The Politics of Persuasion: Measure for Measure and Cinthio's Hecatommithi
Caroline Roberts
University of Toronto

Roberts, Caroline. "The Politics of Persuasion: Measure for Measure and Cinthio's Hecatommithi." Early Modern Literary Studies 7.3 (January, 2002): 2.1-17 <URL:

  1. Rhetoric in Shakespeare's plays has been well canvassed, [1] but as Brian Vickers points out in '''The Power of Persuasion': Images of the Orator, Elyot to Shakespeare," there have been fewer studies of the nature of persuasion in Shakespeare's plays, of "the attempt of one person to change the way another person thinks or acts" (PP 423). The aim of this paper is to examine the nature of persuasion in Measure for Measure and in one of its probable sources, the story of Epitia in Cinthio's Hecatommithi. In Cinthio's story, rhetoric functions as the basis of women's power. Rhetoric has a similar function in Measure for Measure, but in Shakespeare's play, whatever power Isabella's rhetoric lends her is stripped away by a competing rhetorical mode. In Measure for Measure one sees the copresence and interaction of different kinds of rhetoric: forensic rhetoric, the language of the law courts, is delimited and controlled by deliberative rhetoric, or hortatory rhetoric, which is inappropriately used by Angelo but ultimately monopolized by Duke Vincentio. Deliberative rhetoric ultimately dominates in Cinthio's story as well, but it does so in Epitia's usage, rather than in the Emperor's. Shakespeare departs from Cinthio's assignation of deliberative rhetoric to a female character. Instead, Angelo and Duke Vincentio battle for control of the deliberative style, reflecting a political struggle in James I's government at the time when Measure for Measure was written. By reflecting this contest, Measure for Measure deviates from the inherent feminism of Cinthio's story.

  2. In "Assaying the Power of Chastity in Measure for Measure," Barbara Baines maintains that in Vienna and in Renaissance England, chastity is "the only form of autonomy left for women in a world where sexuality means submission to men and degradation in that submission." [2] As a novice, Isabella is free from sexual subjugation, Baines argues, but not without paying a price: a woman's control of her body is self-castrating, so that "Her chastity is deprived of its social, political, and psychological power through isolation and renunciation" (Baines 287). One may add to Baines's argument by suggesting that, in addition to chastity, speech may also be a form of autonomy for women, and one which is also deprived of its power through isolation. In addition to removing her sexuality from the patriarchal world outside the convent, Isabella, were she to take her vows, would be removing her voice from that world as well. As Francisca indicates:

    Fran. It is a man's voice. Gentle Isabella,
    Turn you the key, and know his business of him;
    You may, I may not; you are yet unsworn.
    When you have vow'd, you must not speak with men
    But in the presence of the prioress;
    Then if you speak, you must not show your face,
    Or if you show your face, you must not speak (1.4.7-13). [3]

    Female chastity and speech are both negated when removed from the operations of patriarchal society. It is not surprising that, at the other end of the spectrum, the prostitutes have no voice. Instead, as Jonathan Dollimore puts it, they are precisely "spoken for." [4]

  3. The fact that Isabella is chosen to ask Angelo for Claudio's pardon suggests that speech should be a source of power for her. Lucio certainly thinks so, as his conversation with her makes clear:

    Lucio. Assay the pow'r you have.
    Isab. My power? Alas, I doubt -
    Lucio. Our doubts are traitors,
    And makes us lose the good we oft might win,
    By fearing to attempt (1.4.76-79).

    Isabella agrees with Lucio, moving from "I'll see what I can do" in reply his suit, to "Soon at night/I'll send him certain word of my success" (1.4.84, 88-89). Of course, Isabella has some reputation for persuasive power. The first reference to Isabella in the play is Claudio's view that she has not only "a prone and speechless dialect,/Such as move men," but a "prosperous art/When she will play with reason and discourse,/And well she can persuade" (3.2.183-86). Isabella is beautiful and adept at logical rhetoric. In this respect, she resembles Cinthio's Epitia, and, indeed, both texts share a preoccupation with rhetorical strategies. [5]

