In Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure there exists a paradox of the punishment of fornication only being able to be lifted by more fornication. I am referring to the deal that Angelo attempts to make with Isabella, her virginity for her brothers freedom. This issue, however, is reflective of a greater anxiety of the state invading personal spaces. From Claudio’s arrest to the loss of Mistress Overdone’s livelihood to the bargaining of Isabella’s virginity, the destructiveness of the state’s involvement with matters concerning sex as an anxiety of the play is evident. 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.
Many critics of Measure for Measure have focused on a sexual Isabella—not necessarily as overtly sexual, but perhaps sexually repressed, confused, naïve or, in some of the worst cases, provocative. I want to introduce the idea of an asexual Isabella.
Asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to anyone, and while it still remains barely visible in both the straight and queer communities, it is as real and present as any other sexuality. But in a world that sexualises women in every situation, pushes sex on us at every moment, and tells us that romantic relationships are necessary to our happiness and wholeness, asexuals often remain unnoticed or misunderstood. Continue reading
As we all know, Shakespeare was a fantastic wordsmith, utilizing countless puns and inventing new words that we still use today. Because of these feats, when a peculiar word pops up in one of his plays, scholars jump at the chance to figure out what it means. I talked about one such Italian word from Troilus and Cressida last week, and it turns out that seemingly out of place words are a trend in many of Shakespeare’s plays. Continue reading
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.
Measure for Measure in past critical analysis has been called one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” along with All’s Well That Ends Well and Troilus and Cressida (and others, arguably, including Merchant of Venice). I must have a problem, because Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure rank among those plays I have enjoyed reading the most. Maybe enjoyed is the wrong word, but they’re satisfyingly unsatisfying, twisting the rug out from you at just the right moment to not inspire tragedy, but revulsion—in my case, pained laughter (See: Hector’s utterly ignoble death at the hand(s) of Achilles and his many Myrmidons; the Duke’s seemingly undesired proposal to Isabella at the end of Measure for Measure).