This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Politics, Power, And Purpose In Shakespeare's Measure For Measure

6699 words - 27 pages

Politics, Power, and Purpose in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure

In Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Vincentio, Duke of Vienna, observing that his Dukedom has fallen into licentiousness and chaos through his neglectful government, has pretended to leave Vienna and has turned over the government to Angelo, his upright and up-tight Deputy; and that the Duke has resolved to remain in Vienna, in disguise, so that he may observe how Angelo's character is revealed or transformed in the crucible of the power with which he has been invested. The Duke tells Friar Thomas, who is party to the plot:

Lord Angelo is precise,
Stands at a guard with envy, scarce confesses
That his blood flows, or that his appetite
Is more to bread than stone. Hence shall we see
If power change purpose, what our seemers be. (1.3.5-54)

My subject is how "power" changes--or at least influences--"purpose." But the "purpose" in question is not, as in the play, the government of a city or of a state, nor even (as in the case of Angelo) the government of one's psychological and physical appetites, but the creation of a work of art, of a theatrical performance. Talking about Angelo, the Duke poses his assertion as a conditional: he wishes to test "if power change purpose." My hypothesis is that, in the theatre, power does indeed change purpose.

I base this hypothesis upon several premises: that the theatre, as a complex collaborative art form, depends upon the coordination of the talents and temperaments of a wide range of individuals; that, in the theatre, these individuals must be organized into a process which inescapably involves the establishment and articulation of power; that theatrical artists are, by their very nature, sensitive, egotistical, easily offended and ultimately cajolable, and therefore particularly vulnerable to the articulation of lines of authority and the exercise of power; that the primary raw material of the theatre is the actor and the dramatic character he or she is playing; that plays in performance are constructed from the subjective, sensitive, malleable and yet ultimately uncontrollable raw material of human beings in action; that, therefore, the theatre event is particularly sensitive to the slightest breeze, not to mention the gale-force winds, of exercised power; and finally--and this may be my most controversial, and possibly even unsupportable, premise--that the effect the exercise of power has on the theatrical process inevitably makes its way into the theatre event created by that process, and is ultimately perceivable by the audience in the theatre. In claiming that power in the theatre does change purpose, I am in fact asserting that process affects meaning.

Now, before I go too much further, I should tell you that theatre does not, by itself, necessarily mean anything. Or, to put it more precisely, theatre doesn't, ideally, make statements about anything. Rather, theatre happens. Things happen in it. What...

Find Another Essay On Politics, Power, and Purpose in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure

Isabella as an Independent Female in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure

1296 words - 5 pages are the ways in which a twenty-first century woman is perceived. In the time period Shakespeare was writing in the abilities and roles expected of women were very different. For women in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, there are extremely limited roles women can fulfill and all of them centre around sexuality and serving men sexually. A woman is either chaste or unchaste, a wife or a whore, and there is very little differentiating the two. A

Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure"- The Female Characters

6679 words - 27 pages choices in putting those puzzle pieces together and wrote an understandable essay about the women in Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”.Character constellationsVincento, The Duke, is the ruler of Vienna and passes down his power along to Angelo.Angelo is the Duke’s deputy and later gets married to his ex fiancée Marianna.Claudio is a young man who is supposed to get hanged because he gets his fiancée Juliet

Explain how Shakespeare's portrayal of characters in Act1 of 'Measure for Measure' link with its genre of a problem play

1433 words - 6 pages Explain how Shakespeare's portrayal of characters in Act1 link with its genre of a problem play.Measure for Measure does not fit neatly into any of the genres of most of Shakespeare's other plays. It contains elements from both genres of tragedy and comedy while having unique aspects that don't fit either. Therefore, it is given the genre of a problem play. I am going to look at the characters of the Duke, Angelo, Isabella, Lucio, and Claudio

Exploring Morality in Measure for Measure

754 words - 3 pages Exploring Morality in Measure for Measure    In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare is able to examine the concept of right and wrong through the characters of Mistress Overdone and Mariana. Throughout the play, by using characters that most people would find morally reprehensible, Shakespeare is able to give the audience a different view of these people and, hopefully, show his audience that people aren't always what they appear to be

measure for measure notes

2097 words - 8 pages Christian virtue. She is also a beautiful woman. As a character, she inspires both criticism and praise from the literary critics. Some see her as one of Shakespeare's most interesting and strongest female characters. In the midst of the moral decay around her, she holds firmly to her beliefs and principles, to the point of sacrificing her brother's life to save her soul for eternity. In the end, she is seen as the symbol of mercy when she forgives