  4. Cinthio's Hecatommithi (1565) is a framed collection of tales in the manner of Boccaccio's Decameron. The frame is a sea voyage conducted by Roman fugitives. Occasionally, they rest and tell tales about human relationships. Each day has a theme, and the tale of Epitia illustrates the theme of the eighth day's discourse, ingratitude. The fugitives have been moved by a story of ill-rewarded benevolence, and some wonder why God permits wrongdoers to live. The more experienced suggest that wrongdoers exercise the virtue of others. In the story of Epitia, a ruler would punish ingratitude but for the victim's magnanimity. [6] The story's overall effect is epideictic insofar as it praises virtue and censures vice, but its internal concerns are forensic. According to Aristotle, the purpose of forensic rhetoric is to accuse or defend. Its end is the promotion of the cause of the just or the unjust, and its time is the past. Forensic rhetoric requires the consideration of the motives of wrongdoing, the wrongdoer's frame of mind, and the character and disposition of the victim. Laws can be either particular, written laws, or general, unwritten laws that appear to be recognized universally. [7]

  5. The story of Epitia is a version of the story of the corrupt magistrate. In the primary version of this story, a woman who pleads with a local authority on behalf of her husband, who is to be executed for murder, surrenders to the magistrate's desires in exchange for her husband's freedom. The wife keeps her side of the bargain, while her husband is put to death. She appeals for Justice to the ruler of the land, who orders the magistrate to marry the woman and then executes the magistrate immediately after the wedding, thereby rehabilitating and revenging the wife, as Lever puts it in the Arden edition. [8] While the story of Epitia has much in common with this primary version, Cinthio makes significant innovations: Epitia is the sister, not the wife, of the condemned man, Vico, whose offence is not murder, but rape. [9] Further, Epitia persuades the Emperor Maximian not to execute the magistrate, Juriste.

  6. Persuasion is emphasized throughout the story. [10] While rhetoric is used to generate dialogue between characters, which is by no means uncommon, it is significant that almost twenty per cent of the narrative consists of Epitia's orations and, in particular, of her forensic speeches designed to persuade various characters--Juriste, Vico, herself, and the Emperor--of the justice or injustice of certain ends, such as the preservation of Vico's life, the preservation of her chastity, and Juriste's death. Indeed, Epitia's name seems to derive from rhetorical terminology: according to Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary, epitimesis is a rhetorical term meaning reproof. [11] When we first hear of Epitia, we are told that she, like Isabella, was "adorned with extreme beauty [and] had a very sweet way of speaking." Epitia's rhetoric is not, however, ornate. Forensic speech uses enthymemes, or deductive logical proofs, as its means of persuasion (since the past lends itself to the investigation of causes), and, as Aristotle maintains, it affords "the least opportunity of employing rhetorical devices" (Aristotle 423). Thus in her initial suit to Juriste, Epitia moves from a half-line proposition, "have compassion on her brother," to a twenty-five-line isocolonic proof, in which she considers not only the motives for the wrongdoing and the frame of mind of the wrongdoer (Vico "was no more than sixteen years old" and had "Love in his heart"), but also the disposition of the victim: since Vico is "ready and willing to marry the girl" her honour "remain[s] unharmed." Epitia argues from the general to the specific: "the law might be alleviated in . . . offences done for love . . . as it would in her brother's case." She also argues from definition: "she believed that the law had been thus severely framed to strike terror rather than to be rigorously carried out" (Bullough 422). Epitia's suit to the Emperor is similarly arranged and plain. Her eleven-and-a-half-line exordium concludes with equal consideration of wrongdoer and victim: "however bitterly he should be punished for it, that cannot equal the cruel and unheard of shame done me by this wicked man, giving me proof at once of both his injustice and ingratitude" (Bullough 427). At the conclusion of her brief narration, she is overcome by tears.

  7. In her opening appeal to Juriste and in her first suit to the Emperor, Epitia's rhetoric is forensic: in her first appeal she defends her brother; in her second she accuses Juriste of wrongdoing. Faced with the prospect of Juriste's postconnubial execution, however, Epitia's rhetoric switches to the deliberative mode. The purpose of deliberative rhetoric is to exhort or to dissuade: the deliberative orator advises about things which may or may not happen, but which are within our control. Considerations such as justice and injustice are "accessory" to the deliberative orator, whose hortatory aim is instead the expedient or good, and whose dissuasive end is the bad or harmful, the general principles of either the good or the bad being established by the orator (Aristotle 35). Epitia's end is no longer justice. Her demands for justice have already been met, and now her end is "Clemency":

    most sacred Emperor, the injustice and ingratitude shown by Juriste against me induced me to beg for justice against him from your Majesty. And you, with regard to the two crimes he has committed have proceeded most justly . . . Your Majesty's sentence has given clear proof of your Justice; now may it please you, as I sincerely beg, to manifest your Clemency by giving him to me alive (Bullough 429).

