Measure for Measure is an English play written by the famous playwright William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptized) – 23 April 1616) in around 1603. The first publication of the play is originally in the First Folio of 1623 (where it was for the first time categorized as a comedy), while the play's first recorded performance was in the year 1604. Measure for Measure deals with many religious, political and humanistic issues, such as mercy, justice, and truth and their relationship to pride and humility, as it is said, "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall". Although the play has always been categorized as a comedy, there is a mood in it that to some degree unfits the classification. According to Brian Gibbons in his introduction to the New Cambridge Shakespeare Measure for Measure, ‘Many critics [of Measure for Measure] have been troubled by the impression of a disorder, and a latent anarchy, more rooted, defiant, and aggressive than might be thought compatible with ‘festive’ (that is, ultimately reconciliatory) comedy’ (Brian Gibbons, introduction to the New Cambridge Shakespeare Measure for Measure, updated edition [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006], p.23). As a result, some critics have labeled Measure for Measure as one of Shakespeare's problem plays.
This paper focuses on where and how in the play the disorder mentioned above is presented in Measure for Measure as well as the meaning attached to it. On the one hand, the order in the play is represented by the law and Christian rules at the time. On the other hand, there is disorder represented by many pairs of conflicts of which the irresolution, to a large degree, makes Measu...
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...f those festive comedies. And that is an effective way to bring to people’s awareness of topics appearing in the play with deeper meaning, such as justice, humanity, power and law, etc. Furthermore, though the problems raised and discussed by the play have a specific social context, the topics mentioned above, however, are long-living, which must be one of the reasons why Shakespeare’s plays are the top among all the classical and remain popular throughout centuries. And the problem plays of his, such as Measure for Measure, not only amuse us by the humor in them, but also they trigger us to think by their depth as well as wisdom. (2379 words)
1. Brian Gibbons, introduction to the New Cambridge Shakespeare Measure for Measure, updated edition [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006], p.23
2. William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, 2. 2. 145-6.
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