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.
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.