In Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Angelo emerges as a double-sided character. Scholars have argued for centuries whether or not Angelo is a moral character or an evil character. Those scholars who support the notion of Angelo as moral often cite the following facts: the Duke obviously trusts Angelo, Angelo is disheartened enough by the end of the play to offer a sincere apology, and Angelo tries to resist the temptation that Isabella presents. On the other hand, others have argued that Shakespeare depicts Angelo as a purely evil man. These critics emphasize Angelo's treatment of Marian, the Duke's possible suspicion of Angelo, his desire for Isabella, and his broken promise to Isabella. By examining Angelo in both of these circumstances, it will become apparent that the most successful interpretation of Angelo's character is a combination of both of these facets.
Angelo depicts a few moral qualities throughout the course of the play. The firs instance of Angelo's depiction as a possible moral figure occurs in Act I, scene i. It becomes apparent here that the Duke has enough trust in Angelo to leave him in charge of his people. The Duke tells Angelo that he has the power to "enforce or qualify the laws/ As to your soul seems good" (I.i.66-67), which demonstrates that he must feel some respect for Angelo. Obviously, if Angelo does a poor job, it will reflect poorly on the Duke's judgment as a leader. Therefore, it would appear to be a foolish move if the Duke left Angelo in charge and assumed that Angelo might do something disreputable (Rowse 360). On top of this, the Duke's speeches demonstrate that he is an intelligent, sensitive man w...
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...randes, Georg. William Shakesperea. New York: Macmillian Company, 1924, pp. 401-10
Parrott, Thomas marc. Shakespearean Comedy. New York: Russel and Russel, Inc., 1949, pp. 335-65.
Raleigh, Walter. Shakespeare. London: Macmillan and Company, Ltd., 1965,,pp. 164-73.
Rowse, A.L. William Shakespeare; A Biography. New York: Harper and Row, 1963, pp. 360-65.
The student may wish to begin the essay with the following quotes:
Lord Angelo is precise;
Stands at a guard with envy; scare confesses
That his blood flows or that his appetite
Is more to bread than stone.
Man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high Heaven
As makes angels weep.
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