    Epitia argues for this course of action because she does not want to regard herself as "a pitiless and cruel woman."

  8. It has been suggested that in Shakespeare's Vienna, speech should be a source of power for women. In Cinthio's Innsbruck, rhetoric is unequivocally woman's weapon. It is significant that Vico's fate is precisely that which his lively descriptio prefigures: "Can you wish, Epitia," Vico rhetorically demands, "to see me with the executioner's axe on my neck, and my head struck off . . . thrown on the ground by the executioner?" (Bullough 424). In comparison, Juriste is silenced by the Emperor after only one and one half lines of speech: "Maximian would not let him cajole [Epitia]"; "Juriste stood there like a dumb man" (Bullough 427, 428). Juriste's rhetoric is cut off rather than his head.

  9. Epitia's persuasive power effects the story's happy ending: Epitia "lived happily with [Juriste] for the rest of her days" (Bullough 430). Happy endings were important to Cinthio: Orbecche was his only "horror-tragedy." According to P.R. Horne, the reason for this is twofold. For one thing, audiences preferred happy endings. Thus Cinthio writes in his Discorso Intorno al Comporre delle Comedie e delle Tragedie (1554): "I have thought it better to satisfy the audience with some loss of excellence (assuming Aristotle's opinion to be the sounder) than, for the sake of some slight additional grandeur, displease those for whose pleasure the play is performed." [12] At the same time, Cinthio felt that happy endings served a didactic function, an idea reaching back to Horace and reinforced by Seneca. In order for readers or spectators to embrace good and eschew evil, they must be shown virtue triumphant (Horne 38). In contrast, Shakespeare's Vienna seems more like the real, patriarchal world. Whereas Epitia's rhetoric effects a happy ending in Cinthio's story and is therefore a powerful instrument for her, Isabella's rhetoric is not similarly effective. Instead, it is delimited and controlled by the deliberative speech of men, by Angelo's in the first instance and, subsequently, by the Duke's.

  10. At the end of her first meeting with Angelo, it seems unlikely that Isabella's rhetoric will achieve its desired results. Isabella's rhetoric is forensic: its purpose is to defend her brother and, at the same time, to suggest that Angelo could be guilty of similar crimes. It relies heavily on enthymemes, which Aristotle regards as most suitable to forensic speech. Isabella's speech is intended, then, to appeal to Angelo's reason, but we may be prepared for its failure by the comic scene that precedes this first meeting. As the comic scene indicates, the language of the law courts can be ineffective and inconsequential: Pompey is concerned to establish irrelevant evidence, such as the number of stewed prunes in a specific dish, "in a fruit-dish, a dish of some threepence-your honors have seen such dishes; they are not china dishes, but very good dishes" (2.1.92-94). According to Vickers, logic itself is inconsequential in this scene as it is wielded by Pompey, who reasons logically but with a false premise containing a malapropism: "I'll be suppos'd upon a book, his face is the worst thing about him. Good then; if his face be the worst thing about him, how could Master Froth do the constable's wife any harm?" (2.1.155-58). Escalus accepts the argument, and Froth accepts all of Pompey's reasonings, suggesting the futility of logical proofs (ASP 317-18).

  11. Isabella's and Angelo's first meeting soon follows this comic scene and, in terms of its outcome, replays the comic scene's scepticism about reason. More accurately, the scene demonstrates how logical proofs and pathos, two of the artificial proofs identified by Aristotle, may work to produce incompatible ends. Isabella's suit to Angelo begins with a six-line exordium which starts epideictically, "There is a vice that most I do abhor," and continues anaphorically, "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, 31-33). The speech then moves to a three-line narration, but Angelo insists on Claudio's condemnation. Egged on by Lucio, Isabella begins a series of logical arguments. The topic of the first of these implies a comparison between gods and men: Angelo might pardon Claudio, "and neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy" (2.2.50). If heaven would pardon Claudio, then so should Angelo; Angelo will not do so, however, and claims "'tis too late" (2.2.55). Isabella retorts anadiplosiacally, "Too late? Why, no," and continues a refutatio (2.2.55). She ascribes to the accuser the offences of the accused by means of antimetabole: "If he had been as you, and you as he,/You would have slipp'd like him" (2.2.64-65), an argument that meets with the response, "Pray you be gone" (2.2.66). If the reversal of roles seems at all attractive to Angelo, then it is at this point that logical proofs and pathos begin to pursue separate courses. When Isabella again attributes Claudio's offence to Angelo, the strategy has erotic results for Angelo: "She speaks, and 'tis/Such sense that my sense breeds with it" (2.2.141-42). Angelo's statement points to a hierarchy of rhetorical subdivisions: pathos is the highest level of rhetoric, with topics and figures below it. [13] In Isabella's and Angelo's exchange, pathos, the erotic effect of Isabella's speech on Angelo, determines phenomena on each lower level. In precise terms, Isabella's production of desire in Angelo causes her logical argumentation to become ineffective.

