke of dark corners” (4.3.156), ironically recreates, as if by magic, the suburban society that the newly enforced laws were supposed to have dismantled. Pompey, who has found new employment in the jail, is categorical:

 Iam as well acquainted here as I was in our house of profession: one would think it were Mistress Overdone’s own house, for here be many of her old customers. (4.3.1-2)

191The prison is not so much a place of relegation, as the hub of all the social traffic in Vienna, attracting as it does Isabella, Lucio, the Duke, and housing as it does Juliet and the main stake of the plot in the person of Claudio, together with his providential substitute, the sick pirate, Ragozine. The main social dynamics of the play world is sex and its corollary, money, since most relationships are meretricious:

Lucio. Behold, behold, where Madam Mitigation comes! I have purchased as many diseases under her roof as come to – 
2 Gent. To what, I pray?
Lucio. Judge.
2 Gent. To three thousand dolours a year.
1 Gent. Ay, and more.
Lucio. A French crown more. (1.2.41-8)

192The puns, here worked out into conceit, enwrap venereal pathology in humour. Even the Duke, whose interest in women comes as a belated revelation, is supposed, in Lucio’s fantasizing to illustrate the cash-sex nexus: “Lucio. Who, not the Duke? Yes, your beggar of fifty; and his use was to put a ducat in her clack-dish […]”              (3.2.122-23). Here ‘clack-dish’ means both begging bowl and female sex, bonding the two in exemplary fashion. Punning metaphors trivialize sexual relations which Lucio sees as a mere “game of tick-tack”  (1.2.181).

193The play’s allegorical turn (Maguin 1979, 19-26)is confirmed by Shakespeare’s choice for his dramatis personae of anthroponyms that bear straightforwardly or ironically on the deeper nature of the characters, or on their trades, after the old tradition of the Morality plays carried forward at the turn of the seventeenth century in the fashionable humour plays. We have the antiphrastic Angelo; Isabella, she of invariable beauty; Escalus, punning perhaps on the ‘scales of Justice’, as suggested by Brian Gibbons, the New Cambridge editor of the play; Lucio, playing on the senses of ‘light’ meaning ‘radiant’ and ‘wanton’; Elbow, the law enforcer, thus ill-armed for arrests; Froth, the insubstantial, brainless young gallant; Abhorson, both abhorrent in himself and the son of a whore; Mistress Overdone, whose name so eloquently gives away her occupation. In addition, the jail offers a gallery of figures that help flesh out the picaresque world of Vienna:

Pom. [now working in the prison] I am as well acquainted here as I was in our house of profession: one would think it were Mistress Overdone’s own house, for here be many of her old customers. First, here’s young Master Rash; he’s in for a commodity of brown paper and old ginger, nine score and seventeen pounds; of which he made five marks ready money; marry, then, ginger was not much in request, for the old women were all dead. Then is here Master Caper, at the suit of Master Three-pile the mercer, for some four suits of peach-coloured satin, which now peaches him a beggar. Then have we here young Dizie, and young Master Deep-vow, and Master Copper-spur, and Master Starve-Lackey the rapier and dagger man, and young Drop-heir that killed lusty Pudding, and Master Forthright the tilter, and brave Master Shoe-tie the great traveller, and wild Half-can that stabbed pots, and I think forty more […] (4.3.1-18)

194Flogged by justice, the suburbs have indeed come to town, and vice, far from going away, has merely shifted its place of abode.

195The law and its enforcement, which provide the play’s main topic, stand like a Janus bifrons; one tragic face frowns and promises death to Claudio, the other laughs at the farce supplied by Constable Elbow and his two prisoners, Pompey and Froth. Elbow proves as eminent a malapropist as his colleague Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing written some six years before. Both characters remind us that the playwright’s father, John Shakespeare, was at one time part of the law enforcement crew in Stratford-upon-Avon and would have brought back some merry anecdotes from his night-watch duties. As for Pompey, he must go down on record as the most successful digressionist ever to have faced a legal interrogation.  The problematic genre of the play reveals itself here as elsewhere, a bigger issue for critics fed on classical distinctions, no doubt, than it ever proved for the dramatist.

