Processing Measure for Measure as a twentieth century female is terrible. It is uncomfortable to say the least, to watch a pious virginal woman be forced to choose between her brother’s life and her agency over her body. Not only does Angelo want Isabella’s, body and virginity, but he also wants her consent. He wants Isabella to want to have sex with him—freeing him of guilt perhaps? And so, Isabella, in quiet the bind, decides to manipulate the situation and the comedic trick titled ‘The Bed-Trick’ by A.D. Nuttall, in his article for the Shakespeare Survey, occurs.
In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare plays with themes of Puritanism. On a micro, specific level, Isabella is a Puritanical character. Her devout repudiation of sexual intercourse and her choice to remain chaste in the name of God to preserve her immortal soul, exemplifies Puritan values. However, the entire play can be seen as a discussion of the “Puritan campaign” because Shakespeare situates the characters in a world where “that sexual offenses like fornication, adultery, and bastardy [can be punished] by death” (Policing). Continue reading
In the English painter Thomas Kirk’s “Measure For Measure – Act V, Scene I” painting, he renders the last dramatic scene of the play as a powerful moment of moral vindication. By the end of Act 1, the themes of mercy and justice, vice and piety, appearance and reality have been established but collide in the last scene of the play. Kirk expresses this sense of dramatic tension by capturing the moment of the Duke’s reveal, if the Duke’s bared head and the looks of shock or shame on the faces of the bystander are anything to go by.
The Duke in Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure plays a role in nearly every affair between characters throughout the play. Whether he is explicitly fulfilling his role as the Duke of Vienna or in disguise as a friar, the Duke acts as a puppeteer and pulls most of the strings throughout the play. Continue reading
For a play about justice and mercy, Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure focuses a lot on currency and forgery. While it’s not exactly The Merchant of Venice, the story involves people and their comparisons to money. And Angelo, our selfish and typical villain, is smack dab in the center of it.
Ah, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure — it’s no wonder Shakespearean scholars consider it a “problem play” (JStor – Measure for Measure and Elizabethan Comedy). Both the Duke and Isabella have some obvious moral issues that raise questions that need to be answered when deciding how the play is to be performed.