  12. The production of desire in Angelo has an important consequence: it causes his language to shift from the forensic to the deliberative mode. With Angelo's awareness that he desires Isabella, the time of his rhetoric shifts from the past to the future. Matters of justice or injustice become ancillary to his sense of the good or expedient, and he begins to plan a course of action that will enable him to sleep with Isabella. Furthermore, Angelo's speech becomes replete with rhetorical devices, which Aristotle deems suitable to the deliberative style (Aristotle 423). Of course, Juriste had also devised a plan to sleep with Epitia, but there is no transition in his rhetoric since his first speech occurs after he has decided to commit Vico's crime. Angelo, on the other hand, has fifty-six lines before he meets with Isabella which contain few rhetorical devices, in keeping with forensic speech. Left by himself after the departure of Isabella, Lucio, and the Provost, however, Angelo's speech becomes replete with devices: epizeuxis--"What's this? what's this?"; polyptoton and rogatio--"The tempter, or the tempted, who sins most, ha?/Not she"; and simile--"I/That, lying by the violet in the sun,/Do as the carrion does, not as the flow'r." He uses epizeuxis and exclamatio--"O fie, fie, fie!" and quasesitio--"What dost thou? or what art thou, Angelo?/Dost thou desire her foully for those things/That make her good?," "What, do I love her,/That I desire to hear her speak again?/And feast upon her eyes? What is't I dream on?" Anadiplosis, metaphor, and exclamatio are combined in his remark, "cunning enemy, that to catch a saint,/With saints dost bait thy hook!"; and antithesis (but lacking isocolon) shapes his view that, "Never could the strumpet,/With all her double vigor, art and nature,/Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid/Subdues me quite" (2.2.162-85, passim). Angelo ends his speech with a rhyming couplet. Although Isabella's speech may lack the "double vigour" of ornamentation, his own rhetoric is no longer plain and severe.

  13. It is significant that Angelo's style does not change until he experiences passion. As Erasmus puts it in Ecclesiastes sive Concionator Evangelicus, "As is the heart of man, so is his language." [14] According to Erasmus, in order for a man to move others, he must first experience great emotion himself. His heart then becomes the forma of his discourse, as he conveys his passionate response to his subject through rhetorical strategies that impart emotional nuances: "particularly the figurae sententiae, but also tropes, schemes, cursus, and periodic structure" (Shuger 362). Erasmus is referring to emotion caused by the presence of the Holy Spirit and to the ecclesiastical rhetoric that ensues from that emotion. Deliberative rhetoric is, however, the "direct ancestor" of the Christian grand style to which Erasmus refers (Shuger 339). In Measure for Measure, Isabella causes Angelo to experience great emotion, resulting in his switch to deliberative language. Certainly Angelo has had a reputation for lacking emotion, which is stated most hyperbolically by Lucio: "Some report a sea-maid spawn'd him; some, that he was begot between two stock-fishes. But it is certain that when he makes water his urine is congeal'd ice, that I know to be true; and he is a motion generative, that's infallible" (3.2.108-12). Angelo's lack of emotion was consistent with his severe forensic manner; with the firing of his emotions, his style becomes that of the deliberative orator.

