Printer Friendly

"Most ignorant of what he's most assured": the hermeneutics of predestination in Measure for Measure.

MEASURE for measure demonstrates a sustained preoccupation with the central, experiential challenge of predestination: the difficulty of knowing the preordained and unchangeable condition of souls, one's own as well as others'. Shakespeare's Vienna is a murky world of misperceptions with mortal consequences. Dead men's heads are indistinguishable. Souls are difficult to discern. The Duke lurks in dark corners disguised as a monk, "contend[ing] especially to know himself" (3.2.226-27). (1) His seemingly saintly deputy Angelo is secretly a corrupt coercer of virgins, an example of "what man may within him hide, / Though angel on the outward side" (3.2.264-65). Full of false appearances, the play continually troubles what characters "think" they "know" in questions of sin and virtue where the stakes are life and death (5.1.202-3). Claudio, afflicted with "incertain thought," awaiting death in prison for a crime that no one is sure is a crime, cries out, "Ay, but to die, and go we know not where" (3.1.126,117). Concentrating these broader tropes of indeterminacy in a specific language of grace and reprobation, Measure for Measure investigates predestinarian theology and its attendant forms of cultural judgment as an epistemological problem. (2)

Moreover, Measure for Measure does not simply thematize the indefinite hermeneutics of predestination; it performs them. Leading theatergoers through a series of interpretive bait-and-switches, the play disrupts the common practice of making assumptions on cultural grounds as to the election or reprobation of one's own or another's unknowable soul. Structurally, Measure for Measure repeatedly lures its audiences into predestinarian presumptions that it then undermines. Since the play's most prominent potential reprobate is the subject of multiple theatrical reversals of spiritual expectation, the cumulative effect is not to show playgoers' assessments of Angelo's soul to be wrong, but to render all such judgments uncertain. In the process of disrupting the quotidian interpretive practices of predestinarian culture, Measure for Measure surprises its audiences with a series of soliloquies that invite identification with the internal struggles of a puritan hypocrite. The play does more than symptomatically reflect the ambiguities of Calvinist doctrine; its basic dramatic forms and devices--plot twists, dramatic irony, soliloquies--defamiliarize entrenched habits of religious judgment and make available unexpected subject positions.

Recent scholarship on Measure for Measure has tended to focus on the play's engagement with political theology and puritan agendas of social reform. (3) This work usefully demonstrates the play's attention to the issues puritanism raises in terms of the relationship between Church and State. However, it tends to neglect the play's related interest in the private, experiential aspects and the more subjective, "street-level" ramifications of Calvinist doctrine. For example, while Peter Lake's magisterial treatment of Measure for Measure's "exposure and critique of a whole series of confusions and conflations between human and divine law and authority," including but not limited to criticism of puritan proposals for moral reform, does acknowledge the play's attention to the "affective style" of puritans, his argument nevertheless remains on the level of policy and political theology. (4) Insofar as godly attempts to self-separate from the wicked through social regulation had predestinarian underpinnings, my focus on the difficulty of reading the conditions of souls complements the work of Lake and others who deal with Measure for Measure's engagement with macropolitical questions of Christian justice and godly rule; and I will return in closing to the implications for the state of the spiritual question: how do I know who is saved and who is damned? First, however, I track this epistemological problem as it plays out on the more local scale of interpersonal interactions, subjective judgment, and self-examination. Despite injunctions against it, English Calvinists commonly presumed correlations between the conditions of souls and various markers of cultural identity--from the fervor of one's piety to the style of one's clothes. Through the distinctive capacity of theatrical form to orchestrate loosely collective responses that can jostle theatergoers out of their normal habits of thought, Measure for Measure unsettles one of the most ordinary practices of Calvinist culture: (mis)reading the unreadable signs of salvation or damnation in one's own soul or one's neighbors'. (5)

Interpreting the Unknowable: Predestinarian Culture

Doctrinally, the Church of England maintained that predestination is not a result of divine foreknowledge of human actions but proceeds solely from God's will. The elect are not chosen because God foresees they will be good, nor the reprobate rejected because God foresees they will be wicked; such an assertion would make salvation the result of works, not grace. Rather, the saved are saved and the damned are damned because God is God. (6) Faced with this difficult doctrine, English Protestants were given conflicting directives. On the one hand, God's judgments were secret, not bound by earthly reason, therefore human attempts to arrogate knowledge of an individual's election or reprobation were an affront to God's inscrutable sovereignty. Thus, it would be dangerous as well as uncharitable to presume that the godly (those who appeared holy, specifically puritans) and the elect (those whom God has actually chosen to save) or the wicked (people who sin) and reprobates (people going to Hell) were coterminous groups. As William Perkins admonishes in The Golden Chain, "No man may peremptorily set down, that he or any other is a reprobate. For God doth oftentimes prefer those, which did seem, to be most of all estraunged from his favor to be in his kingdom above those, who in man's judgement were the children of the kingdom. Hence it is that Christ saith: The Publicanes and harlots goe before you." (7) On the other hand, it was the serious, perhaps primary, religious duty of every English Protestant to examine his or her soul for evidence of saving grace and to read the book of the world for marks of divine judgment. So, despite the ambiguity of the signs of election and reprobation and despite injunctions like Perkins' against making peremptory predestinarian judgments, de facto speculation about souls was a ubiquitous practice.

The Church taught that it was indeed possible on earth to achieve a state of faith termed "assurance," that is, a legitimate conviction of one's personal salvation. To count oneself among the godly implied that one had or hoped to receive this sense of assurance.

Since fellow feeling with other chosen people was widely recognized as one of the chief signs of election, group and individual godly identity were mutually affirming. (8) However, fellow English Calvinists often regarded puritan spiritual confidence as a form of false assurance referred to as "security." (9) As one Jacobean sermon warns, "This over-venturous conceit that heaven is theirs ... is carnal securitie, not heavenly assurance." (10) George Chapman mocks the godly presumption of salvation and criticizes "bold Puritans (esteem'd elect)." (11)

However, this accusation was not leveled against puritans only by their detractors. The godly themselves, who tended toward heightened self-scrutiny, were more likely to be painfully aware that both the inner movements of piety and the outward signs of a holy life could be misleading. (12) Puritans were particularly concerned with the danger of unconscious spiritual hypocrisy. (13) In The Mystery of Selfe-Deceiving, published in eleven editions between 1614 and 1642, Daniel Dyke writes of those who possess only a temporary, not saving, faith:
   These men we see go very far, so that, as the Apostle speaketh,
   they are in some sort, made partakers of the holy Ghost, they taste
   of the powers of the world to come & expresse their inward grace by
   outward obedience, bringing forth fruit very speedily, far sooner
   than others, as the stonie ground is more quick & forward than
   other soiles. And yet for all this these also, being rotten at
   heart, are to be ranked in the number of self e-deceivers, as
   falsely judging themselves to be in a state of grace. (14)

One could embrace Christ's word, repent, feel spiritual blessings, live an outwardly holy life and still be damned. It was possible, for a time, to delude oneself with the false signs of sanctity or, as Perkins puts it, to "taste" of God's banquet without "feed[ing]." (15) Ultimately, it was understood, the reprobate would return to sin and despair. This distinction, however, was complicated by the belief that even the sanctified elect, while they could not finally or totally fall from grace, might continue to struggle with sin and doubt. In other words, even the godliest individual--whose inner life is touched by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who leads an outwardly holy life, indeed even an exceptionally virtuous life--might one day learn to his or her dismay that they are, as Calvin puts it, "not at all superior to devils." (16)

For many godly people, then, the search for signs of election produced both comfort and anxiety. As Nehemiah Wallington recounts:
   I was troubled againe for I thought I had binne a reprobate ... and
   looking upon the grasse my consince tolde me my sinnes were more in
   number than the speares of grasse.... [I was tempted to] drown
   myself ... And my God ... put into my mind that his mercies were
   more in number then my sinnes and if I have grace to repent for
   them, the Lords Name be praised for evermore. (17)

Wallington moves from reprobation to grace, from suicidal despair to consolation, within the space of a short paragraph. For him doubt and assurance are entangled. Wallington's consciousness of "sins more in number than spears of grass" summons his sense of "mercies more in number than my sins." This spiritual vacillation proceeds in part from the fact that the signs of salvation and damnation could be experientially identical. The abject awareness of sin Wallington describes could either be a mark of reprobation as he initially suspects or, as he then concludes, the precondition for receiving saving grace. Inversely, a firm persuasion of God's love and mercy could either be what it seems, evidence of election, or its doppelganger, false faith. Furthermore, despite the fact that puritan and prayerbook Protestants alike habitually interpreted external signs as evidence of God's favor or judgment, these signals too were uncertain and reversible, since both worldly prosperity and affliction could signal either reprobation or election. (18) Predestination, then, presented not only puritans but all English Protestants with a hermeneutic conundrum: the continual pressure to interpret signs that were, by definition, indeterminate.

