"'Tis set down so in heaven, but not in earth" : political theology in measure for measure
Goossen, Jonathan T
One of Measure for Measure’s central concerns is the changing shape of political theology in Shakespeare’s England. From its origin until the high middle ages, Christian thought had described the work of the church (the care of souls) and that of the state (the maintenance of the common good) as complementary but essentially different tasks. This division implicitly separated and held in tension the private spiritual obligations of the individual Christian and the public duty of the Christian ruler. This understanding fell under fire in the late middle ages, however, first from the papacy and then from Protestant reformers.Shakespeare’s Lord Angelo is often linked with this latter group’s Puritan faction in England, which was known for its demand that the state enforce private Christian virtue (primarily sexual) as public law. The Duke Vincentio has frequently been described as representative of the more moderate Reformed political thought of Elizabeth I and James I. This thesis argues that in both assuming the disguise of a priest and insisting that a magistrate’s judgments are only valid if he is himself innocent of the condemned’s crime, the Duke shares Angelo’s and thus the Puritans’ rejection of the traditional division between the private and public obligations of a Christian ruler. Act V particularly reveals both the similarities between Angelo and the Duke and the fundamental problems of their approach to law. In the end, Isabella is not simply the student of the Duke’s political theology but rather the exemplar of how the traditional distinction between the roles of church and state and an individual’s private and public moral obligations better defends both personal freedom and the common good.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeStephanson, Raymond A.; Findlay, Leonard M. (Len); Calder, Robert L.
Copyright DateJuly 2006