Some critics of Shakespeare’s play, Measure for Measure, judge Isabella as "a narrow minded but passionate girl afflicted with an irrational terror of sex" (Barton, 546), "a young, immature woman" demonstrating "moral absurdity and cruelty" (Nicholls, 478), whose actions are scarcely defensible. A classmate of mine asked, "Why doesn't Isabella just sleep with Angelo? What's the big deal?" These statements reveal that these people have no understanding or sympathy for Isabella’s position: socially, morally or physically.
Perhaps I take the issue of Isabella’s character so seriously because I played the role of Isabella in our college’s production of the play. Preparing and playing a Shakespearean role onstage leads to a kind of understanding of that character that no other activity can match. When we professors encourage our Shakespeare students to work toward an interpretation of a play by imagining how they might play various roles, we are approaching that kind of understanding. When we ask them to view various productions, or read about the performances of different actors in the same role, we add to their sense of what the play means "from within." But especially when we ask them to read a scene aloud, or, even better, to prepare an in class performance, they learn something of what Shakespearean actors know: the full motivations and actions, thought, and feelings of an individual character. From those details, even amateur actors learn more about the conflicts and resolutions of the whole play.
Therefore, in order to balance the still frequent condemnation of Isabella's thoughts and actions, I want to share with you some of the discov...
... middle of paper ...
...ines. London: Bell, 1879.
Kathleen McLuskie. "The patriarchal bard: feminist criticism and Shakespeare: King Lear and Measure for Measure" in Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, ed. Jonathan Dollimor and Alan Sinfield. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1985, 88-108.
Graham Nicholls. Measure for Measure: Text and Performance. Houdmills: Macmillan Education Ltd., 1986.
Carol Rutter. Clamorous Voices. Shakespeare's Women Today. New York: Routledge, 1989.
William Shakespeare. Measure for Measure, ed. Brian Gibbons. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
__________. Measure for Measure, ed. N. W. Bawcutt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991.
__________. Measure for Measure (The Arden Shakespeare), ed. J. W. Lever. London & New York: Routledge, 1965.
Cedric Watts. Measure for Measure. London: Penguin, 1986.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Morality in Measure for Measure Shakespeare's play, Measure for Measure, focuses on human morality. The play also explores the question of what kind of sexual conduct is socially acceptable, and what is not. The play depicts various attitudes toward prostitution, promiscuity, and premarital sex. But it also suggests that human laws and perhaps human morality are quite arbitrary and relative. Measure for Measure considers the need for statutes and laws to govern sexual appetites and ensure domestic tranquility.... [tags: Measure for Measure]
2108 words (6 pages)
- Feminist Performance and the Silence of Isabella in Measure for Measure In a chapter entitled “When Is a Character Not a Character?” Alan Sinfield presents the argument that the female figures in Shakespeare’s plays are not really “characters” at all, since they do not possess continuous and psychologically consistent interior lives. Although such roles as that of Desdemona, Olivia, and Lady Macbeth are written so as to suggest the presence of uninterrupted interior consciousness, this impression collapses under the pressure of the plot’s movement toward closure, which reveals the figures to represent nothing more than a “disjointed sequence of positions that women are conve... [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]
3785 words (10.8 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Papers]
589 words (1.7 pages)
- The Last Act of Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare Works Cited Not Included Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare's unclassifiable plays. It was written in 1603 and is one of his most enigmatic and unfathomable works. It is normally referred to as a problem play and, up until the 20th century it was seen as one of Shakespeare's worst works, due to the fact that many were uncertain as to the character's motives.... [tags: Papers]
1376 words (3.9 pages)
- Renaissance England often treats female sex and virginity as a commodity. Shakespeare recognizes this belief system in Measure for Measure and Romeo and Juliet. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet's virginity acts as a commodity. However, it is not her commodity; rather, it belongs to her father. Capulet uses it as a bartering tool. In act three, scene four, he makes a marriage agreement with Paris. He says, "Sir Paris, I will make a desperate tender / Of my child's love. I think she will be ruled / In all respects by me.... [tags: Romeo and Juliet Essays]
1251 words (3.6 pages)
- The Pontification of Isabella in Measure for Measure Within Measure for Measure the character of Isabella is characterized as an innocent pure female, and there is a focus on her ever-present moral dilemma. By using Elizabethan perspectives on women, nuns, and chastity, Shakespeare uses Isabella to reveal character traits and morality of those around her. However in opposition Isabella made be seen as an individual who pontificates too much when her brother’s life is at stake, it is perhaps easier for Isabella to suffer the condemnation of a modern audience.... [tags: Measure for Measure]
1126 words (3.2 pages)
- The Virtuous Isabella in Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is not a celebration of family values, the play points towards both the political virtuosity, which sustains the comic, and the humbler self-knowledge that preserves the integrity of the virtuoso. Human virtue can only be chosen in freedom, but we need not deny ourselves the opportunity of ensuring that this choice is not stifled by the subtly related powers of abstract intellectualism and carnal necessity Isabella in Measure for Measure personifies innocent virtue.... [tags: Measure for Measure]
1284 words (3.7 pages)
- The Virtuous Vanity of Isabella in Measure for Measure Shakespeare's work, Measure for Measure, puts the "problem" in "problem play" as it, examines the difference between law and justice, virtue and goodness. It's a case study of abuse of power that has a particularly contemporary resonance. Isabella is a very intriguing Shakespearean female. She is one of the few intelligent females who are also innocent and holy. Measure for Measure focuses primarily on her moral dilemma. Does she save her brother and give up her valued chastity or does she save her own soul while allowing her brother to die.... [tags: Measure for Measure]
1498 words (4.3 pages)
- Isabella’s Moral Dilemma in Measure for Measure "O cunning enemy that, to catch a saint, with saints dost bait thy hook." A disturbing tale of suspense, dark comedy and corruption, Shakespeare's Measure for Measure explores sexuality, morality and the law, exposing the abuse of authority in high places amid the seething underworld of Vienna. This essay will explore Isabella’s moral dilemma. In the play, Claudio has been sentenced to death for getting his fiancee pregnant (his crime was not so much getting her pregnant, but having sex with her at all).... [tags: Measure for Measure]
762 words (2.2 pages)
- CHARACTER AND ROLE OF DUKE VINCENTIO In the world of Shakespearean comedies, most characters are gentle, merry and humorous. Here women emerge as more intellectual and potential than men do; women not only match men but also come out winners. The men may be young and handsome, but when works need to be done Shakespeare invariably reaches out for his heroines. He has given us such a glittering array of heroines that Ruskin comments "Shakespeare has only heroines and no heroes." Truly, Shakespeare has not been able to depict a neat `hero' in the true sense of the word.... [tags: European Literature]
663 words (1.9 pages)