English 4301 – 261
04 March 2013
Measure for Measure, Inch by Inch, Second by Second, Eye for an Eye, and Life for a Life! One of William Shakespeare’s Great Tragedies!
Measure for Measure, one of Shakespeare’s major plays was considered to be one of his comedies in which the play is not merely a comedy but more of a tragedy. Measure for Measure is a description in its name itself. When you think of it or say it to oneself, what do you perceive it to be? Literally what does the title mean? Measure for Measure is just what it sounds to be. The people in Vienna, both males and females, live each and every day inch by inch, second by second, foot by foot to be able to survive in its cruel and merciful lifestyle. It is no one’s fault but the townspeople themselves. Even the Duke, was at fault in knowing what was going on and not putting authority down and putting some sort of a stop to it all. It was performed during the tragic period and seen more as a “Problem play” “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” “Page 414” than anything else. First performed in front of King James I, on December 26, 1604, this particular comedy was considered to be somewhat merciful but at the same time it served its justice. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s character of Mariana comes into the play in Act Four, Scene One. She is described as Angelo’s betrothed but soon has a rude awakening. As much to her surprise, when her brother was killed as sea in a shipwreck, she too lost her dowry. Her dowry was to be given to her husband at the time of marriage meaning money, goods, or even perhaps an estate but when Angelo heard of the news about Mariana’s brother, he refused to stay at her side. Angelo soon began to spread word about how Mariana was not a virgin and was unfaithful to him at one point with another townsman. In which none was true, Mariana did nothing but literally sit and wait for Angelo in high hopes that he would come back to her.
When Vincentio, the Duke, a good-hearted and caring individual decides to take some time away from his normal daily life, he betrays the people of Vienna. He doesn’t really leave but stays and disguises himself as Friar to see what goes on behind his back. As he goes away, he leaves everything in the hands of the deputy, Angelo. With Angelo being the total opposite of the Duke, one can say that in all aspects of a character as far as personality, judgment, sinfulness and attitude neither one is the same. The character of Angelo is somewhat lost within himself trying to go or get around the sins he has committed and those that he will commit. As merciless as Angelo is, he sentences Claudio to death for impregnating an unmarried woman, even though he is to be married to Juliet, who is bearing his own child. Angelo shies away from his wrongful doing as well but doesn’t see his own faults. Now Angelo may be the villain here but he does take the authority he was given to the next level in order to implement many laws and ordinances that have been long forgotten. Although many of the changes he is trying to execute contradict his own doings, the changes are in line with the rules and guidelines. Vincentio, the Duke, has through the years become somewhat dormant to the rules as well as all the people of Vienna. Angelo during the time he has before the Duke returns from his trip to Hungary to meet with the King, has the urge to clean up the streets of Vienna and hopefully turn the city around and the people as well. Many like Claudio have fallen into fornication before marriage which is a sin. Angelo sends him to be put to death in order to prove his point that this will not be tolerated. This causes such a stir within the town’s people that many rebel against it. But to his demise, Isabella, who is about to enter the nunnery and also sister to Claudio, comes before him to plead that her brother not be put to death.