Measure For Measure

1008 words - 4 pages Measure for Measure provides less freedom for woman than other Shakespearian plays given no control as an independent woman. The explanation of "Measure still for Measure" (IV.i.414) focuses on punishments and retributions as well as an obedience to transferred power. The Duke’s reign has shaped an atmosphere in Vienna fraught with indulgence and an overall disregard for the law. The Duke wishes to have more order in Vienna but is unsure how to

Comparing Sexuality in All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, and Troilus and Cressida

1488 words - 6 pages Women: Historical Facts and Dramatic Representations."  In Holland, Norman N., Sidney Homan, and Bernard J. Paris, eds.  Shakespeare's Personality.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. Shakespeare, William.  All's Well That Ends Well.  Bevington 362-403. ---.  Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  Bevington 1060-1116. ---.  Measure for Measure.  Bevington 404-443. ---.  Othello, the Moor of Venice.  Bevington 1117-1166

Comparing Forgiveness and Marriage in Much Ado, All's Well, and Measure for Measure

2651 words - 11 pages Forgiveness and Marriage in Much Ado about Nothing, All's Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure      Shakespeare never does manage to make the journey to the end of his comic plays an easy one for his characters or his audience, and as his comedies evolve, the journey becomes even more difficult. Tragic elements and more psychologically complex characters increase the intensity of the ending and often make a reader or viewer

The Value of Sex in Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure

1370 words - 5 pages does not accept his condemnation, but takes the "shame with joy" (2.3.36). In her rejection of the Duke's scolding, "Juliet takes from the Duke his power to preach, rule, and pontificate" (Carlson 19). She claims autonomy over her body by embracing her sexuality and refusing to recognize it as a commodity. In Measure for Measure, Juliet contrasts Isabella, the virtuous woman. Isabella is a novice about to be eternally committed to God

Essay on Justice vs. Morality in Measure for Measure and Merchant of Venice

1127 words - 5 pages Justice vs. Morality in Measure for Measure and Merchant of Venice   There are many similarities shared between Shakespeare's plays, "Measure for Measure", and "The Merchant of Venice".  The underlying theme of each work is well defined by the phrase "Justice without the temperance of mercy, is power misused".  I will support this claim by drawing upon some of the characters and situations that are consistent in each story. In each

Importance of the Friars in Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure

1014 words - 4 pages 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

Similar Essays

Shakespeare's Measure For Measure Essay

1994 words - 8 pages in his book Shakespeare and his Predecessors (1968), where he found four of Shakespeare's plays which presented a society sophisticated, artificial, rotten-ripe, in which 'abnormal' conditions of mind arose and 'intricate cases of conscience' demanded 'unprecedented methods of solution'. The four plays that Boas had in mind were: All's Well that Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida and Hamlet. According to Boas these plays dealt

William Shakespeare's Measure For Measure Essay

1343 words - 5 pages William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure The desires of the characters in Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure are not entirely clear, and are made ambivalent and ambiguous by the use of their language. Particularly in 3.1.52-153, when Isabella visits Claudio in prison, ambiguous lines and puns make it unclear whether Isabella desires Claudio’s death and whether he truly desires to be free of sin. These desires were further convoluted by

The Character Elbow In Shakespeare's Play, Measure For Measure

1597 words - 6 pages The Character Elbow in Shakespeare's Play, Measure for Measure In Act 2, scene 1 of the play Measure for Measure the character Elbow, a representation of the "Comedic Constable" often depicted in William Shakespeare's comedies and traji-comedies, gives the director an unusual creative license in portraying this figure to give the audience a rich theatrical experience. (Evans 427) These characters are most commonly depicted as "artless

Shakespeare's Interpretation Of Women In "Measure For Measure"

1339 words - 5 pages Shakespeare's interpretation of women in Measure for Measure very much reflects society's opinion of women at the time, which was that men have more freedom and should be given more respect that women. The society of the time was a patriarchal one, where a male God was the ultimate leader, and below him came the king, then the nobles. However, although the society gave men more rights than women, Measure for Measure demonstrates that they also