Redemption and Damnation in Measure for Measure and Othello

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Redemption and Damnation in Measure for Measure and Othello

Measure for Measure and Othello are closely related. There is a thesis-antithesis bond between these two plays. Much more than just sharing a trait or a source, the two constitute a paired study of the processes of redemption and damnation.

Measure for Measure counterbalances Othello. Looking at the text of each play, one finds parallel and contrasting circumstances and characteristics that would incline one to interpret each play in light of the other. First instance: the issue of being passed over. In the opening scene of Measure for Measure Escalus is passed over for the position of deputy in a most explicit fashion. The Duke praises Escalus as peerless in his knowledge of government and then declares without explanation that he is taking leave of his duties and appointing Angelo as his deputy. Escalus, in response to the Duke's request for his opinion on the choice, expresses approval-as he more or less must under the circumstances-but also shows at no subsequent time any hurt pride at not being chosen. In the first scene of Othello Iago declares to Roderigo, to whom he seldom tells the truth, that he has no desire to further Othello's interests as in the case of this sudden elopement because, having been passed over by Othello for position of lieutenant, he feels bitter and desires to avenge his wounded pride. The shallowness of Iago's speciously proclaimed motive-did "great ones" of the city really petition Iago's candidacy to Othello?-is heightened by contrast with Escalus' benign acceptance when actually passed over. Second instance: interceding women. In Measure for Measure Isabella pleads with Angelo to rescind his sentence of death on Cla...

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...does occur in Measure for Measure, and it makes all the difference.

Works Cited

Barish, Jonas A. The Antitheatrical Prejudice. Berkeley: U of California P, 1981.

Battenhouse, Roy C. "Measure for Measure and Christian Doctrine of the Atonement." PMLA 61 (1946): 1035-36.

Bentley, Eric. "Henrik Ibsen: A Personal Statement." Columbia University Forum, I (Winter 1957): 11-18. Rpt. In Ibsen: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Rolfe Fjelde. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1965. 83-92.

Evans, G. B., ed. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1974.

Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1970.

Leggatt, Alexander. "Substitution in Measure for Measure." Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (Autumn 1988): 342-59.

Mahood, M. M. Shakespeare's Wordplay. London: Methuen, 1957.
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