Indeed, warnings in sermons and other religious texts against making overhasty negative predestinarian judgments often appear cheek-by-jowl beside headier passages casting aspersions on the salvific prospects of those guilty of the sin being censured. The Geneva Bible, for example, devotes nearly all the commentary on the Book of Job to an extended rejection of condemning as damned those who are "afflicted in outward things"; yet repeatedly marginal annotations throughout the translation use the terms "wicked" and "reprobate" interchangeably to identify the many vices and failures through which those eternally rejected by God may be known in this world. (19) Similarly, in the egregiously mistitled sermon "The Poor Man's Hope," John Gore acknowledges in passing that he "dare not [say] common beggars ... are all the seed of reprobates ... else God forbid" but immediately proceeds to describe the poor as "children of Beliall, without God, without Magistrate, without Minister; dissolute, disobedient, and reprobate." (20) Prescriptive warnings against making predestinarian judgments, then, should not be taken as evidence that such assumptions were rare; rather, these cautious disclaimers often appear alongside, and sometimes rhetorically excuse or enable, the very interpretive practice they disavow.

Reading reprobation in others was as much a form of cultural judgment as a matter of spiritual vigilance, and could demarcate a range of religious, economic, and behavioral battle lines. Sometimes the vituperative suggestion of reprobation, with varying degrees of explicitness, was directed against fellow Protestants with a different style of piety. (21) So, puritans might cast aspersions on the predestinarian prospects of their "lukewarm" neighbors. However, these less hotly reformed parishioners could in turn be quick to point to the moral failings of godly individuals as signs of spiritual hypocrisy, the absence of true saving grace. (22) Sometimes, the implication of reprobation was used to vilify the poor, as in John Gore's sermon above. But this condemnatory imputation could also be directed at targets higher up the economic ladder; popular ballads recount providential judgments signaling the damnation of corn hoarders, enclosers, and rack-renting landlords. (23) Sometimes lifestyle choices--the kind of sex one has or clothes one wears, the amount of time one spends in the alehouse--could prompt others, consciously or unconsciously, to group one among the damned. But determining what behavior constituted a sin grievous enough to count as a sign of damnation was highly relative.

Arthur Dent's The Plaine Mans Pathway to Heaven, Wherein every man may clearly see whether he shall be saved or damned--which went through twenty-five editions between 1601 and 1640, making it one of the most frequently reprinted books of the period--stages a discussion among Protestant speakers that demonstrates the difficulty of spiritually parsing these cultural signs. For example, Dent lists "Pride" as the first of nine "verie cleare and manifest signes of a mans condemnation." (24) The bulk of the section concerns pride of apparel. Asked by the prayerbook Protestant Asuntus, "What say you to these great ruffes?" the godly preacher Theologus replies, "For such things sake the wrath of God com eth." (25) Instead, he praises simple, modest clothes as the outward sign of a true Christian spirit. One of his less pious interlocutors points out that "one may be proud of plaine apparell." (26) The godly Philagathus crystallizes the problem by asking, "But who shall judge what is comely, sober, handsome, modest, &c? For every man and woman will say, their apparell is but decent and cleanly, how gallant, brave, and flaunting soever it be." (27) The point, then, is not that there was one group of people who were identified as reprobates by everyone else but that the cultural signs of reprobation were varied and relative; or to adapt Patrick Collinson's famous phrase: reprobates were half of a stressful relationship.

The early modern theatergoers who comprised the play's original audiences were likely as heterogeneous in their religious beliefs and practices as the larger population of London: that is, mostly conforming Church of England Calvinists, with varying degrees of piety and doctrinal understanding, among them some puritans, as well as some Catholics (who we should not assume were unaware of or uninterested in the psychic operations of the dominant religion). (28) While these audience members would have had diverse personal experiences of predestinarian culture, they were all surrounded by it. Not only was the doctrine an important part of the Calvinist consensus, uniting those who differed on points of ceremony and Church discipline; but predestinarian thinking--reading the world and the soul for signs of God's favor or rejection--saturated English popular culture from Paul's Cross sermons to cheap print tales of providential judgment. (29) These heterogeneous individual audience members doubtless took winding and divergent paths through Measure for Measure. (30) But theater happens in the threshold between "the audience," that hypothetical entity whose responses are implied in the dramatic text, and "audiences," demographically diverse, complex and unpredictable living people. (31) Below, then, I chart the ways that the play's formal dramatic features--devices as simple and fundamental as plot twists and soliloquies--direct playgoers' attention and sympathies in ways that unsettle the basic, broadly shared assumption that the conditions of souls are legible from cultural markers.

Misreading the Invisible in Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure's manipulation of audience expectation establishes and then challenges the presumption of a correlation between one's inward predestined condition and external, social status. In this play souls cannot be slotted into worldly categories. The godly magistrate may be a reprobate; the convict in chains may be a man with a well-ordered conscience, but conflating godliness and election is precisely the mistake the audience is initially led to make, the first in a series of predestinarian misjudgments the play invites in order to correct. The "precise" Angelo, as scholars have long acknowledged, would have been recognizable to early modern audiences as a puritan, one of the godly (1.3.50). (32) He is also introduced in terms that suggest he is--or is perceived to be--among God's chosen. The fact that theater audiences are habituated to quickly distinguishing heroes from villains by extrapolating from the details through which characters are introduced, makes the drama particularly equipped to exploit and ultimately unsettle this elision of predestinarian status and its external perception. Alongside the obvious connotations of the name "Angelo," he is addressed twice in the opening scene in language that evokes election. Within the first twenty lines of the play--and only two lines after Angelo is first named--the Duke announces, "For you must know, we have with special soul / Elected him our absence to supply" (1.1.17-18). Although this statement literally means simply, I have with special care and all the faculties of mind chosen him to fill my place, the phrase "special soul / Elected" in a conversation about a man of conspicuous piety alerts listeners to a predestinarian subtext. This resonates a few lines later when the Duke declares to Angelo, "We have with a leaven'd and prepared choice / Proceeded to you" (1.1.51-52). Describing the precise Angelo as the "leaven'd ... choice" invokes a familiar metaphor used to describe the relationship between true Christians and Christians in name only. It was a commonplace of puritan culture that the Church of England was validated as a true Church by the presence of a godly/ elect minority among the unredeemed, imperfectly reformed majority of English Christians, a "saving remnant" often referred to as "the leaven that leavens the lump." (33) The opening scene, then, presents Angelo to the audience in terms that establish not only his godliness but also the presumption of his election, thereby implicitly establishing a relationship in which the former serves as the sign of the latter.

The dramatic expectation that godliness indexes election and wickedness signals reprobation is further established in the first two scenes by the contrasting presentation on stage of two visually distinctive sets of characters. In the opening scene a grave Duke and two godly magistrates discuss how best to enforce the city's strict sex laws. In the scene that immediately follows, profligate gentlemen flout the morality laws in friendly banter with a madam and a sex criminal in chains. Costume likely accentuated the visual contrast between these two groups. Angelo, who takes secret pride in the "gravity" of his "habit" (2.4.9-15), may have been dressed in a style of plain clothes that would identify him as a puritan, on stage at least, or perhaps he and Escalus simply wore somber robes appropriate to their office; whereas the Folio's list of characters identifies Lucio as "a Fantastic" suggesting him to be foppishly attired. (34) As the pious magistrates exit the stage and the whoremongers enter, spectators likely take for granted that they can tell who is the leaven and who is the lump.

However, the dialogue that follows begins to unsettle the audience's expectation that implied spiritual groups match visible cultural ones. The libertine Lucio jokes with his companions:

Lucio: Grace is grace, despite of all controversy; as for example thou art thyself a wicked villain, despite of all grace.

1 Gent: Well, there went but a pair of shears between us.

Lucio: I grant: as there may between the lists and the velvet. Thou art the list.

1 Gent: And thou the velvet; thou art good velvet; thou'rt a three-piled piece, I warrant thee: I had as lief be a list of an English kersey, as be piled, as thou art piled, for a French velvet. Do I speak feelingly now?