  14. In order to understand the full implications of Angelo's transition to deliberative rhetoric and Shakespeare's departure from Cinthio, who had assigned deliberative rhetoric to Epitia, it is necessary to consider a political drama unfolding in England when Shakespeare was writing Measure for Measure, which was between May and August 1604 (Lever xxxv). Paul Hammond has noted that in 1604 there was a power struggle between King James I and Parliament. The problem stemmed primarily from the Speaker's concluding address to the King, which defined the roles of kings, counsellors, and magistrates. Of the King it is said that they (the royal plural):

    ought to be just, for he sitteth in the Judgment Seat of the absolute King of Justice; they ought to be tempered with Mercy, for he representeth the divine Image of Mercy; they ought to be mild, for he is the Father, and the subjects his Children; they ought to be preservative, and not devouring, for he is the Shepherd, and they the Flock; they ought rather to prevent the Cause of Offence, than punish the Offender, for one is much more honourable than the other. [15]

    A counsellor should be 'temperate' 'moderate,' and 'virtuous.' The Speaker says of the magistrate:

    in vain is the Law's Direction, the King's Command, and the Senate's Advice, if not by the Magistrate's Discipline executed . . . For Laws are delivered to the Magistrate as a Sword, to cut off the Reins of licentious Liberty; but if the Magistrate keep it sheathed, or rusty, is there any that will dread the Correction of so sheathed or rusty a Weapon? . . . The Memory of Nerva his example proveth it; who through too tender a Conceit of Pity, was noted over-sparing in Punishment of the People's Insolencies: but in the End, his City thereby grew into such Contempt, both of his Person and Government, that of him it was said, That better it were for all good Men to live under the Government of Domitian, under whom nothing was lawful, than under Nerva, where all Things were lawful (quoted in Hammond 517).

    Hammond notes the Speaker's use of parallel clauses, traditional metaphors, and distanced allusion; yet he claims that "Neither King nor Speaker uses a mode of argument which explores the problems of power." Instead, for Hammond, the speech suggests that both Speaker and King had ideas about the expected roles of governmental officials (Hammond 516-17). My own view is that the two matters are directly related, so that the Speaker's elaborate speech accompanies his bid for greater power. As Aristotle maintains, the use of many rhetorical devices is suitable to the deliberative style (and, in particular, the use of past examples, like the example of Nerva, is suitable to the deliberative style, which advises for the future), and the deliberative style is appropriate for statesmen. It is not the case that "Neither King nor Speaker uses a mode of argument which explores the problems of power," but that both Speaker and King use a rhetorical mode that is itself a political stake, the deliberative mode. If Shakespeare were aware of this power struggle when he was writing Measure for Measure, then his play and this political play would be interanimating. Shakespeare would also have known that James attempted to put the Commons in their rightful place, defining the king's role in the speech with which he closed Parliament in July 1604 and in the Basilicon Doron. In Measure for Measure, we see Angelo transformed from a judiciary figure, whose style is severe and who executes the Duke's commands rapidly and effectively, to a deliberating figure, whose style gives greater weight to elocutio. We also see that the Duke will not accept Angelo's transformation into a competing deliberating body. Before examining the Duke's role, however, I want first to consider the high point of Angelo's deliberative phase: the moment when he proposes "the monstrous ransom." [16]

  15. In his second meeting with Isabella, Angelo's use of forensic and deliberative rhetorical modes indicates that his transformation is fully underway:

    I (now the voice of the recorded law)
    Pronounce a sentence on your brother's life;
    Might there not be a charity in sin
    To save this brother's life? (2.4.61-64).

    The voice that pronounces a sentence on Claudio is forensic; the voice that tenders a proposal is deliberative. All that is missing is a second parenthetical remark in line 63: (no longer the voice of the recorded law), or (now a hortatory voice). Angelo proceeds Socratically with Isabella, teetering between forensic and deliberative styles. Drawing on the resources of elocutio, he compares wisdom with "these black masks [that]/Proclaim an enshield beauty" (2.4.79-80) but then abandons the ornament, saying, "To be received plain, I'll speak more gross" (2.4.82). When he resumes an elaborate style, he is interrupted by Isabella: "I have no tongue but one; gentle my lord,/Let me entreat you speak the former language" (2.4.139-40). Isabella protests Angelo's shift from forensic to ornate speech and finally cries out against the tongue that speaks in two different voices: "O perilous mouths,/That bear in them one and the self-same tongue,/Either of condemnation or approof" (2.4.172-74). The condemning tongue is the forensic tongue; the sanctioning tongue is the deliberative tongue, exhorting a particular plan of action before it will sanction Claudio's pardon.

