Importance of the Friars in Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure
In the plays Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure, the friars are important instruments in their respective storyline because of their assumed pure intentions of using deception as a means to right the wrong-doing within the play. They have the authority to administer questionable plans of action because they are respected and trusted. The friars hear all of the confessions; therefore, they could know even the deepest of secrets. The friars, or "Fathers" take on a protective role, a paternal one. They seem to relate more with the youth, or the wronged, who become like children needing guidance in their vulnerable states. When the parents, or as in Measure for Measure, Angelo, must be contradicted, the next highest up in the chain of command is the friar. The friars assume these authoritative roles with great conviction. They seem to believe that they must protect their sheep and fight evil. Friar Francis of Much Ado About Nothing believes himself to serve as a means for justice, "Craft against vice I must repay" (3.1.57). In a different realm of justice, within different scales of measurement, the Friars offer their non-doctrinal mode of deception to set the world (of the play) in harmony.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Friar Francis suggests a peculiar solution to amend a horrible situation in which the bride was shamed and jilted. Friar Francis seemed to be the only male who pulled for Hero's honor. He believed her when her father did not and vied for her innocence when he said, "Trust not my age, / My reverence, calling, nor divinity/ If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here/ Under some biting error" (4.1.166-9). He advised that she pretend to be dead so that Claudio might think that his words had killed her and he would become remorseful, love her ever more, and her reputation and maidenhood would be saved: he tells her to "Come, lady, die to live" (4.1.253). In a most God-like manner, Friar Francis is concocting a sketchy plan to bring together two lovers who, otherwise, were denied their rights by the treachery of Don Juan.
Measure for Measure follows the same theme with a twist because in this instance Friar Lodowick is really the Duke, Vincentio. His role in this play is a little problematic because he is not really a clergyman, but he seems to try to set things right. As the friar, he convinces the Provost (4.2) to deceive Angelo and not hang Claudio, but to send him the head of another prisoner. By using his religious authority to control Angelo he said, "By the vow of mine order, I warrant you, if my instructions may be your guide, let this Barnardine be this morning executed, and his head borne to Angelo" (4.2.156-58). Another death-will-convince-the-deceived ploy concocted by a friar, the holy man.
Another form of deceit in this play is Isabella and Mariana's deception of Angelo, as...