A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Measure for Measure and the Patriot Act


In Measure for Measure, the Duke of Vienna, after a period of lax rule leading to a decline in public morals, has handed over authority to the excessively rigid Angelo. But Angelo, though upright in his public demeanor, is secretly lusting after Isabella. With Isabella's brother Claudio in prison under a sentence of death that only Angelo can commute, Angelo has just the leverage he needs to blackmail Isabella into sleeping with him.

Isa: "My brother did love Juliet,
And you tell me that he shall die for 't."

Ang: "He shall not, Isabel, if you give me love."

Isa: "I know your virtue hath a license in 't,
Which seems a little fouler than it is
To pluck on others."

Ang: "Believe me…my words express my purpose."

This leads to the famous prison scene of Act III scene II, where Claudio, weakening at the thought of death, beseeches his sister to surrender her virtue in exchange for his life, and about which Bardseye has already offered a view of in this post (remember to read ribbed as rib-bed - it's the Elizabethan way!):

Isa: "What says my brother?"

Cla: "Death is a fearful thing."

Isa: "And shamed life a hateful."

Cla: "Ay, but to die, and go we know not where,
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot,
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod, and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice,
To be imprisoned in the viewless winds
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world, …".

Isa: "Alas! Alas!

Cla: "Sweet sister, let me live;"

Claudio lays it on thick there for his sister, but then he's motivated. Bardseye's viewers who don't already know can today be informed that the Duke himself was listening in on Isabella and Claudio's family squabble. Mistrustful of Angelo, the Duke in fact never left Vienna. He assumed instead a friar's habit and secretly wandered the backstreets of his own city, learning at first hand the nature of the people he governed.

Under the expanded powers of the Patriot Act, the FBI and NSA (National Security Council for our non-American readers) have for the last four years been doing much the same. And in our modern recasting we will have Angelo stand in for an Al Qaida cell member, whose public face of rectitude, like Angelo's, belies his nefarious subterranean plans. Isabella's virtue will stand for something like the Brooklyn or Golden Gate Bridge, or the Sears Tower, or the Statue of Liberty or the White House. Or maybe just a planeload of people.

Duke: "Son, I have overheard what hath passed
between you and your sister."

Still undercover as a friar, the NSA spymaster Duke fits Isabella with a wire and sends her off to meet with the Al Qaida operative Angelo. She is to entrap him by pretending to agree to his terms, and set a time and place for their illicit assignation. But at that final meeting, the NSA/Duke send not Isabella but Mariana, a woman once loved by Angelo/Al Qaida but spurned when he discovered she had no useful intelligence for him; that is, when she lost her dowry.

Duke: "Haste you speedily to Angelo. If for
this night he entreat you to his bed, give him
promise of satisfaction. I will presently to
saint Luke's; there, at the moated grange,
resides this dejected Mariana. At that place
call upon me…".

The most dedicated conservatives and liberals probably share a sense of mixed feelings in their attitude toward the furtive Angelos of our intelligence agencies. On the right, the civil rights infringements of Waco and Ruby Ridge and Elian Gonzalez draw conservative ire in peacetime, but those same conservatives rally around the agencies in times of war. The left, though, never seems to rally around our intelligence agencies at all.

Well, it's wartime, and bardseye will rally around. I will do so by recalling that the FBI and NSA always lesser noted successes include a stream of thwarted terrorist attempts, including of the planned bombing of New York Bridge and Washington, D.C. trains by a Mr. Iyman Faris, whose plot was discovered by information gained through Patriot Act authority.

Liberals note that Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Conservatives note that habeas corpus was reinstituted and is alive and well. Liberals point to the internment of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans during WWII. Conservatives can justly point to today's very limited detention of only proven enemy combatants, and the legal respect accorded to law-abiding Arab-Americans, as proof of progress in civil rights protection in wartime.

In all this it's well to remember who the real culprit is. In Measure for Measure the Duke's surveillance is only necessary because of Angelo. It all really is Angelo's; that is to say Al Qaida's, fault.

P.S. Here a related post from the always recommendable Politicalteen.

And here's one from the estimable Joe's cafe.

And here's one from the renowned Michelle Malkin.

And here's one from the leftcoast rightist California Conservative.

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