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Essay on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure

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Shakespeare's Measure for Measure

From the beginning of the play the Duke shows his fascination with the art of disguise. He has Lord Angelo takes his place and he in turn becomes a friar in disguise. Throughout the play this notion of false identity and exchange of identity plays an important role for the Duke and also for the characters in the play.
To understand why the Duke has this desire to disguise himself one can look at the beginning of the play in act 1 scene 3 where the Duke is at the monastery asking Friar Thomas to hide him there. He tells the friar that he has good reasons for hiding, and that he has lied to Angelo about his destination. The Duke explains that for the past fourteen years the laws have been flagrantly disobeyed, with little reproach from the government. As the Duke explains it, when the law only serves to threaten, because lawmakers do not carry out the punishments dictated, the government loses its authority. Since he gave the people liberties, he does not feel comfortable punishing them for now, yet he worries about the safe affairs of Vienna. He asked Angelo to take over in order to act more strictly without reproach or hypocrisy. He wants to observe Angelo at work, so he asks the friar to provide him with a disguise which will make him look like a visiting Friar himself:
And to behold this sway,
I will, as’twere a brother of your order,
Visit both price and people: therefore, I prithee,
Supply me with habit and instruct me
How I may formally in person bear me
Like a true friar. More reasons for this action
At more leisure shall I render you;
Only, this one: Lord Angelo is precise;
Stands at a guard with envy; scarce confesses
That his blood flows, or that his appe...


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...se his is still enjoying the intrigue which he can only understand. To some extent his is playing with his subjects, making them believe that they act of their own violation while manipulating them. He is also testing them, perhaps to determine how worthy they are of their positions. (Act 4 scenes 3-6).
. All these false identities and disguises come to in the end. Isabella has her brother saved and in turn will marry the Duke. Angelo must marry Mariana and in turn his life is saved. The positions each person takes whether they are their “true or false” identify allows them to see their action and pay for them whether good or bad, virtuous or evil. The Duke helps them function while at the same time manipulating what is happening around them. This is what makes the plot complexly woven, and in the end unravels the resolutions of what the Duke has done.


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