As to the risks of what I call the ‘triangulation’ of both public power and private emotion,
I extend my earlier treatment of ‘mediation’ in The Merchant of Venice to Measure for
Measure, King Lear, Hamlet, and The Tempest, linking to them Shakespeare’s Sonnet 134.
For Shakespeare, whether poet or playwright, a private triangulation of direct romantic
obligation is as nettlesome as the public official’s similar behaviour – as when the
Duke ‘outsources’ Viennese power to Angelo – and the results are quite as disastrous.
The complex and highly legalistic sonnet concerns the triangulation of passion from
the speaker to a friend. The beloved winds up ensnaring both through ‘the statute of
[her] beauty’. The word ‘surety’ – used centrally in the poem and twice in Merchant –
through the delegation to a third party of obligations otherwise charged
directly to two committed parties, the underlying Shakespearean problematic.