Lucio: I think thou dost: and indeed, with most painful feeling of thy speech. I will, out of thine own confession, learn to begin thy health; but whilst I live, forget to drink after thee.

1 Gent: I think I have done myself wrong, have I not?

2 Gent: Yes, that thou hast; whether thou art tainted or free. (1.2.24-40)

Their banter tosses back and forth casual predestinarian speculation. Lucio teasingly calls his friend a reprobate: "thou art thyself a wicked villain despite of all grace." Gentleman 1 retorts that if he is damned, he has Lucio's company. But his proverb, equivalent to the modern saying "cut from the same cloth," introduces an image of separation--"a pair of shears between us"--even as it asserts their spiritual sameness. Lucio picks up this suggestion and expands upon it to reassert the invisible spiritual divide in terms of visible class difference. His revision of the metaphor makes the split between the regenerate and the reprobate analogous to the cut between "the lists and the velvet"; that is, between luxury fabric and disposable scraps. (35) Yet the added clarification, "Thou art the list," itself suggests the possibility of swapping positions. And indeed, like the potentially endless children's reciprocal taunt "I know you are but what am I?" the Gentlemen's riposte readapts the metaphor to reverse their roles. With the threadbare, worn "velvet" now referring to hair-loss from mercury treatments, the difference between the saved and damned is reconfigured in terms of the less apparent distinction between healthy men and those infected with venereal disease. Lucio's comeback, that the Gentleman sounds like he knows all too well what he is talking about, leaves his interlocutor uncomfortably aware--as Angelo in a more serious register will become later--of having somehow entangled himself in the very sexual/spiritual category he was so insistent to avoid: "I think I have done myself wrong, have I not?" The closing phrase to this exchange, "whether thou art tainted or free," differentiated from the preceding dialogue because delivered by a new speaker and punctuated by the arrival of Mistress Overdone, leaves the state of the Gentleman's genitals and soul conspicuously uncertain. The reversibility of predestinarian positions in this flyting match, and the baffling effect of this indeterminacy on the Gentleman, launches the play's running dramatization of the practical impossibility, whether the soul in question is one's own or another's, of telling the saved from the damned.

The distinction between respectable and disreputable individuals--so crisp in the transition between the scenes--becomes increasingly blurred. Pompey reports that while all the brothels in the suburbs are to be torn down, those in the city will remain untouched because "a wise burgher put in for them" (1.2.92); in other words, whorehouses are maintained by good citizens. The indeterminacy of the upright and the degenerate introduced in this scene recurs throughout Measure for Measure, even at the level of the line. The play is full of moral oxymorons: "sanctimonious pirate" (1.2.7), "devilish mercy" (3.1.64), "notorious benefactors" (2.1.50), "precise villains" (2.1.54), "damned Angelo" (4.3.123). The earnest, dimwitted constable Elbow delivers a scene's worth of malapropisms that replace respectable words with their dodgy antonyms and vice versa: "profanation" for veneration (2.1.55), "cardinally" for carnally (2.1.79), "benefactors" for malefactors (2.1.51-52), "respected" for suspected (2.1.159-73). Even the name of the executioner, Abhorson, which jams together "abhor" and "whoreson," suggests both "ab [from] whore / whore's son" and "abhors whores." (36) His portmanteau name yoking opposite extremes of sin and virtue, the executioner's elliptical insistence on the "mystery" of his craft evokes the unknowable that attends death (4.2.26-39). In the comic trial scene, Pompey the bawd tries to get Froth the john acquitted for whatever obscene act was attempted on Elbow's wife. He beseeches Escalus, "Look in this gentleman's face ... Look ... Doth your honour mark his face? ... mark it well ... Doth your honour see any harm in his face?" (2.1.145-51). Pompey's spurious defense of Froth is a reductio ad absurdum of the play's central recurring problem: the inability to judge inner conditions by outward appearances.

Claudio's first lines onstage give this ambiguation of vice and virtue explicitly predestinarian implications. Forced by the deputy Angelo to do public penance for his crime, Claudio complains:
   Thus can the demi-god, Authority,
   Make us pay down for our offense by weight.
   The words of heaven; on whom it will, it will;
   On whom it will not, so; yet still 'tis just.


Explicitly marked as a scriptural quote, "The words of heaven," Claudio's lines closely paraphrase Romans 9:15-18, "I wil have mercie on him, to whome I wil shewe mercie: and wil have compassion on him, on whome I wil have compassion ... he hathe mercie on whome he wil & whom he wil, he hardeneth," one of the key biblical proof texts for the doctrine of predestination. Claudio's point, as is clear from his subsequent exchange with Lucio, is that Angelo is unjustly condemning him as arbitrarily as if he were God, whose inscrutable will alone determines election and reprobation. (37) This caustically ironic reference to scripture delivered at the moment of heightened dramatic attention, Claudio's entrance under arrest, highlights the gap between divine and earthly "judgments," that is, between God's secret, immutable decrees and imperfect human attempts to imitate his justice.

Sympathy for the (Potential) Reprobate

Measure for Measure's central plot twist, that the outwardly holy Angelo, the man so pure his "urine is congealed ice," turns out to be a corrupt, would-be rapist and potential reprobate clearly dramatizes the dangers of conflating cultural and presumed spiritual status (3.2.106-7). The more emotionally engaging revelation, however, is not that Angelo is wicked, but that his secret hypocrisy is a surprise even to himself. The play prompts audiences to expect the discovery of the abstemious Lord Angelo's hidden "appetite" at the close of 1.3, when the Duke announces the exposure of Angelo's character as a motive for his monastic disguise, ending the scene with the tantalizing couplet, "Hence shall we see / ... what our seemers be" (1.3.52-54). The revelation these lines anticipate is the familiar exposure of the base desires of the hypocritically pious that Kristen Poole has shown was a stock feature of stage representations of puritans since the anti-Martinist plays of 1589. (38) However, unlike Malvolio in Twelfth Night who privately indulges in erotic fantasies, Angelo is disturbed to discover in himself a carnal craving. By reversing the expectations of the reversal of expectations--making the holy Angelo not only a hypocrite but an unwitting one--the play further unsettles the audience's sense of complacency in reading spiritual states. Unexpectedly, Measure for Measure unearths not simply the secret sins of a smooth-faced puritan, but the inner struggles of a self-deceiver. (39) Angelo is a caricature with tragic interiority. Given the most frequent and most complex soliloquies in the play, this dramatically privileged subjectivity offers audiences a potentially damned, puritan hypocrite as an unlikely figure of identification through whom to negotiate the primary emotional problem of predestination shared across the Calvinist spectrum: reprobation anxiety.

Angelo's first soliloquy presents his moral crisis in the specific language of reprobation:
   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.


The image of the carrion and the flower was commonly used in Calvinist tracts to explain why God is not to blame for the sins of reprobates. (40) For example, William Barton's Exposition of the Lord's Prayer explains the metaphor in the following exchange:

Q. How else can you prove that God is the author of the action, and not of the corruption that is in it?

A. By the very light of nature & common reason. For, the Sunne shineth upon carrion, and it stinketh more than it did before. It shineth also upon flowers, and they smell more sweete than they did before, the Sunne is the cause of their smelling more then they did: but not of the stinking of the one, nor of the sweetness of the other, for the cause of that is in the nature of the things themselves. So may God be the author of an action and not of the corruption of the action. (41)

Similarly Gervase Babington, future Bishop of Worchester, compares the sun to God, the stinking carcass to a reprobate soul, and sweet flowers to the elect. (42) Like Burton and Babington, Angelo frames the flower/carcass image as an explanation of why the ostensible "cause" (Isabella) is not to blame for sin but simply reveals the inherently corrupt nature of the sinner (himself). The close correspondence between the terms and logic of these texts suggest the flower-elect/carcass-reprobate metaphor was a commonplace that would have been recognizable to early modern theatergoers. (43) The suggestion of "carrion" damnation is reinforced a few lines later when Angelo, horrified at his own desires, asks himself "What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?" (2.2.173). Coming just three lines after the image of the reprobate carcass, the move from "dost" to "art" shows the chillingly swift fallacious logic at the heart of the interpretive practices of predestinarian culture. It indicates a shift from thinking of his lust as an isolated sinful impulse to considering it evidence of what he "is": damned.

