"To Do a Great Right, Do a Little Wrong" or Gaining by Relaxing: Equity and Paradox in The Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure [chapter]

2016 Shakespeare and the Culture of Paradox  
Performance assumes a string of creative, analytical, and collaborative acts that, in defiance of theatrical ephemerality, live on through records, manuscripts, and printed books. The monographs and essay collections in this series offer original research which addresses theatre histories and performance histories in the context of the sixteenth and seventeenth century life. Of especial interest are studies in which women's activities are a central feature of discussion as financial or
more » ... supporters (patrons, musicians, dancers, seamstresses, wigmakers, or 'gatherers'), if not authors or performers per se. Welcome too are critiques of early modern drama that not only take into account the production values of the plays, but also speculate on how intellectual advances or popular culture affect the theatre. The series logo, selected by my colleague Mary V. Silcox, derives from Thomas Combe's duodecimo volume, The Theater of Fine Devices (London, 1592), Emblem VI, sig. B. The emblem of four masks has a verse which makes claims for the increasing complexity of early modern experience, a complexity that makes interpretation difficult. Hence the corresponding perhaps uneasy rise in sophistication: Masks will be more hereafter in request, And grow more deare than they did heretofore. No longer simply signs of performance 'in play and jest', the mask has become the 'double face' worn 'in earnest' even by 'the best' of people, in order to manipulate or profit from the world around them. The books stamped with this design attempt to understand the complications of performance produced on stage and interpreted by the audience, whose experiences outside the theatre may reflect the emblem's argument: Most men do use some colour'd shift For to conceal their craftie drift. Centuries after their first presentations, the possible performance choices and meanings they engender still stir the imaginations of actors, audiences, and readers of early plays. The products of scholarly creativity in this series, I hope, will also stir imaginations to new ways of thinking about performance.
doi:10.4324/9781315608600-6 fatcat:pq5vm7mj25g3hawnq6h2362pha