Measure for Measure

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Measure for Measure is a strange play that focuses on the temporary leader of Vienna’s, Angelo, treatment of sexual offenses whilst the Duke of Vienna disguises himself as a Friar in order to bring a fairer law and order to the city. The play revolves around the life of Claudio, a man Angelo has sent to prison and is soon to be executed because of his unlawful impregnating of Juliet before they were married. Claudio argues that his intentions were honourable and that he did intend on marrying Juliet when the time was right. However, Angelo is very dismissive of this information and it seems as if Claudio will act as an example to the people. In this play, Angelo acts as the vice figure and is pure evil for the sake of being evil.

Sexual behaviour, sexual beliefs and sexual relations are significant in this play and run parallel to the main plot. Isabella’s decision to go to a nunnery, Mariana’s agreement to the Duke’s plan and Angelo’s request for the exchange of chastity for Claudio’s life all involve these ideas and they all have a vast impact on the play itself. The ending of the play is quite an interesting topic too as we see the Duke reveal himself as the disguised Friar. As a result of his plan Angelo is forced to marry Mariana, Lucio is punished and forced to marry a prostitute, Claudio is allowed to marry Juliet and the Duke proposes to Isabella. This is interesting as Isabella never responds to his proposal and for me, this alludes to the quietness of the Nun when Lucio visits the nunnery. It could also be argued that all the characters who do things for the right reasons in the play are rewarded: Mariana, Claudio, Juliet and those who do not have to suffer: Lucio, Angelo. This leaves the Duke and Isabella and I think that Shakespeare wants us to make up our own minds about these characters. Are they worthy, or are they not? Why does Isabella leave the nunnery? Why does the Duke disguise Claudio’s death? These are questions that definitely should be thought about. 

Apart from judgement, the play also leaves the genre open to interpretation too. Is it a comedy? A tragicomedy? Or is it just a problem play? For me, this play is enjoyable because you can make your own judgement on these things and therefore this adds an extra element to the play itself and I would give this play a solid 8/10. This play is also full of corruption and disguise too and maybe something that I look at for my assessed essay. If you have read or seen this play then let me know what you thought about it!




    • Yes i agree, i feel the duke ‘cornered’ Isabella, almost forcing her to accept his proposal as he had just announced her brother, saved by him, is actually alive. Due to this i think it makes Isabella indebted to him and unable to refuse as the duke can easily kill her brother, as, after all he did still commit the crime he was accused of.

  1. Think of the Duke as the playwright within the play. That will help you see what Shakespeare was attempting with this play, and how he was “playing” around with the genre of comedy.

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