Not only does Angelo, against Perkins' warning, "peremptorily set down that he ... is a reprobate," he also expresses an awareness of his particular position as a "white devil" or "self-deceiver," an unconscious spiritual hypocrite. He laments, "O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint, / With saints dost bait thy hook!" (2.2.180-81). While Julia Lupton productively reads these lines as a reference to the temptation of desert hermits like St. Jerome with visions of virtuous women, in the context of the "precise" Angelo's reprobation anxiety the more immediate sense of "saints" would be its use among puritans as a synonym for "the godly" that suggests their assurance of election. (44) The line continues, "Most dangerous / Is that temptation that doth goad us on / To sin in loving virtue" (2.2.181-83). Together these lines connect the sexual temptation presented by the chaste Isabella to a more abstract sense in which the love of virtue itself can pose a spiritual threat, the danger of self-complacency. Later, Angelo speaks of his "gravity / Wherein ... I take pride" (2.4.9-10); and decries his apparent virtue as "false seeming!" (2.4.15). Cumulatively these lines present Angelo's failing as a form of unhealthy, prideful cultivation of things that are in themselves good. This is precisely the trap of "security" that books like Dyke's Mystery of Selfe-Deceiving sought to expose.

However, Angelo elicits audience sympathy even as he articulates a subject position outside the bonds of Christian community. (Comparing reprobates to devils, the preacher William Burton instructs his parishioners, "nay we ought not to pray for all, because all shall not be saved.") (45) Dramatically the speech encourages emotional identification with a speaker who implicates himself as reprobate. It is the first soliloquy in the play, which foregrounds and privileges the audience's access to Angelo's interiority. The audience and Angelo discover his hypocrisy together, aligning their perspectives. The evidence he marshals of his own reprobation is presented rhetorically in ways that stress his flustered vulnerability. "What's this? What's this?" he begins, bewildered by his own lust for Isabella (2.2.163). The quick succession of questions, eleven in twenty-six lines, registers his confusion; thirty-two caesuras mark his fitful agitation; and fourteen extrametrical lines suggest his breathlessness. (46) In contrast to the measured logic with which he publicly justifies his rulings elsewhere in the play, the audience here sees a man rapidly changing his mind. Abruptly, he declares, after a caesura, "O, let her brother live!" (2.2.175). His jumbled, nonsequential sentences signal emotional upheaval and loss of control. Overcome, Angelo confesses that the virtuous Isabella "Subdues me quite" (2.2.186). The only metrically short line in a speech full of run-ons, the text underscores this admission of defeat with a pause. This beat also accentuates the concluding statement, "Ever till now / When men were fond, I smil'd, and wonder'd how" (2.2.186-87), which not only builds depth of character by divulging Angelo's hitherto blank erotic history and marks a growth in awareness, but also newly includes cold fish Angelo in the community of men who love. Indeed, at this point in the play spectators unfamiliar with the source material may anticipate, not the scene of sexual coercion that later follows, but rather an odd-couple romance between godly Angelo and would-be nun Isabella, who despite their confessional differences are matched temperamentally in their legalistic thinking and ardent sexual purity. In other words, at this moment Angelo is both the play's potential reprobate and potential romantic hero.

When Angelo reappears a short scene later his second soliloquy deepens both the audience's awareness of his alienation from God and their sympathetic engagement with his emotional turmoil. He begins bemoaning his inability to pray, "Heaven hath my empty words" (2.4.2), and describing the affairs of state on which he can no longer concentrate as, "like a good thing being often read / Grown sere and tedious" (2.4.8-9), echoing puritan complaints of spiritual dryness, a troubling potential indication of a lack of saving grace. While the soliloquy amplifies the signs that he is not a child of God--he considers adopting "the devil's crest" (2.4.17)--it also intensifies the intimacy of theatergoers' relationship to an emotionally exposed Angelo. By implication Angelo's opening declaration that he can only offer Heaven "empty words" positions the audience as a privileged auditor of thoughts more personal than prayer, an effect strengthened by the interjection, "let no man hear me" (2.4.10). The Angelo uncovered here is a man undone by desire, unable to pray or work, disillusioned with the gap between his public identity and inward sin, convinced of his damnation. In contrast to Richard Ill's cheekily cruel declaration of his intent to seduce Anne ("What, I that kill'd her husband and her father?"), (47) Angelo is so overwhelmed by Isabella's impending entrance that he feels faint: "Why does my blood thus muster to my heart, / Making it both unable for itself, / And dispossessing all my other parts / Of necessary fitness?" (2.4.20-23). After a metrical pause, perhaps an implied cue for a moment of wooziness, Angelo describes his heart as like "one that swounds" and the blood that rushes towards it as like "foolish throngs" that block the air by crowding in "obsequious fondness" and "untaught love" (2.4.24, 28, 27). Literally lovesick, Angelo is so overwrought that even his emotions have emotions.

Nothing in this vulnerable soliloquy anticipates the attempted rape and extreme abuse of power in the following exchange with Isabella. Indeed, Angelo's last explicit comment on Claudio's case before he attempts to use it to extort sex from the novice nun implies he will "let her brother live!" Though early in the conversation Angelo suggests exchanging sex for a pardon, this possibility is carefully couched in hypothetical terms: "I'll not warrant that" (2.4.59), "I subscribe not that" (2.4.89), "such a person" (2.4.91), "this suppos'd" (2.4.97). While audience members can see the ugly direction in which the dialogue is headed, Angelo's cagy reluctance to directly proposition Isabella also makes it by no means certain that the interview will end as it does, with Angelo demanding sex by threatening Claudio's death and torture. Indeed, at least initially the joke (one not entirely unsympathetic to Angelo) is the awkwardness of his ineffectual attempt to leverage sex from the innocently uncomprehending Isabella. Sharing in the secret of his attraction to her subjectively aligns the audience with Angelo for the first hundred lines of the exchange before he delivers his ultimatum. This dramatic irony attunes theatergoers' to Angelo's desire and discomfort, producing not only suspense but comedy, as when Isabella passionately declares that to preserve her chastity, "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" (2.4.101-3), unconscious of the effect of the image of her naked, flagellated, longing body on her interlocutor; or when Angelo responds to Isabella's acknowledgment that she strategically downplays her brother's offense with deadpan irony: "We are all frail" (2.4.121).

The assault on Isabella jerks spectators out of alignment with Angelo's emotional perspective. (48) Having been led to sympathize with this unlikely figure--the hypocritical puritan and potential reprobate--Angelo's volte-face mid-scene from swooning lover to sex "tyrant" confronts theatergoers with another failure to read inner states (2.4.168). Abruptly shifting the tone of the conversation, Angelo switches from cautious hypotheticals to lecherous imperatives: "let me be bold" (2.4.132). The startling attack seems to confirm what spectators have been told about Angelo by Angelo himself: that he is carrion. His sexual demand is framed in terms that recall a common distinction in Calvinist thought between those who are still "of the corrupted and damned stocke of Adam" and those who are "regenerate in Christe." (49) This context is established in the initial encounter when Isabella pleads with Angelo to spare Claudio by asking him to remember the mercy he himself hopes to receive from God: "O think on that, / And mercy then will breathe within your lips, / Like man new made" (2.2.77-79). The phrase "man new made" invokes the process of "regeneration" in which the Holy Spirit works on the soul of the elect, producing a spiritual rebirth. (50) Isabella's reference to the passage in Genesis in which God brings Adam to life by breathing into his nostrils reinforces this sense of "man new made," since regeneration was understood as the beginning of purification from Adam's sin. By contrast Angelo's private recognition, "Blood, thou art blood" (2.4.15), suggests the kind of entrapment in the body associated with the old Adam. The specific terms of Angelo's insistence that Isabella capitulate to "my sensual race," "my sharp appetite," "my will" corroborate his fleshly unregeneracy (2.4.159,160,163). The effect of Angelo's vile proposition to Isabella is to disorient spectators with the discovery of what has already been revealed to them: Angelo's wickedness. That theatergoers might experience surprise at this point in the play at the manifestation of the deputy's depravity--even after it has been described to them at length by Angelo himself--only further points up spectators' failure to properly assess spiritual conditions. Indeed, the exposed subjectivity presented by the first two soliloquies impairs theatergoers' ability to interpret Angelo. Intimate access to his romantic twitterpation allows spectators to sympathize with Angelo's fear of reprobation. But when Angelo's sudden willingness to rape, torture and murder seems to substantiate his own assumption that he is damned, playgoers are likely to be alienated by their error of emotional judgment.

