Measure For Measure: Theme Analysis

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Measure for Measure is a distinctive play in that does not fit into the mold of other Shakespearean works. It is not a comedy in the classic terms in that most of the play deals with very serious issues and isn't designed to make the reader laugh. It is also not a history or a tragedy because none of the characters were real people, and unlike other Shakespeare tragedies, no one dies. Finally, it is not a classic love story because there are no flowery speeches and professions of love. Measure for Measure is it's own genre of play much like something that the world would view today. It discusses serious issues of the abuses of power and authority.
In Shakespeare's time, sexual harassment was non-existent, but today it remains a large issue. Measure for Measure deals with this harassment in the relationship between Isabella and Angelo. To gain her brother's freedom, Isabella has to make the choice of whether to sleep with Angelo or let her brother die. The ultimatum is something that would be illegal today.
A leader being above the law is another major theme that runs rampant through the story. Though Claudio is sentenced to death for sleeping with his fiancee whom he loves, Angelo takes advantage of being in power, and sleeps with Isabella. Even though he has attacks of conscience, Angelo still expects to get away with his crime because of the position he holds. The major metaphor in the play was also a person of power. The Duke in disguise stands as a God-like watcher figure who fixes the wrongs the characters make, judges those who deserve to be judged, and rewards those who are loyal and virtuous. The Duke uses his power to help, not to hinder those around him as Shakespeare may have perceived his God to be.
Measure for Measure continues to be a timeless tale that provokes thought in both people of yesterday, and people of today. The issues it brings forth are still relevant for students or readers to discuss today.

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