Edward de Vere's Bible annotations
on sin are more theologically subtle than
these prominent and easily recognizable
citations from Genesis. A striking example
of this subtlety is Wisdom 2.24, marked as
part of a sequence of verses (figure fifty-
three) which summarizes the "prayer of the
Ungodly" which takes up most of the
chapter and is a favorite Shakespearean
Biblical topos. These verses recount an
etiology of the devil as the cause of the sin
of envy and ensuing punishment of mortality. An impressive list of cross-references in the
Geneva text of STC 2106 includes Genesis 1.27, 2.7, 3.2 and 5.1 and Ecclesiastes 17.2. Although
has not previously been noted, the verse has nevertheless left a clear and
unequivocal stamp on the moral theology of Measure for Measure, in a comic passage in which
Duke Ludovico debates the origins of sin with the bawd Pompey:
Duke. Fie, Sirrah! A bawd, a wicked bawd!
Canst thou believe thy life is a life,
So stinkingly depending? Go mend, go mend.
Pompey. Indeed, it does stink in some sort, sir: but
Yet, sir, I would prove--
Duke. Nay, if the devil had given proofs for sin
Thou wilt prove this. Take him to prison, officer;
Correction and instruction must both work
Ere this rude beast will profit.
The passage illustrates a textual dependence on the marked verse from Wisdom which is no
less impressive simply because it has hitherto remained unnoticed by critics unfamiliar with the
de Vere Bible annotations. The Duke's somewhat peculiar idea of the devil "giving proofs" for
sin originates in the statement of Wisdom 2.24 that the devil's partisans "prove" that death came
into the world through the agency of their master's envy. As a pimp, Pompey is one of those
identified in the marked passage as "they that holde of [the devil's] side. He has started to justify
his occupation by citing scripture, but the Duke interrupts him by pointing out that if the devil
himself were giving the proofs, they would be the same as those on the tip of Pompey's tongue.
This resolution of a textual crux by reference to a verse marked in de Vere's Geneva Bible
constitutes a striking example of prediction from new data.
Figure Fifty-three: Wisdom 2.23-24 in De Vere