Thursday, March 4, 2010

Marriage for Marriage

What struck me about Measure for Measure--a play I had not seen or read or knew very much about--were the different ways that marriage was used. It seemed to involve both pain and punishment on the one hand, and pleasure and reward on the other.
Angelo is instructed to marry Mariana as a punishment for his deceit; Lucio must marry his whore as punishment for slandering the Duke. No wedded bliss for these four. There were condemned to look at each others' ugly mugs as payback for carnal knowledge.
But, lest we think marriage merely be a death sentence among the Elizabethan set, The Duke provides the only romantic spark by, improbably, asking Isabella to marry him. His offer is, by the parlance of today, a companionate union: " What's mine is yours and what is yours is mine."
Charming, I guess, but what can't help but wonder what the good Duke thinks of an institution that he can banish people to for crimes against the state

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