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"Ignorant or Seem So Craftily:” Isabella and Angelo’s Rhetoric in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure

Rogus, Amanda. “Ignorant or Seem So Craftily:” Isabella and Angelo’s Rhetoric in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure,” US English Education Review, vol. 19, no. 7, July 2020, pp. 219-224.
Abstract: The victimization scene of Isabella in Measure for Measure is one of the most famous scenes in the problem play. Scholars often analyze this scene for theatrical context as it is the catalyst for the remainder of action in the play. However, it is not only the action points in the scene that make this moment memorable. The rhetoric stylistically illuminates the story as well. By analyzing the use of repetition in Angelo’s persistent threats and Isabella’s fight by using “ecphonesis” and “erotema,” the rhetorical qualities of the scene prove just as telling as the theatrical beats themselves. The rhetorical choices also parallel the fight, flight, or freeze that many victims battle when enduring sexual attacks or rape. The innocence is in the question and bold answers, while the repeated verbal harassment shows skill in the threatening seductive attack. In essence, the rhetoric speaks to Isabella’s plea to “speak the former language” on a deeper level showing the oral sexual harassment to be just as telling as the physical choices directors make (Shakespeare, 2.4.152). The threat is in the words and the rhetoric shows innocence face its ultimate threat.
 Keywords: rhetoric, trauma theory, Shakespeare, Victimization, Isabella, Measure for Measure

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