Yet, when the play rejoins Angelo he is remorseful, prompting audiences to again re-evaluate his inner being. (51) Despite the fact that at this point he believes he has coercively raped Isabella, executed Claudio, and gotten away with it all, surprisingly, Angelo reappears onstage not as the sex-crazed tyrant exulting in his wickedness last seen with Isabella, but full of self-recrimination. His final soliloquy begins, "This deed unshapes me quite," returning to the vulnerability evident in his earlier speeches (4.4.18). He oscillates between his sense of guilt for the crime and his fear of detection and punishment. (52) Caesuras twice mark breaks from sentences rehearsing reasons he will not be caught to show Claudio's death intruding on Angelo's thoughts: "He should have liv'd" (4.4.26) and "Would yet he had lived" (4.4.30). Angelo interprets this divided contrition as evidence of his damnation: "Alack, when once our grace we have forgot, / Nothing goes right; we would, and we would not" (4.4.31-32). He understands both his sin and his inability to fully repent as "backsliding," the disappearance of false or temporary grace. (53) Since it was a familiar doctrinal point that the truly elect could not fully fall from grace, a principle referred to as the "perseverance of the saints," theatergoers would have recognized Angelo's implicit, overhasty logic and the conclusion to which he leaps: the elect cannot fall from grace; I have, therefore I am a reprobate. Angelo's rash assessment of his own soul is delivered in a rhyming couplet that ends the scene, giving it the apparent moral authority of an adage. However, the validity of Angelo's despairing closing couplet is qualified by the scene's dramatic irony. The audience knows, as Angelo does not, that the bed and head tricks have spared Isabella's virginity and Claudio's life, making him technically not guilty of the rape and murder he intended, since these crimes (as Isabella points out later) were never actually committed. The Duke's ruse anticipates a comic resolution to tragic circumstances, leaving open the possibility of Angelo's recuperation by the structures of the plot.

Measure for Measure insists on the opacity of souls, even Angelo's. While the deputy is implied to be a secret reprobate for most of the first four acts, in the final scene Angelo's spiritual condition is left ambiguous. When his crimes are discovered, Angelo asks for death not mercy:
   O my dread lord,
   I should be guiltier than my guiltiness
   To think I can be undiscernible,
   When I perceive your Grace, like power divine,
   Hath looked upon all my passes. Then, good prince,
   No longer session hold upon my shame,
   But let my trial be mine own confession.
   Immediate sentence, then, and sequent death
   Is all the grace I beg.


Clearly, the speech establishes a parallel between the Duke's clandestine surveillance of his crimes and God's total knowledge of his soul. The closing phrase "death is all the grace I beg" is, theologically, a contradiction in terms. Angelo's desire to die is a sign of despair, a state into which the elect, those with grace, theoretically cannot fall. When Escalus expresses pity that such a man should sin so grossly, Angelo responds, "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" (5.1.472-74). While Angelo is still suicidal, as for Wallington above, these lines suggest another possible spiritual condition, the abject repentance of a soul not lost to God. In one sense, the Duke's reprieve invites audiences to presume that God extends Angelo the same mercy. But the Duke's lines complicate this assumption: "By this Lord Angelo perceives he's safe; / Methinks I see a quickening in his eye. / Well, Angelo, your evil quits you well" (5.1.492-94). On one hand, the remark implies that Angelo's penitence was simply another holy pretense. On the other hand, "quickening" may suggest regeneration, a sign of the "new man." Indeed, "quit" in the sentence above might mean either "your evil serves you well" or "your evil leaves you well"; that is, the play reveals Angelo's secret sins only to leave his real spiritual state undetermined. (54)

Throughout, then, the play's attention to Angelo's interiority baffles popular Calvinist practices of predestinarian assessment. Angelo's cultural identity as a godly man is shown to be an unreliable indicator of the predestined condition of his soul. Moreover, instead of revealing his "true state," Angelo's self-diagnosis as one of the damned is itself undermined by the play's comic resolution. The intimacy and vulnerability of his soliloquies invite the audience to sympathize with Angelo precisely when he is most convinced he is, to paraphrase Calvin, no better than a devil. The process of continually calling on the audience to revise what they think they know--and feel--about Angelo's soul, does not replace a misperception of his election with an accurate understanding of his reprobation, but rather confounds the possibility of discerning souls from either external or internal signs.

Back to the State, or, How to Rule (Potential) Reprobates

Having argued that the play unsettles the quotidian, "common sense" predestinarian interpretive practices of Calvinist theatergoers, I return now to the macropolitical implications of this uncertain hermeneutic for the state's relationship to its sinner-subjects. Through the figure of Barnardine the Bohemian murderer, pardoned by the Duke despite his own confession to the crime, Measure for Measure confronts the limits of secular justice over unknowable, already-judged souls. The play marks Barnardine as a reprobate but also insists on the dubiousness of that label. His pardon in the closing scene models the ne plus ultra of earthly law. (55)

The Provost who oversees the prison refers to Barnardine as "this reprobate." The word appears only four times in extant Shakespeare and only once, here, as a noun referring to a person. (56) An entirely superfluous character in terms of plot, Barnardine literalizes a set of metaphors that describe reprobation as a drunken sleep from which one wakes to die. Imprisoned nine years awaiting execution, Barnardine stays alive in jail by staying drunk: "Drunk many times a day, if not many days entirely drunk" (4.2.147-48). He is, in the Provost's words, "A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully but as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless of what's past, present or to come: insensible of mortality and desperately mortal" (4.2.140-43). This account of Barnardine builds on the common injunction in sermons and devotional texts to be watchful Christians, to await Christ's return attentively like the wise virgins of the parable and unlike the unregenerate "[who] slept in sinne ... not minding God nor their owne saluation." (57) When Pompey summons him, "Master Barnardine! You must rise and be hanged, Master Barnardine!" (4.3.22-23), he replies: "Away, you rogue away; I am sleepy," and, "I have been drinking all night; I am not fitted for it" (4.3.29, 42-43). This exchange literalizes a set of tropes that describe the reprobate on the Day of Judgment as sleepers waking to death. As the Scottish minister Robert Rollock writes, "the bodie of the elect shall rise [to glory] ... the body of the reprobate is not said to sleep, as it is, to ly dead; for, the rising of it is but to death." (58) Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, also speaks of the predestined damned as sleepers who will only wake to their destruction, "As for the reprobate they ... are so hard and fast a sleepe, that they will neuer stirre, vntill fire out of heauen flee about their eares to waken them." (59) Sleepy, drunk, spiritually unprepared, and summoned to death, Barnardine is an emblem of reprobation.

However, if the play classifies Barnardine as a reprobate, it undermines the certainty of that label by also identifying him as a faker, not what he seems. The name "Barnardine" is the term for a trick for cheating at cards in which the mark is distracted by a partner, the Barnard, who feigns drunkenness. (60) Just before Barnardine first appears onstage Pompey delivers a monologue describing the many young men in prison he recognizes from his former employment with Mistress Overdone the bawd, all twelve of whom have symbolic names, e.g., "Master Shoe-tie the great traveller" (4.3.17), most of them suggestive of a louche mileu, such as "Master Deepvow" (4.3.13), and "young Drop-heir that killed lusty Pudding" (4.3.15-16). This list of seedy monikers attunes auditors to the confidence game reference in Barnardine's name, immediately reinforced by the fact that appearing drunk is indeed the trick that keeps him alive. Barnardine's drunkenness, then, is both the symbol of his reprobation and a false sign.

This figure, both a personification of the predestined damned and a walking wink-and-nudge, prompts conflicting audience responses. Barnardine is a disturbing character, blase toward his own mortality, as the Duke puts it, "Unfit to live or die! O gravel heart" (4.3.63). However, he is also extremely funny, pleading a hangover to get out of hanging, casually chatting up the executioner, "How now, Abhorson? What's the news with you?" (4.3.39). Barnardine, the man too drunk to die, is a likely favorite with pleasure-seeking theatergoers. Unable to execute or release him, the Provost proposes to "omit / This reprobate till he were well inclined" and instead use the head of the dead pirate Ragozine as a decoy (4.3.72-73). Despite the irony that "well inclined" reprobates are still reprobates, the Provost's apparent willingness to indefinitely defer Barnardine's sentencing suggests the legal system's inadequacy to the task of regulating souls that remain inscrutable even when labeled.

