Measure for measure: original and actual place of setting

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Measure for measure: original and actual place of setting The present project entails an investigation on the eventual change of setting of Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure. The keys to resolve this task were found within the text itself and in some extra linguistic and historical facts surrounding the appearance of the First Folio, occurred not until 1623. Before taking into consideration every single fact witnessing for the text review let’s think about what collocation Shakespeare might have adopted for this particular play. Let’s remember that the play’s main points are lechery, hypocrisy, hard bargain, violation of law, all what was associated with the Italy of that time. Now, here there is the list of textual discrepancies that were suggested by the two

major Middleton’s scholars Gary Taylor and John Jowett: Personae list made of Italian names; Dialogue of Lucio with a soldier about king of Hungary; The news sheets talking about troops progression1; Mrs. Overdone remark about political situation in the country and danger to have her brothel demolished; Structural discrepancies include: Act division characteristic for the later tradition; Mariana’s song seeming irrelevant to the play’s style and plot. The importance of this investigation consists in revelation of original play’s circumstances. The time and place-bound circumstances are important if not essential markers in theatrical discourse. Gary Taylor 2 asserts that “spectators in the early seventeenth century, like their modern counterparts, could not have avoided

reading the play’s action in terms of its setting”. Even without stage scenery, the play’s setting is a signifier. Setting is a part of what Keir Elam 3 identifies as “the semiotics of theatre”, it is a part of a moral, symbolic, ideological, and “poetic geography”. For any early audience the setting has been part of visual experience. Shakespeare’s contemporaries knew that inhabitants of different parts of Europe dressed differently than Englishmen; and accordingly acting companies indicated geographical and cultural identity by characteristic peculiarities of costume. There is little information as to what the King’s Men company used as the scenery and costumes but the text itself suggests that the story is supposed to have happened in Vienna. The word

“Vienna” is spoken twice in the very first scene of Measure and is repeated again in the next scenes. But the name of this city for the original audience would have said little if anything at all. If Vienna meant anything particular in England in the period up to 1604, it was rather an “exposed outpost of Europe, the eastern bastion of Latin Christendom”1 . The point is that Vienna was constantly under the Turkish threat throughout the 16th century. Things became more complicated as Hungary and Bohemia were involved in these wars. In John Spielman’s book there is a detailed description of the events connected with the city of Vienna. It gives an account on the Turkish invasions: Turks smashed the Hungarian armies that had engaged without waiting for reinforcements. The

Emperor [Ferdinand I] immediately pressed his claim to the thrones of Hungary and Bohemia (1526-1564) as the husband of the dead [Hungarian] king’s sister, Anna. The inheritance brought with it the obligation to defend it all against the Turkish onslaught …Ottomans stopped before the city’s gates, in 1529….. 2. p.20 There are allusions to that famous siege in Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great and Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour. According to the chronicles of the city of Vienna, a further Ottoman attack on Vienna was repelled in 1533. In that year Ferdinand signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, splitting the Kingdom of Hungary into a Habsburg sector in the west and John Zápolya's domain in the east, the latter practically a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.