196Inherited from Giraldi Cinthio’s Hecatommithi (1565) and George Whetstone’s Promos and Cassandra (1578), is the dialectic at the heart of the drama which sets out to distinguish authority from justice, and justice from tyranny. Claudio, chiefly concerned by the controversy, puts it clearly:

Thus can the demi-god, Authority,
Make us pay down for our offence by weight.
The words of  heaven; on whom it will, it will;
On whom it will not, so; yet still ‘tis just. (1.2.112-15)

197And again, more gropingly:

And the new deputy now for the Duke – 
Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness,
Or whether that the body public be
A horse whereon the governor doth ride,
Who, newly in the seat, that it may know
He can command, lets it straight feel the spur;
Whether the tyranny be in his place,
Or in his eminence that fills it up,
I stagger in – but this new governor
Awakes me all the enrolled penalties
Which have, like unscour’d armour, hung by th’wall
So long, that nineteen zodiacs have gone round,
And none of them been worn; and for a name
Now puts the drowsy and neglected act
Freshly on me: ‘tis surely for a name. (1.2.146-60)

198The long parenthesis, which does all it can to destroy the syntax of the passage, is a tribute to the difficulty experienced by the speaker in determining Angelo’s motivation, while the horse metaphor and the armour simile match the rest of the play’s relish for comparison and imagery.

199From this central play on contraries are set up several powerful antithetical pairs, to begin with seeming vs being.  The devolution of power to Angelo is the Duke’s method for testing the deputy’s personality: “Hence shall we see / If power change purpose, what our seemers be” (1.3.53-4). Isabella’s later outcry provides the answer to the question: “[…] Seeming, seeming! / I will proclaim thee, Angelo, look for’t.”  (2.4.149-50).  The ultimate antithesis is unsurprisingly that of life vs death which Claudio brandishes in horror in the prison scene as an effort to mollify his sister:

To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod […] (3.1.118-20)

200Indignation and suffering lend a frequently ecphonetic (ie exclamatory) turn to the dialogue, culminating in Isabella’s appeal to the Duke:

Justice, O royal Duke! Vail your regard
Upon a wrong’d – I would fain have said, a maid­ – .
O worthy prince, dishonour not your eye
By throwing it on any other object,
Till you have heard me in my true complaint,
And given me justice! Justice! Justice! Justice! (5.1.21-6)

201The pathos of this outburst is answered by the deliberate anticlimax of monosyllabic factual questions “Duke. Relate your wrongs. In what? By whom? Be brief” (5.1.27). Quite a different type of question which assumes prominence in Angelo’s soliloquies; hypophora, the question one asks oneself the better to answer it:

 What’s this? What’s this? 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 flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. (2.2.163-8)

202In soliloquy also, Isabella resorts for her part to more emphatic rhetorical questions: “ Isab. To whom should I complain? Did I tell this, / Who would believe me?” (2.4.170-11).

203This type of question, more technically known as interrogatio, requires no answer, but is a disguised form of vehement assertion. Isabella knows that she has no one to turn to, and that nobody will believe her should she denounce Angelo.

204Measure for Measure is remarkable for the number of its metaphors and similes (including sententiae, or proverbs). The law, justice, authority, temptation, sin, the devil, sex, the arrogance of the human creature provide the chief topics of this imaged speech. Yet, more important than the detail of each figure is the global effect on the play world achieved by such a dense recourse to images by all characters but down-to-earth types like Mistress Overdone or Pompey. Reality as such is screened, not to say shunned. It is only approached through the process of comparison which sets up poetic alternatives to the hard and fast environment. Angelo eventually realizes the drawback of this method in terms of communication and, after sacrificing to mannerist frills, corrects what tends towards a denial of reality by resorting at last to plain language:

Thus wisdom wishes to appear most bright
When it doth tax itself: as these black masks
Proclaim an enciel’d beauty ten times louder
Than beauty could, display’d. But mark me;
To be receiv’d plain, I’ll speak more gross.
Your brother is to die. ((2.4.78-83)