Like Angelo, Barnardine the "reprobate" is given a reprieve in the play's closing scene. The Duke addresses the prisoner:
   Sirrah, thou art said to have a stubborn soul
   That apprehends no further than this world,
   And squar'st thy life according. Thou'rt condemn'd;
   But, for those earthly faults, I quit them all,
   And pray thee take this mercy to provide
   For better times to come. Friar, advise him;
   I leave him to your hand.


The Duke's speech distinguishes between the failings of Barnardine's "stubborn soul" and his "earthly faults." The phrasing implies that Barnardine is condemned for more than falls under the Duke's purview to "quit." While the scene as a whole establishes a parallel between the Duke's judgment and God's--"your Grace, like power divine / Hath looked upon all my passes"--this closing acknowledgment of sins beyond the Duke's power to forgive suggests a view of human judgments as, at best, provisional and imperfect rehearsals of unknowable judgments already made by God. The play's opening imagines a rigid system of justice operating in a world where the saved can be distinguished from the wicked; its ending, an extended deferral to the ultimate Judge.

Throughout, the play does more than simply reflect the hermeneutic problem of predestination endemic to Calvinist culture; rather, the formal pressures of Measure for Measure disrupt deeply entrenched habits of predestinarian judgment. Through some of the most basic mechanisms of drama--plot twists, dramatic irony, and soliloquy--the play unsettles the everyday practice of reading both external and internal signs as markers of election or reprobation. Instead, Measure for Measure offers audiences a more fluid model for negotiating the interpretive challenge of predestination, one better attuned to the perils of making spiritual assumptions on cultural grounds and therefore more willing to remain suspended in uncertainty, more open to unexpected forms of sympathy and identification.


(1.) William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, ed. J.W. Lever (London: Arden, 2006). All citations will appear parenthetically in the main body of the text.

(2.) Making a related claim, Huston Diehl calls attention to Measure for Measure's emphasis on the hermeneutic problem of mistaking signs for the spiritual things they represent, see " 'Infinite Space': Representation and Reformation in Measure for Measure," Shakespeare Quarterly 49, no. 4 (Winter 1998): 393-410. My argument differs from Diehl's both in content, as Diehl does not attach the problem of knowing in the play to its running exploration of predestinarian theology, and more broadly in terms of the impact of theater on religious discourse, as Diehl describes the play as deploying Calvinist representational paradigms to draw its audiences into a reformed mode of seeing and moral judgment, whereas I claim that the play's dramatic strategies disrupt interpretive practices endemic to Calvinist culture. Claire Griffiths-Osborne similarly notes Measure for Measure's preoccupation with distinguishing outward appearances from inward spiritual truths in her discussion of the way the play juxtaposes Catholic auricular confession against Calvinist casuistry and public penance, see " 'The Terms for Common Justice': Performing and Reforming Confession in Measure for Measure," Shakespeare 5, no.1 (April 2009): 36-51. Certainly, the gap between interiority and exteriority has long been understood as an ubiquitous obsession of early modern English drama. See Katherine Eisaman Maus, Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). However, my interest is in the particular work this theatrical preoccupation does in context of predestinarian culture. For a broader discussion of how English theater practitioners and the clergy shared an engagement with epistemological problems fundamental to Christianity, see Bryan Crockett, The Play of Paradox: Stage and Sermon in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).

(3.) For an example of earlier readings of the play as Christian allegory, see Roy W. Battenhouse, "Measure for Measure and the Christian Doctrine of Atonement," PMLA 61 (1946): 1029-59. For a deflation of Christian allegorical readings, with a short discussion of the play's inclusion of biblical references to election and reprobation, see Howard C. Cole, "The 'Christian' Context of Measure for Measure," The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 64, no. 3 (July 1965): 447-48, 451. For a less rigid allegorical reading and discussion of the play's engagement with anti-monastic literature, see Darryl Gless, Measure for Measure, the Law, and the Convent (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979). For an alternative thread of political readings of the play as particularly engaged with the issues related to the rule of the newly crowned James I, see Richard Levin, "The King James Version of Measure for Measure," Clio 3 (1974): 129-63; Jonathan Goldberg, Shakespeare and the Politics of Literature (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989); Andrew Barnaby and Joan Wry, "Authorized Versions: Measure for Measure and the Politics of Biblical Translation," Renaissance Quarterly 51, no. 4 (Winter 1989): 1225-54; and Robert N. Watson, "False Immortality in Measure for Measure: Comic Means, Tragic Ends," Shakespeare Quarterly 41, no. 4 (Winter 1990): 411-32.

(4.) Peter Lake with Michael Questier, The Antichrist's Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papist and Players in Post-Reformation England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 668, 672. For a related reading of the play in the context of puritan projects of moral reform, particularly the regulation of social behavior, with an acknowledgment of the desire of the godly to distinguish themselves from reprobates, see Martha Widmayer, " 'To Sin in Loving Virtue': Angelo of Measure for Measure," Texas Studies in Literature and Language 49, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 156. For a reading of the play as critical of excessively rigorous puritan enforcements of common law, see Maurice Hunt, "Being Precise in Measure for Measure," Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 58, no. 4 (Summer 2006): 243-67. For a discussion of the way the play deploys theatrical pleasure to align the audience with more tolerant forms of regulating sexual behavior against extremely punitive puritan proposals, see Victoria Hayne, "Performing Social Practice: The Example of Measure for Measure," Shakespeare Quarterly 44, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 1-29. For an earlier discussion of the way the play's biblical references establish a parallel between the Duke and God, but one that functions ironically to underscore the limits of that comparison, see Louise Schleiner, "Providential Improvisation in Measure for Measure," PMLA 97, no. 2 (March 1982): 227-36. Debora Kuller Shuger's important study of the play's negotiation of competing puritan and "Anglican" forms of Christian justice, Political Theologies in Shakespeare's England (New York: Palgrave, 2001), deals with the soul only insofar as it is subject to punitive or penitential discipline in these respective models of Christian rule. For a discussion of the play as mediating a different intra-Protestant dispute between Lutherans and Anabaptists regarding conflicting relationships of justice and mercy, see Stacy Magedanz, "Public Justice and Christian Mercy in Measure for Measure," Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 44, no. 2 (Spring 2004): 31732. For the argument that the play carves a domain of citizenship out from sacramentality, see Julia Reinhard Lupton, Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 127-57. For a discussion of the way the play's economic language mediates between the older Christian model of a corpus mysticum and the idea of a body politic in a Post-Reformation commonwealth see Jennifer R. Rust, " 'Coining God's Image': The Fiscal Theology of the Mystical Body in Measure for Measure" in The Body in Mystery: The Political Theology of the Corpus Mysticum in Post-Reformation English Literature (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2013).

(5.) For discussions of the ways the formal features of early modern English plays could shape the responses of their audiences see E. A. J. Honigmann, Shakespeare: Seven Tragedies Revisited, The Dramatist's Manipulation of Response (London: Macmillan, 1976); Jean Howard, Shakespeare's Art of Orchestration: Stage Technique and Audience Response (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984); David Richman, Laughter, Pain, and Wonder: Shakespeare's Comedies and the Audience in the Theater (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990); and Kent Cartwright, Shakespearean Tragedy and Its Double: The Rhythms of Audience Response (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991).

(6.) As John Calvin summarizes, "God, by His eternal goodwill, which has no cause outside itself, destined those whom He pleased to salvation, rejecting the rest." Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1961), 58.

(7.) William Perkins, Golden Chain (Cambridge, 1597), 211. For an articulation of Perkins's centrality to the theological development of the Church of England, see Brian D. Spinks, Two Faces of Elizabethan Anglican Theology: Sacraments and Salvation in the Thought of William Perkins and Richard Hooker (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1999), 2-5.

(8.) For a discussion of the self-confirming nature of godly communities, see Peter Lake, The Roxmaker's Revenge: "Orthodoxy," "Heterodoxy," and the Politics of the Parish in Early Stuart London (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), 35-40. Arthur Dent lists eight "infallible" signs of salvation, the very first of which is "a love to the children of God," in The Plaine Mans Path-way to Heaven, Wherein every man may clearly see whether he shall be saved or damned (London, 1601), 31-32.

