Measure for Measure Study Guide

Measure for Measure Study Guide

Original title:
Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure is an interesting play by William Shakespeare, where the principles of his comedies and tragedies mix together. Like in a classic tragedy, there is a hero - a strict judge Angelo - whose desire to obey the law becomes his fatal flaw and almost leads to his downfall. But, as in the comedies, everything ends good and no one suffers too much. The interesting plot turn is described by Shakespeare himself: “some rise by sin and some by virtue fall”. The story plays with the classical dichotomy of Good vs Order, when what is right according to the law confronts the inner morals and the instinctive understanding of good and evil.

Like Judge Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, Judge Angelo also falls the victim of his lust. He is too self-righteous and too prone to purify the city of Venice that became sleazy and forgot about Christian virtues. Angelo was always detached from his true feelings and when they hit him they did it hard. The judge who was always trying to be fair, though strict, is ready to commit any atrocities, threaten and blackmail the innocent girl to satisfy his desire. Only when the Duke - the true ruler of the city who was pretending to leave temporarily - returns and calls Angelo out for his actions, the justice is restored in some way. The Duke still allows the people to indulge into sexual pleasures but obliges them to marry the seduced people to do it legally.

Interesting that Angelo isn’t a villain to the full extent. The Duke, who wasn’t able to set order in his own city and remind people about modesty and fidelity, just leaves, letting Angelo to enforce law and order - and fail. Later he appears and, as a “good policeman” solves all the problems. His way of ruling isn’t the best still, but the people are glad to have the more moderate ruler again.

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