205In Julius Caesar (1599), not only did Shakespeare make use of rhetoric for his own creative purposes, but made rhetoric the stake of the play’s action with the successive public addresses of Brutus and of Mark Antony , the latter winning over the plebeian audience and the day (see Fuzier, 25-65 and Maguin, 1995, 167-75). Measure for Measure presents a different case altogether, engaging us with the direct verbal assaults between two orators: Isabella whose rhetoric takes an offensive line and aims at proving to Angelo that an imperfect judge should not undertake to mete out justice to others; while Angelo’s rhetoric is of a defensive kind and supports the thesis that moral imperfection in the judge does not reflect in his judgement. Both contesters are resourceful, manipulative in their choice of arguments, persistent in their verbal demonstrations. Yet their positions are very unequal, to the last almost, not due to the fact that the woman is the weaker vessel and less versed in the uses of the arts of language, but because in Vienna as elsewhere at the time man monopolizes the judicial and political roles and keeps up his sleeve a non-verbal means of pressure: the life of the woman’s brother.

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Bibliographie

Gibbons, Brian, ed., Measure for Measure, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Cambridge Univ. Press 1991.

Lever, J.W., ed., Measure for Measure, The Arden Shakespeare [Arden 2], Methuen 1965.

The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, edited by Alex Preminger & T.V.F. Brogan et al., Princeton Univ. Press. 1993.

Day, Angel, The English Secretorie…, 1592, Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints 1967.

Fraunce, Abraham, The Arcadian Rhetorike…, 1588, Scolar Press Facsimile 1969.

Fuzier, Jean, “ Rhetoric versus Rhetoric: A Study of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, 3.2”, Cahiers Élisabéthains n° 5, 1974, pp. 25-65.

Joseph, Sister Miriam, Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language, Columbia Univ. Press 1947.

Maguin, Jean-Marie, “The Anagogy of Measure for Measure”, Cahiers Élisabéthains, no16, 1979, pp. 19-26.

Maguin, Jean-Marie, “Rhetoric and Julius Caesar: What Is at Stake?” in Michel Bitot ed., Shakespeare, Julius Caesar: Texte et représentation, Université François Rabelais, Tours, 1995, pp. 167-75.

Molinié, Georges, Dictionnaire de rhétorique, Le Livre de Poche, Librairie Générale Française, 1992.

Morier, Henri, Dictionnaire de poétique et de rhétorique, Presses Universitaires de France 1961.

Peacham, Henry, The Garden of Eloquence…, 1577, Scolar Press Facsimile 1971.

Sonnino, Lee A., A Handbook to Sixteenth-Century Rhetoric, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1968.

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Notes

1  Funnel.

2  the law.

3  Women.

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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Jean-Marie Maguin, « Words as the Measure of Measure for Measure: Shakespeare’s Use of Rhetoric in the Play », Sillages critiques [En ligne], 15 | 2013, mis en ligne le 10 janvier 2013, consulté le 29 juin 2017. URL : http://sillagescritiques.revues.org/2618

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Auteur

Jean-Marie Maguin

Jean-Marie Maguin est professeur émérite de littérature anglaise à l’Université Paul-Valéry – Montpellier 3, où il a co-fondé le Centre d’Études et de Recherches Élisabéthaines en 1970 (aujourd’hui Institut de Recherches sur la Renaissance, l’âge Classique et les Lumières, IRCL, UMR 5186 du CNRS), et la revue internationale Cahiers élisabéthains en 1972. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs livres parmi lesquels William Shakespeare (Fayard, 1996, avec Angela Maguin), et de nombreux articles consacrés à Shakespeare et ses contemporains. La rhétorique, et la poétique en général, ont constitué une préoccupation majeure dans son travail.
Jean-Marie Maguin is emeritus professor of English literature at Université Paul-Valéry – Montpellier 3, where he co-founded the Centre d’Études et de Recherches Élisabéthaines in 1970 (today Institut de Recherches sur la Renaissance, l’âge Classique et les Lumières, IRCL, UMR 5186 du CNRS), and the international journal Cahiers élisabéthains in 1972. He is the author of several books, amongst which William Shakespeare (Fayard 1996, with Angela Maguin) and many articles on Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Rhetoric, poetics in general, have been a steady concern in his work.
Institut de Recherches sur la Renaissance, l’Âge Classique et les Lumières (I.R.C.L.),UMR 5186 du CNRS, Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier 3
jmmaguin@wanadoo.fr

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