(9.) Indeed, William Barrett's claim in his 1595 sermon at Cambridge that no one could be certain of his or her salvation was one of the key points that William Whittaker and the other Calvinist heads of the college found so objectionable as to require a clarification of the doctrine in the Lambeth Articles, as Peter Lake observes in Moderate Puritans and the Elizabethan Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 210. For Barrett's subsequent retraction, see Thomas Fuller, History of the University of Cambridge from the Conquest to the Year 1634, ed. Marmaduke Prickett and Thomas Wright (Cambridge, 1840), 283. OED Online, s.v. "assurance," accessed July 05, 2013, Entry/12057?redirectedFrom = assurance.

(10.) Thomas Adams, The happiness of the church (London, 1619), 331-32.

(11.) George Chapman, prefatory poem to Christopher Brooke's The Ghost of Richard III (London, 1614), sig. A2v. For early Jacobean libels accusing puritans of presumption, see Christopher Haigh, The Plain Man's Pathways to Heaven: Kinds of Christianity in Post-Reformation England, 1570-1640 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 126-27.

(12.) Theodore Dwight Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash to 1638 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 105-80.

(13.) See, for example, Laurence Chaderton, An Excellent and Godly Sermon (London, 1578); Thomas Wilson, Saints by Calling: or Called to Be Saints, A Godly Treatise of Our Holy Calling to Christ, by the Gospell, With the Seuerall Gifts Proper Unto the Called: and Their Counterfeits in the Hypocrites Which are Not partakers of This Effectuall Calling ([London], 1620); Samuel Crook, Ta Diapheronta, or Divine Characters in Two Parts, Acutely Distinguishing the More Secret and Undiscerned Differences Between 1. The Hypocrite in His Best Dresse of Seeming Virtues and Formal Duties, And the True Christian in His Real Graces and Sincere Obedience as also between 2. The Blackest Weeds of Dayly Infirmities of the Truly Godly, eclipsing saving grace, And the Reigning Sinnes of the Unregenerate that pretend unto that Godlinesse they never had (London, 1658); Thomas Adams, The White Devil, or The Hypocrite Uncased in a Sermon Preached at Pauls Crosse (London, 1613); and Thomas Cooper, The Estates of the Hypocrite and Syncere Christian, Containing, Certaine liuely differences, betweene Synceritie and Hypocrisie; Very necessarie, For the Tryall of our Estates in Grace (London, 1613).

(14.) Daniel Dyke, The Mystery of Selfe-Deceiving (London: 1614), 66.

(15.) Perkins, Golden Chaine, 196.

(16.) Calvin, Institutes, bk. 3, chap. 2, para. 10.

(17.) David Booty, ed., The Notebooks of Nehemiah Wallington, 1618-1654: A Selection (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007), 38. For a discussion of the potential of the doctrine of predestination to induce suicidal despair in the faithful, see John Stachniewski, The Persecutory Imagination: English Puritanism and the Literature of Religious Despair (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991). While richly documented, Stachniewski's book is imbalanced in the emphasis it places on despair to the exclusion of other affective states generated by the search for signs of election. For example, he focuses on Wellington's suicidal tendencies, rather than his vacillation between despair and comfort, 50.

(18.) Alexandra Walsham, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 15-17. For a discussion of the different meanings of affliction for the elect and damned, see Lake, Moderate Puritans, 124-25. For a description of how the injunction not to "vainly judge" the secret workings of God sometimes checked Nehemiah Wallington's habitual practice of reading violent accidents and narrow escapes as signs of God's judgments, see Paul S. Seaver, Wallington's World: A Puritan Artisan in Seventeenth-Century London (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1985), 46. While Peter G. Platt's discussion of Measure for Measure in particular focuses on the relationship between justice and equity, his broader discussion of paradoxical both/and formulations as a pervasive mode of early modern English thought resonates with the hermeneutics of predestinarian signs, which can point simultaneously to opposite spiritual extremes. Shakespeare and the Culture of Paradox (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009).

(19.) For example, in the commentary on the story of Jacob and Esau (typological figures of election and reprobation respectively), one marginal note glosses Esau's sale of his birthright with, "the reprobate esteem not God's benefits," while the very next annotation reads, "thus the wicked preferred their worldelie commodities to God's spiritual graces." The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), Gen. 25:32-33. All subsequent biblical references are to this edition.

(20.) John Gore, "The Poor Man's Hope" in Certain Sermons (London, 1636), 19.

(21.) Puritans had a special investment in teaching the doctrine more explicitly, but this does not mean that the godly had a monopoly on these softer forms of predestinarian thinking. For puritan spokesman John Reynolds' failed attempt at the Hampton Court Conference to have the Lambeth Articles, which spelled out the doctrine of double predestination more explicitly, appended to the Thirty- nine Articles, see Edward Cardwell, A History of Conferences and Other Proceedings Connected with the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer; from the Year 1558 to the Year 1690 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1849), 180. For puritan enthusiasm for preaching on predestination, see Haigh, Plain Man's Pathways, 24-26.

(22.) For examples, see Dent, Plaine Mans Path-way, 22,17.

(23.) Walsham, Providence, 107. For a further discussion of the ways cheap-print accounts of providential judgments--such as monstrous births--could transmit a range of cultural attacks, see Julie Crawford, Marvellous Protestantism: Monstrous Births in Post-Reformation England (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005). While self-separation from the wicked was of particular importance to the godly, the condemnatory implication of reprobation was available to be deployed by people in a wider range of social and economic positions than Keith Wrightson and David Levine allow when they claim that puritan disdain for the ungodly was simply a mechanism of social differentiation for an upwardly mobile middling sort. Poverty and Piety in an English Village: Terling, 1525-1700, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). For critiques of this position, see Eamon Duffy, "The Godly and the Multitude in Stuart England," The Seventeenth Century 1, no. 1 (1986): 31-55; and Nicholas Tyacke, Aspects of English Protestantism c. 1530-1700 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), 16-17, 90-110. As Patrick Collinson puts it, "The friction between the godly and the ungodly ... could arise within and not necessarily between social classes," The Religion of the Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559-1625 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 194.

(24.) Dent, Plaine Mans Path-way, 33.

(25.) Ibid., 44.

(26.) Ibid., 50.

(27.) Ibid., 54.

(28.) Regrettably, the myth that the godly were implacable enemies of the theater persists despite persuasive evidence to the contrary. For a demonstration of the presence of puritans in Caroline playhouses, see Martin Butler, Theatre and Crisis: 1632-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). Specific examples of puritans attending earlier, Elizabethan and Jacobean plays include Richard Madox and Sir Robert Rich. While important connections existed between antitheatricalism, the desire to purify religious worship of excessive ceremony, and general iconophobia, these three principles were by no means interchangeable.

(29.) For discussions of the place of predestination in popular culture, see Walsham, Providence; and Lake, Antichrist's Lewd Hat. For a ripping example of a heavily predestinarian Paul's Cross sermon, see Laurence Chaderton, An Excellent and Godly Sermon (London, 1578). For further examples of Paul's Cross sermons on predestination, see Millar Maclure, The Paul's Cross Sermons, 1534-1642 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1958).

(30.) To give two hypothetical examples of contrasting audience responses among the countless others possible: a godly citizen may begin watching the play aligned in sympathies with Angelo and the Duke's reform agenda, experience an identificatory moment of reprobation anxiety when Angelo begins to suspect himself a secret hypocrite, find himself laughing unexpectedly with a drunk reprobate, and leave with a slightly more subdued sense of the distinction between the godly and the wicked. A lukewarm Calvinist--perhaps one of the many prostitutes soliciting clients during the performance--may start the play identifying with the sex workers and their "wicked" clients, be startled by the complex interiority effects of Angelo's soliloquies into sympathizing with a puritan, and experience Barnadine as a disquieting memento mori, a fellow member of the ungodly, a morbid reminder of the danger, both spiritual and physical, attendant on her own position in the pleasure business. I would consider both of these imagined particular reactions to fall within the scope of the orchestrated audience responses I argue for below. My claim is not that everyone leaves the play with exactly the same "take away" but that the play organizes the audience's attention and expectations in ways that produce shared experiences. How exactly those shared dramatic experiences resonate with individual life experiences is another question.

(31.) For a good discussion of the relationship between studies of "the audience" and "audiences," see Nova Myhill and Jennifer A. Low's excellent introduction to their edited collection, Imagining the Audience in Early Modern Drama (New York: Palgrave, 2011), 2-15.

