Saturday, November 27, 2010


A friend of this page, evidently having seen the previous posting and not wishing to embroil himself in the furor of comment it might engender, has passed along the present photograph to replenish one’s supply of apples. At the same time, a kind of atonement held me in its grip, for not having visited a single play of Shakespeare since initiating this blog. (I imagine one may not be alone in this default, whether or not consumed by Red Mug, Blue Linen). To me, then, this portrait was not about apples, but about being circummured, as its hero is.

Now I give away the hand, of course: I was reading Measure for Measure. You’d know this, because you know that Shakespeare invented the word for this comedy, and never used it again. As has been widely reported, and sometimes even blogged, this outrageous fount of philological radiance, this subtlest of all known celebrants of the gusher we know as English, this humanest of voices ever to resound from its stage, has often been invoked by that mountebank lodestar of injurious ignorance, herself, Mrs Palin, in defense of her latest ejaculation of logophobia. There is, as Hawthorne remarked of Zenobia in Blithedale Romance, “no folded petal, no latent dew-drop, in this perfectly developed rose.” She is the fullest flowering of her faction's calculated, chronic contempt for learning since the King and the Duke held forth on the river in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - which, we are given to understand, they've abandoned trying to suppress.

But I stray into tinctures of partisanship, where play is the spirit of this page. It turns out, to one’s further annoyance, that Measure for Measure - which nobody thinks is a very good play - poses the plight of our harridan harlot to a T: how to reign in sexuality, without slaughtering the populace.

It all works out, of course, by that sleight of hand she has been so foully accused of, herself - the substitution of one conjugal heroine for another. Who can doubt the lady’s entitlement to the legacy this play is, for sorting out the peril of Big Government? 

Yet, what a morbid fortress she would forge for us, circummuring all in corporate concupiscence, as she is by her casuistry and cant. The plainness of her lust would do her credit if she'd not draped it in such zealotry. But William Shakespeare saw her coming, and I savour this good apple with much debt for her depiction:

Act II, Scene iv, 183-186

Then, Isabel live chaste, and brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity,
I'll tell him yet of Angelo's request,
And fit his mind to death, for his soul's rest.


  1. Because of tiresome domestic political comment, no doubt. But I assure you, I had not gone looking for Mrs Palin. I had gone looking for Shakespearean refreshment and plucked the wrong Arden from my shelf by almost pure chance; and there she was. As to any other means by which I may be procuring your end, you give me too little for speculation, but I can safely say, I'm sorry.