  16. Fortunately for Isabella, the Duke, like James I, will not tolerate a competing deliberating power. He has enlisted Angelo to 'unloose' laws that have not been enforced for a number of years (1.3.32), [17] the deputation of authority being a strategic administrative ploy to deflect the people's hatred from the prince to the deputy. [18] It is not surprising, then, that when the Duke overhears Isabella informing Claudio of Angelo's proposal, of his "deliberate word" that "Nips youth i' th' head" (3.1.89-90), he immediately exercises his authority to bring Angelo down: he has appointed Angelo to perform a judiciary task, and Angelo has exceeded the parameters of his defined role. Significantly, Isabella's own experiment with deliberative rhetoric fails when she tells Claudio that "the poor beetle that we tread upon/In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great/As when a giant dies" (3.1.78-80). Isabella, now afraid that Claudio will choose the forfeiture of her chastity over his own death, exhorts him to choose death as expedient, but she gets her analogy the wrong way around. Claudio scorns the ornamentation of her style--"Why give you me this shame?/Think you I can a resolution fetch/From flow'ry tenderness?" (3.1.80-82)--and deliberative rhetoric is taken over by the Duke, who interrupts Isabella's vituperations. His appeal to Isabella is a rhetorical masterpiece, fashioned to recommend a beneficial course of action whose aim is the good as established by the orator:

    Therefore fasten your ear on my advisings: to the love I have in doing good a remedy presents itself. I do make myself believe that you may most uprighteously do a poor wrong'd lady a merited benefit; redeem your brother from the angry law; do no stain to your own gracious person; and much please the absent Duke (3.1.197-203).

    The Duke relates the history of Mariana, delivers a string of imperatives beginning with "Go you to Angelo" (3.1.243), proposes the bed-trick and, finally, reminds Isabella of the good to be achieved by his plan: "and here, by this is your brother sav'd, your honor untainted, the poor Mariana advantag'd, and the corrupt deputy scal'd" (3.1.252-55).

  17. The remainder of the play's plot-movement consists of the gradual unfolding of the Duke's plans. Whereas Epitia's deliberative rhetoric finally triumphs in Cinthio's story, it is the Duke's deliberative speech that ultimately triumphs in Measure for Measure, and it does so in its appropriate setting. Deliberative rhetoric, the rhetoric of the statesman, is the language of public assemblies, and the Duke goes to some pains to ensure that his victory occurs in its rightful arena:

    Now will I write letters to Angelo
    (The Provost, he shall bear them), whose contents
    Shall witness to him I am near at home;
    And that by great injunctions I am bound
    To enter publicly. Him I'll desire
    To meet me at the consecrated fount,
    A league below the city; . . . (4.3.93-99).

    The Duke's deliberative rhetoric, unlike Angelo's, is effective, and he persuades nearly everyone to go along with his scheme. Barnadine is the one character who eludes the Duke's persuasive power:

    Bar. I swear I will not die today for any man's persuasion.
    Duke. But hear you-
    Bar. Not a word. If you have any thing to say to me, come to my ward; for thence will not I to-day.
              Exit. Enter Provost.
    Duke. Unfit to live, or die; O gravel heart! (4.3.59-64).

    The Duke's rhetoric also serves an ethical function to the extent that he does some good with his tongue, to paraphrase Vives. Most significantly, however, the Duke secures his right to the deliberative mode. Like James I, the Duke restores the competing body to a strictly judiciary role: "Come, cousin Angelo,/In this I'll be impartial./Be you judge/Of your own cause" (5.1.165-67). Angelo requests death, but he is denied this 'grace' and is married instead (5.1.374). Departing from Cinthio, the play's last scene focuses on the Duke's exclusive power to dictate events. Isabella's rhetoric also ends on a forensic and powerless note, unlike Epitia's. Her final words are of the past; they are a defense of Angelo's wrongdoing, a concluding enthymeme:

    For Angelo,
    His act did not o'ertake his bad intent,
    And must be buried but as an intent
    That perish'd by the way. Thoughts are no subjects,
    Intents but merely thoughts (5.1.450-53).

    Her logical proof meets with the Duke's rebuff, "Your suit's unprofitable; stand up, I say" (5.1.455), and the rest, for her, is silence.


1. See Sister Miriam Joseph, Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language (New York: Columbia UP, 1947); Brian Vickers, The Artistry of Shakespeare's Prose (Methuen: New York, 1968), hereafter cited as ASP; "'The Power of Persuasion': Images of the Orator, Elyot to Shakespeare," Renaissance Eloquence: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Renaissance Rhetoric, ed. James J. Murphy (London: U of California P, 1983), hereafter cited as PP.

2. Barbara J. Baines, "Assaying the Power of Chastity in Measure for Measure," Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 30.2 (Spring 1990): 287.

3. William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974).

4. Jonathan Dollimore, "Shakespeare, Cultural Materialism, Feminism and Marxist Humanism," New Literary History 21.3 (Spring 1990): 474.

5. The story of Epitia in Cinthio's Hecatommithi (1565) has long been recognized as a source for Shakespeare's play. Langbaine, in 1691, for example, cites "Measure for Measure, a Comedy founded on a Novel in Cynthio Giraldi: viz. Deca Ottava, Novella 5a." The story of Epitia is the fifth story on the eighth day in Cinthio's collection of tales, which Pope (ed. 1725) abbreviates to "Dec. 8. Nov. 5," and which Warburton (ed. 1747) expands to "December 8, November 5." Theobald (ed. 1733) notes "with how much Judgement Shakespeare has given Turns to [Cinthio's] Story," while Lennox (1753) asserts that "what [Shakespeare] has altered from Cinthio, is altered greatly for the worse." See Marc Eccles, ed., A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: Measure for Measure (New York: MLA, 1980) 303.

6. See Mary Lascelles, Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (London: The Athlone P, 1953), 9-10.

7. Aristotle, "Art" of Rhetoric, trans. J.H. Freese (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1959) 105-15. This paper uses Aristotle's definitions as the original and most complete account of different rhetorical modes. Although the Rhetoric was never a prominent textbook in English grammar schools, one can be reasonably certain that Shakespeare knew thoroughly the first two books of Cicero's Ad Herennium, in which the different kinds of rhetoric are defined in terms borrowed from Aristotle. See T.W. Baldwin, William Shakspeare's Small Latine & Lesse Greeke, vol. 2 (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1944) 96. Cinthio, who was appointed to the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Ferrara in 1534 and made Professor of Rhetoric in 1541, would certainly have known Aristotle's text.

8. Measure for Measure, ed. J.W. Lever, the Arden Edition of the Works of William Shakespeare (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1965) xxxvii.

9. Lever contends that the change of Vico's offence from murder to rape contributes to the story's "more romantic and humanistic cast." "The effect," writes Lever, "was to soften the harsh outlines of the plot" (Lever xxxviii).

10. G.B. Giraldi Cinthio, "The Story of Epitia," trans. Geoffrey Bullough in Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, ed. Geoffrey Bullough (New York: Columbia UP, 1958) 420-430.

11. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary Founded on Andrew's Edition of Freund's Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1879) 652.

12. P.R. Horne, The Tragedies of Giambattista Cinthio Giraldi (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1962) 37n.

13. A. Kibédi Varga, "Rhetoric, a Story or a System? A Challenge to Historians of Renaissance Rhetoric," Renaissance Eloquence, ed. James J. Murphy (London: U of California P, 1983) 88-90.

14. Erasmus, Ecclesiastes sive Concionator Evangelicus in Opera Omnia Emendatiora et Auctiora, 9 vols. (1704; repr. London 1962) 5.773C; quoted in Debora Shuger, "The Christian Grand Style in Renaissance Rhetoric," Viator 16 (1985): 357.

15. Quoted in Paul Hammond, "The Argument of Measure for Measure," English Literary Renaissance 16.3 (Autumn 1986): 516.

16. See Marc Fumaroli, "Rhetoric, Politics, and Society: From Italian Ciceronianism to French Classicism," Renaissance Eloquence, ed. James J. Murphy (London: U of California P, 1983) 268-69. Fumaroli describes a similar contest for power in France near the end of the sixteenth century.

17. The Duke says the laws have "slept" for "fourteen years" (1.3.21); according to Claudio, penalties have "hung by th' wall" for "nineteen zodiacs" (1.2.167-68).

18. Erasmus, The Education of a Christian Prince, trans. L.K. Born (New York, 1936) 210; discussed in Gordon Ross Smith, "Renaissance Political Realities and Shakespeare's Measure for Measure," Proceedings of the PMR Conference 7 (1982): 85.

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk.

© 2002-, Lisa Hopkins (Editor, EMLS).