(32.) For discussions of Angelo's puritanism see, for example, Donald J. McGinn, "The Precise Angelo," in Joseph Quincy Adams Memorial Studies, ed. James G. McManaway, Giles E. Dawson, and Edwin E. Willoughby (Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1948), 129-39; Robert G. Hunter, Shakespeare and the Comedy of Forgiveness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), 210-13; Harold Fisch, "Shakespeare and the Puritan Dynamic," Shakespeare Survey 27 (1974): 81-92; Louise Schleiner, "Providential Improvisation in Measure for Measure," PMLA 97 (1982): 227-36.

(33.) Lake, Moderate Puritans, 85-86; Patrick Collinson, From Cranmer to Sancroft (New York: Palgrave, 2006), 166-67; and Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London: Jonathon Cape, 1967), 24-25.

(34.) OED Online, s.v. "fantastic," accessed July 05, 2013, view/Entry/68107?redirectedFrom = fantastic. For a description of the difference between profane and puritan dress in a contemporary play, see Thomas Haywood, How a Man May Choose a Good Wife from a Bad (London, 1602), sig. G2v-G3r. Independent of how common plain bands and short haircuts may have been among actual godly people, it seems reasonable to suppose that theater companies would have used their primary visual resource, costume, to mark cultural differences between characters.

(35.) Cf. Shakespeare's Othello where Michael Cassio drunkenly declares that election follows rank: generals and men of quality are saved before lieutenants; lieutenants are saved before ancients. His sudden wish to change the subject and his benign, inclusive platitude ("God forgive us our sins!") suggest an awareness that he has said something wrong and an attempt to palliate the impropriety of so directly equating spiritual value with military rank, which in the context of Iago's resentment toward posh Cassio's promotion to lieutenant, serves as a shorthand for class difference. Overall, the effect is that Cassio has rudely blurted out an assumption that usually goes unspoken. Othello, ed. E. A. J. Honigmann (London: Arden, 2006), 2.3.98-109.

(36.) Isabella uses "abhor" three times in the play before Abhorson first appears to express disapprobation of sexual vice. Measure, 2.2.779; 2.4.1215; 3.1.1334.

(37.) For the argument that the play suggests a critique of the Calvinist God as a tyrant precisely because of the seemingly arbitrary nature of predestination, see Lake, Antichrist's Lewd Hat, 656-58.

(38.) See Kristen Poole, Radical Religion from Shakespeare to Milton: Figures of Nonconformity in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

(39.) Hayne argues that "Angelo's hypocrisy differs in quality, though not in kind, from more superficial portraits of puritan hypocrites because it is an attempt to imagine--and to portray--what they feel" in "Performing Social Practice," 18-19 (italics mine). While I share her interest in the strong subjectivity effects produced in Angelo's soliloquies, my claim is that Angelo's unwitting spiritual hypocrisy does in fact constitute a different "kind" of subjective state than the merely social hypocrisy expressed by other stage puritans.

(40.) Griffiths-Osborne suggests that the flower and flesh in this passage correspond to the elect and reprobate in Calvinist theology, but presents this as her own observation without demonstrating that the metaphor was used in this way in the period in "The Terms for Common Justice," 42.

(41.) William Burton, An Exposition of the Lord's Prayer (London, 1594), 127.

(42.) Gervase Babington, A Profitable Exposition of the Lord's Prayer (London, 1588), 232-23.

(43.) See also Enoch Clapham, "The unregeneration of our nature ... is uncleane and as a polluted carrion: but it can no more defile the gifts and operations of the Holy-ghost in a new-man, then a stinking carrion can defile the glorious rayes or beames of the Sun shining thereon," (Three Parts of Salomon his Song of Songs, Expounded (London, 1603), 173).

(44.) Julia Reinhard Lupton, Afterlives of the Saints: Hagiography, Typology, and Renaissance Literature (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), 110-42.

(45.) William Burton, An exposition of the Lords Prayer made in diuers lectures, (London, 1594), 7.

(46.) For an excellent analysis of the rhetorical production of internality effects in this soliloquy see Karen Newman, Shakespeare's Rhetoric of Comic Character (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 1985), 12-14. Admittedly a few of these caesuras are questionable; my count errs on the side of inclusion.

(47.) William Shakespeare, Richard HI, ed. Antony Hammond (London: Arden, 2004), 1.1.154.

(48.) This shift is clearly signaled when Angelo exits and Isabella assumes the privileged subjective position of soliloquist, appealing implicitly to audience members as witnesses: "To whom should I complain? Did I tell this, / Who would believe me?" (2.4.170-71).

(49.) John Bridges, The Supremacie of Christian Princes (London, 1573), 1030.

(50.) Spinks, Two Faces, 65; Dewey D. Wallace, Puritans and Predestination: Grace in English Protestant Theology, 1525-1695 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), 7. As the puritan minister William Burton writes, "It is needfull that we be regenerated & made new men by the Spirite of God," Ten Sermons (London, 1602), 117.

(51.) Certainly, other characters in the play undergo sudden internal shifts. Claudio, for example, vacillates between fear of death and resignation. His spiritual oscillation, however, draws more on classical discussions of death rather than specifically predestinarian discourse. The Duke, as discussed below, reverses his opening position on godly rule. And Isabella's spiritual and sexual future is left a conspicuously open question at the end.

(52.) Cf. Claudius' inability to repent for the murder he continues to profit from in Shakespeare's Hamlet, ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (London: Arden, 2006), 3.3.36-72, 3.3.97-98.

(53.) Backsliding is a sixteenth-century neologism that refers specifically to lapses of faith. OED Online, s.v. "backsliding," accessed June 23, 2011, http:// Doctrinally, the Church of England held that the elect may continue to struggle with sin and doubt, even after they have achieved a sense of assurance, but could not "finally or totally" fall from grace. Again, like so many predestinarian signs, what constituted a "total" fall from grace was highly subjective.

(54.) Tellingly, critical opinion is divided as to Angelo's repentance. G. M. Pinciss reads Angelo's final state as a form of productive despair that brings him to total dependence on God in "The 'Heavenly Comforts of Despair' and Measure for Measure," Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 30, no. 2 (1990): 303-13, 308-9. Similarly Diehl understands Angelo as penitently seeking forgiveness at the end of the play in "Infinite Space," 408-9. In contrast, Griffiths-Osborne takes the final scene to "repeat and emphasize Angelo's hypocrisy" and insists that he remains unpenitent, refusing to ask for pardon in "The Terms for Common Justice," 45-46.

(55.) Barnardine has indeed been read as a figure that points up the limitations of state power. For a reading of Barnardine as a resistant subject who marks the limit of the Duke's power to have his subjects internalize the state's disciplinary regimes, see David Lindley, "The Stubbornness of Barnardine: Justice and Mercy in Measure for Measure," The Shakespeare Yearbook 1 (1996): 333-51. For a discussion of how Barnardine's ability to evade punishment for his crime makes the Duke appear a negligent ruler, and how the absence of a response from Barnardine to his pardon can be read as one of the play's "open silences," see Kaori Ashizu, "'Pardon Me?'--Judging Barnardine's Judge," English Studies 5 (1997): 417-29. However, neither study relates Barnardine's predestinarian status to the problem he poses for the legal apparatus of the state.

(56.) Cf. William Shakespeare, Love's Labor's Lost, ed. H.R. Woudhuysen (London: Arden, 1998), 1.2.362; Rape of Lucrece, in Shakespeare's Poems: Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece, and the Shorter Poems, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones and H. R. Woudhuysen (London: Arden, 2007), 300. I include in this group the close cognate "reprobance" which appears in Othello, 5.2.207.

(57.) Thomas Wilson, A Commentarie Upon the Most Diuine Epistle of S. Paul to the Romanes Containing for Matter, the Degeneration of our Nature by Adams Fall; and the Restauration Thereof, by the Grace of Christ (London, 1614), 1116.

(58.) Robert Rollock, Lectures Upon the First and Second Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians (Edinburgh, 1606), 209.

(59.) Edwin Sandys, Sermons Made by the Most Reuerende Father in God, Edwin, Archbishop of Yorke, Primate of England and Metropolitane (London, 1585), 353.

(60.) For an observation of this meaning of Barnardine, see J. J. M. Tobin, "How Drunk Was Barnardine?" Notes and Queries (March 2003): 46-47. See also OED Online, s.v. "barnard," accessed July 05, 2013, 15629?redirectedFrom = barnard.
COPYRIGHT 2014 Associated University Presses
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Gurnis, Musa
Publication:Shakespeare Studies
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2014
Previous Article:The spiced Indian air in early modern England.
Next Article:Anti-conquest and As You Like It.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters