Game-playing in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure
Thieves for their robbery have authority When judges steal themselves
Critics have often seen Vincentio, the Duke in Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure, as performing a function similar to that of Prospero in The Tempest. The reasons for such an assumption is clear in the very first scene of the play, as both characters set the plot into motion by exercising their power, withdraw to observe events from behind the scenes, then return to restore order at the end.
The Duke, seeing that the city of Vienna has degenerated and is desperately in need of reform, decides to remove himself from the post for a period so that his successor Angelo can rectify the problems, even though those problems were created and nurtured by the over-indulgence of the Duke himself. The Duke is practical, he is aware that a sudden strict application of the law might destroy or tarnish the legendary reputation that he has built up for himself. His purpose is made clear when he says to Friar Thomas;
Sith 'twas my fault to give the people scope,
'Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them
For what I bid them; for we bid this be done,
When evil deeds have their permissive pass
And not the punishment. Therefore, indeed, my father,
I have on Angelo imposed the office,
Who may, in th'ambush of my name, strike home,
And yet my nature never in the fight
To do in slander. [Act I Scene iii]
Thus Lord Angelo, who subsequently misuses the power that has been bestowed on him, is initially set up to be a scapegoat; someone who has to drive the nail in, a task the Duke evades, fearing the loss of his subjects' good will.
From this opening, the plot can, ...
... middle of paper ...
...uthority to outwit Angelo by defeating him in his own game and pardoning him.
Just as Angelo has the power to punish, the Duke has the power to pardon, and this seems to be the only moral that Measure for Measure conveys. The problem of the corrupt society remains unresolved. In this context it can still be called a 'problem' play, because the play does not satisfy the problems outlined in the exposition. But if it is seen as a game with the society only as a backdrop then it seems understandable that Shakespeare did not attempt to settle the troubles that beset the society.
Boas, F. S. Shakespeare and his predecessors. 1968
Eco, Umberto. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. 1984
Lawrence, Professor W. W. Shakespeare's Problem Comedies. 1931
Shaw, George Bernard. preface to Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant. 1922
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- How Productions from 1720 to 1929 Close Shakespeare's Open Silences in Measure for Measure Prologue: Playtext. Performance. and Open Silences In the Preface to his edition of Shakespeare's plays, and even as he vigorously defended the playwright against attacks by other neo-classical critics, Samuel Johnson nonetheless also offered his own survey of Shakespeare's weaknesses. Among the more well-known and provocative remarks is his assessment of the endings of the plays: It may be observed, that in many of his plays the latter part is evidently neglected.... [tags: Shakespeare Measure for Measure]
6617 words (18.9 pages)
- Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Game-playing in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Thieves for their robbery have authority When judges steal themselves Critics have often seen Vincentio, the Duke in Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure, as performing a function similar to that of Prospero in The Tempest. The reasons for such an assumption is clear in the very first scene of the play, as both characters set the plot into motion by exercising their power, withdraw to observe events from behind the scenes, then return to restore order at the end.... [tags: Shakespeare Measure Essays]
2062 words (5.9 pages)
- Politics, Power, and Purpose in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure In Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Vincentio, Duke of Vienna, observing that his Dukedom has fallen into licentiousness and chaos through his neglectful government, has pretended to leave Vienna and has turned over the government to Angelo, his upright and up-tight Deputy; and that the Duke has resolved to remain in Vienna, in disguise, so that he may observe how Angelo's character is revealed or transformed in the crucible of the power with which he has been invested.... [tags: Shakespeare Measure for Measure]
6633 words (19 pages)
- 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)
- Disguise in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night Disguise is a device Shakespeare employs frequently in both Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night. It allows a disguised character like the Duke of Vienna to glean information that would otherwise go unknown, and a character like Viola to take advantage of potentially beneficial situations. It gives these characters access to worlds that might otherwise be denied; for the Duke, he can now "haunt assemblies / Where youth and cost a witless bravery keeps" (1.4.9-10).... [tags: Measure Twelfth Night Essays Shakespeare]
1221 words (3.5 pages)
- Measure For Measure on the Stage Near the end of his well known treatment of transgression and surveillance in Measure for Measure, Jonathan Dollimore makes an observation about the world of the play that deserves further consideration by feminist scholars: the prostitutes, the most exploited group in the society which the play represents, are absent from it. Virtually everything that happens presupposes them yet they have no voice, no presence. And those who speak for them do so as exploitatively as those who want to eliminate them.... [tags: Shakespeare's Measure For Measure Essays]
4821 words (13.8 pages)
- Matrimony and Recompense in Measure for Measure (A version of this essay appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (Winter, 1995), 454-464.) Since 1970, when the Isabella of John Barton's RSC production of Measure for Measure first shocked audiences by silently refusing to acquiesce to the Duke's offer of marriage at the end of the play, Isabella's response (or lack thereof) to the Duke's proposal has become one of the most prevalent subjects for Shakespearean performance criticism.See, for example, Jane Williamson, "The Duke and Isabella on the Modern Stage," The Triple Bond: Plays, Mainly Shakespearean, in Performance, ed.... [tags: Shakespeare Measure Essays]
7072 words (20.2 pages)
- The Character Elbow in Shakespeare's Play, Measure for Measure In Act 2, scene 1 of the play Measure for Measure the character Elbow, a representation of the "Comedic Constable" often depicted in William Shakespeare's comedies and traji-comedies, gives the director an unusual creative license in portraying this figure to give the audience a rich theatrical experience. (Evans 427) These characters are most commonly depicted as "artless, inadequate, naïve, and prosaic men who bumble through their official duties, sublimely unaware of their blunders, intent upon fulfilling their offices even when they are not really sure just what those offices are." (Evans 427) They are honest men as well... [tags: Measure for Measure Essays]
1502 words (4.3 pages)
- Themes of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure Revealed in Angelo’s Soliloquies Angelo’s soliloquies (2.2.161-186; 2.4.1-30) express themes of the tragicomic form, grace and nature, development of self-knowledge, justice and mercy, and creation and death as aspects of Angelo’s character. By the theme of the tragicomic form I mean that which “qualified extremes and promoted a balanced condition of mind […] It employed a ‘mixed’ style, ‘mixed’ action, and ‘mixed’ characters—‘passing from side to side, it works amongst contraries, sweetly tempering their composition’.” (Guarini’s Compendio della Poesia Tragicomica (1601) cited in Lever lxi-lxii).... [tags: Measure for Measure]
821 words (2.3 pages)
- Shakespeare's Measure for Measure This reading of Measure for Measure will try to do more than draw attention to the extent to which Shakespeare goes beyond the conventional happy ending in this play. There are indications that the conclusions of many of the comedies are not really meant to bear up to close scrutiny; in Jaques¹ words, their loving voyages are not victual¹d for very long. In Measure for Measure we are openly challenged to question the adequacy of attaching a happy ending to a deeply troubling play.... [tags: Shakespeare Desire Plays Papers]
4131 words (11.8 pages)