Measure for Measure: The Dark Comedy Essay

Measure for Measure: The Dark Comedy Essay

Length: 837 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview



The Dark Comedy of Measure for Measure

 

Measure for Measure, the last of Shakespeare's great comedies, is also the darkest of his comedies, and represents his transition to tragic plays. This play differs from Shakespeare's other comedies, and is in many ways more akin to tragedy than to comedy. In setting, plot, and character development Measure for Measure has a tragic tone, however, because none of the main characters actually loses his life, this play is considered a comedy.

 

Almost all of Shakespeare's comedies have dual localities: the real world of crime, punishment, and responsibility, and an idyllic world, where reality is malleable, and forgiving. For example, As You Like It occurs in both the world of the court, dangerous for almost all of the primary characters, and the forest of Arden, a sanctuary that nurses conflict to resolution. Measure for Measure, on the other hand, offers no safe haven for the characters. They are trapped in the corrupted mire called Venice. Angelo, appointed scourge of the city, lets no person escape his punishing hand. Painting no "Arden" to provide asylum, Shakespeare gives Measure for Measure a grave tone. The play is more like a tragedy: intense focus on the gravity of the situation with littleemotional respite for the reader and characters. Measure for Measure is like a tragedy in plot development, as well. Shakespeare's earlier comedies pose situations of extreme danger, but through plot development, Shakespeare handles the conflict with a lighter tone. Much is at stake, but he reassures the reader that good will prosper, and evil will not escape some sort of punishment. Measure for Measure is dangerously close to being a tragedy throughout the whole play.

 ...


... middle of paper ...


...r protection of her virginity never wavers; not even when her brother's life is at stake will she relinquish her morals. Isabellaand Angelo are more closely related to Shakespeare's Othello than they are to Rosalind who constantly adapts to the situation. Whereas Rosalind's ability to change enables her to affect the plot of As You Like It, Othello's fierce, short sighted determination sends him reeling through a predetermined fate to a tragic end. Angelo and Isabella, in their stubborn adherence to principles, head for a cruel fate, only avoided through the duke's manipulation.

 

Though Measure for Measure ends with no major characters dying, it is only marginally a comedy. The characters, plot, and setting more resemble Shakespeare's tragedies than his comedies. Shakespeare forces the "happy" ending, and in so doing, announces the end of his comedic works.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Measure for Measure Essay: Isabella’s Moral Dilemma

- 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]

Better Essays
762 words (2.2 pages)

Measure for Measure Essay examples

- Shakespeare’s famous play Measure for Measure is usually put into the genre of a dark comedy. I’m not exactly sure if that best fits this particular Shakespearian writing or not, but I do know that there is more dark than there is comedy in it. The writing is set in Vienna, Italy around the time of the 17th-18th century. The Duke of Vienna has decided to leave on a trip, and he will place a successor, Lord Angelo, in his position while he is away. Little does anyone in the town know, but the Duke decides to stay put within his town so that he may spy upon the citizens and leadership....   [tags: Shakespearean Literature]

Better Essays
1171 words (3.3 pages)

MALE DOMINANCE AND FEMALE SEXUALITY IN MEASURE FOR MEASURE AND THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

- Constructed upon the model of the ‘tale of the unjust judge’, Measure for Measure presents us with an ambiance which is scarcely typical of Shakespearean comedy. The play is soaked through and through with libidinal urge, sexual appetite, abuse of authority and real threat of dishonour and death, and the characters are not at all light-hearted about life as they usually are in Shakespearean comedy. Prison houses, brothels, judgement chambers and rather uncomfortably enclosed and dark places are the locations where much of the action takes place....   [tags: Shakespearean Literature ]

Better Essays
1235 words (3.5 pages)

Comparing Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night

- Parallels between Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night What is comedy?  Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia says: "A comedy depicts the follies and absurdities of human beings."  Webster's Dictionary defines comedy as: "A drama or narrative with a happy ending."  Shakespeare's play, Measure for Measure, fits both of these descriptions.  Follies and absurdities are present in the play: Lucio slanders the Duke, not realizing that his crude remarks are being spoken to the Duke himself; Angelo abuses his power thinking that the Duke is not present to know; and Ragozine happens to die in prison the day a head is needed to substitute for Claudio's.  Th...   [tags: Comparison Compare Contrast Essays]

Better Essays
1984 words (5.7 pages)

The Divine Comedy vs. Paradise Lost Essays

- Full Circle – from Sin to Salvation Great works of literature have been written throughout history. However, The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost have the inept ability to stir the soul and cause a person to examine and re-examine their life. The brilliant descriptions, use of imagery, metaphor and simile give a person a vivid picture of the creation of man and the possibilities for life in the hereafter. This is done, as a person is able to see, full circle, from the beginning of time to the end of time, the consequences of turning away from God....   [tags: essays research papers]

Better Essays
3039 words (8.7 pages)

Measure for Measure Essay: The Bed Trick

- 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 Isa...   [tags: Measure for Measure]

Better Essays
1894 words (5.4 pages)

Essay on Measure For Measure on the Stage

- 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]

Free Essays
4821 words (13.8 pages)

Open Silences in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Essay

- 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]

Free Essays
6617 words (18.9 pages)

Essay on Matrimony and Recompense in Measure for Measure

- 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]

Free Essays
7072 words (20.2 pages)

Exploring Morality in Measure for Measure Essay

- Exploring Morality in Measure for Measure    In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare is able to examine the concept of right and wrong through the characters of Mistress Overdone and Mariana. Throughout the play, by using characters that most people would find morally reprehensible, Shakespeare is able to give the audience a different view of these people and, hopefully, show his audience that people aren't always what they appear to be. Through the character of Mistress Overdone, Shakespeare is able to bring a jovial side to the oldest job known to man -- prostitution....   [tags: Measure for Measure]

Better Essays
739 words (2.1 pages)