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Mount talk delves into double entendre in Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’

September 28, 2018
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -

Rob Wakeman, Mount Saint Mary College assistant professor of English.

Rob Wakeman, Mount Saint Mary College assistant professor of English.

 

Rob Wakeman, Mount Saint Mary College assistant professor of English, says there’s something fishy about Shakespeare’s comedy Measure for Measure.

During his recent talk, Wakeman explained that Measure for Measure is an excellent example of the Bard’s fondness of innuendo. 

The play centers on Angelo, a seemingly chaste and virtuous magistrate, who attempts to use his position of authority to force Isabella, a young nun, into an intimate relationship. 

Fish and fishing took on a double meaning in the seventeenth century, and to audiences of the time, Shakespeare’s metaphors surrounding sea life conjured sexual imagery, Wakeman explained.

However, what seems like comedic use of puns can take on dark connotations depending on context, he noted.

“In the repressive regime of the play, the remoteness of law from sexual behavior proves especially dehumanizing for women caught in a double bind between strict morality codes and predatory threats,” he said. 

Wakeman’s talk is based on a book chapter coming out next year in the Routledge Handbook on Shakespeare and animals, edited by Karen Raber (University of Mississippi) and Holly Dugan (George Washington University), from Routledge.

The talk was part of the popular Investigating Research on Campus (iROC) series. The next iROC talk, “Dynamite, Opium and a Transnational Shadow Economy at Vietnamese Coal Mines (1890-1945)” will take place on Thursday, October 4 at 12:45 p.m. at the college. It is free and open to the public.