Discuss "Men Debase Themselves By Taking Advantage Of Women."

1318 words - 5 pages

In Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, the protagonist Isabella is put into a moral dilemma by Angelo, the Duke's deputy, who asks to have sex with her before he will cancel the death sentence of Claudio, Isabella's brother. As a religious women planning to serve the church as a nun, she should refrain from sexual relationships with any men, yet she does not want to see her brother die in front of her. As Angelo persuades Isabella to sleep with him, she exclaims, "Help Heaven! men their creation mar. In profiting by them" (II, iv, 28-29). According to the bible, men are created in the image of God. Isabella's statement reflects her frustration of how men around her are debasing God's image by taking advantage of women's weaknesses. This is evidently reflected by the actions of four male characters in the play - Angelo, the Duke, Claudio and Lucio. [1: All Measure for Measure quotes are taken from the following edition:Shakespeare, William. (1991). The Oxford Shakespeare: Measure for Measure, N.W. Bawcutt ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press; The Oxford Shakespeare.][2: "Men spoil their creation in God's image by taking advantage of women" (McEvoy, 2006).]Angelo, who appears to be a strict law enforcer, prohibits sexual behavior in Vienna. He issues a proclamation to demolish all the bawdyhouses in the suburbs of Vienna, which could eradicate the problem of illegitimate births and in a sense offer protection to the city's women. He also considers fornication as a sin - he sentences Claudio to death for impregnating his lover Juliette before their legal marriage. In the 16th century, the common practice was that men and women were both subject to punishment if they committed fornication: "offenders of fornication had to undergo penance and public humiliation: the pillory, or by standing, sometimes in a white sheet, before the congregation or in the market-place" (Friedberg, 2012). Nevertheless, Claudio is the only one being blamed and punished for fornication. On the surface, Angelo appears to be just and merciful to women, therefore gaining public recognition in the city of Venice. However, deep inside, he takes advantage of women by different means, discrediting God's image. At the time when Isabella goes to Angelo to beg for Claudio's pardon, he appears resolute to adhere to his decision that Claudio shall be executed the next day. When Isabella pleads for his mercy continuously and says, "Hark how I'll bribe you; good my lord, turn back" (II, ii, 147) Angelo immediately replies "How? Bribe me?"(II, ii, 148) showing his immediate interest in the bribery. To his disappointment, Isabella's answer is that she would pray for him. Angelo then asks her to come again tomorrow instead. By that time, Angelo is attracted by Isabella's feminine virtue and wants her sexually. He starts wavering in his decision to execute Claudio. He says, "Dost thou desire her foully for those things that make her good? Oh, let her brother live…"...

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