Measure for Measure Essay: The Bed Trick

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The Bed Trick in Measure for Measure

Critics have referred to the concept of Mariana taking Isabella's place in Angelo's bed "the bed trick." This plan of the Duke's, which is supposed to save Isabella, Claudio, and Mariana, appears to be almost corrupt and shameful, and is one of the reasons scholars consider Measure for Measure a problem play. What exactly is going on here with all of these characters? It seems almost uncharacteristic of the sweet, naïve, virginal Isabella to condone another performing such an act in her place. Isabella is, in a sense, asking Mariana to perform the very act which she has not only been avoiding, but that she is disgusted by. The fact that Isabella would accept the Duke's plan without question, which she does, has caused critics to question how saintly she actually is. The Duke has also been criticized for conducting and carrying out his plan. After all, he is the Duke, and he could have stopped Angelo and saved Mariana from having to sacrifice herself if he would have simply removed his disguise. It seems to be odd that a character the audience is expected to revere would not try to solve this problem by a more respectable, and much more simple, solution. Mariana has also been criticized for accepting her part in the action, because she is the character who commits the sin. Hence, the deception presented by these three "good" characters in the play is almost as corrupt as Angelo's deception. Why would Shakespeare do this? It appears that perhaps Shakespeare wanted to make all of his characters appear human. Angelo depicts a "holier-than-thou" persona and eventually falls because of it, Isabella is portrayed as a saintly virgin but here the audience sees she is also falli...

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This forenamed maid hath yet in her the continuance of her first affection. His unjust unkindness, that in all reason should have quenched her love, hath, like an impediment in the current, made it more violent and unruly. Go you to Angelo; answer his requiring with a plausible obedience; agree with his demands to the point; only refer yourself to this advantage, first, that your stay with him may not be long; that the time may have all shadow and sicken in it and the place answer to convenience. This being granted in course-and now follows all-we shall advise this wronged maid to stead up your appointment, go in your place. If the encounter acknowledge itself hereafter, it may compel him to her recompense; and here, ,by this, is your brother saved, your honor untainted, the poor Mariana advantaged, and the corrupt deputy scaled. [III.iii.265-293].
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