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Angelo, Escalus and the Duke present three kinds of ruler. How does Act I establish similarities and differences between them?

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Introduction

Angelo, Escalus and the Duke present three kinds of ruler. How does Act I establish similarities and differences between them? Act I sees the introduction of three important characters of the play, each taking up a different approach to authority. The Duke, Angelo and Escalus all use their power in a very different way, resulting in different consequences and effectiveness. The first position of authority we see in action is that of the Duke's. The opening scene alerts the audience to the fact that the Duke plans on leaving the city, for a reason which we are not made aware of, and that he plans on leaving Angelo in charge. As of yet, we do not know what sort of decision this is, because we do not have the substantial insight into the character of Angelo to be able to make a judgement. However, the Duke does comment on the fact that his first choice for ruler in his place was Escalus, "Old Escalus,/ Though first in question, is thy secondary." This does give the audience more an insight into the Duke's decision. It may suggest that he is weary of his choices because he didn't just go with his first instinct, he thought about it and chose a less obvious candidate. This suggests that he may have deeper meaningful reasons as to why he has not elected his most obvious replacement, causing the audience to see him perhaps as a wise character, maybe even cunning, both characteristics that would make a good ruler. ...read more.

Middle

Of course, the Duke thinks of the perfect way to introduce a new ruler and yet still hold his authority over the city, pretending that he is leaving temporarily and is in need of someone to take his place. Here is where we gain our insight into Angelo as a ruler. In Act 1 scene ii, we learn that Claudio has been sentenced to death for sleeping with Juliet. This is at the hand of the new and temporary ruler, Angelo. The audience is immediately thrust into the position that Angelo has been put in and is made to quickly judge what kind of decisions he is making. One may argue that his strict imposition of the laws is a good decision as a new ruler as he has not yet established himself or what kind of Duke he will be. This complies with the contemporary ruler at the time, King James I of England, who wrote in his book Basilikon Doron, "And when ye have by the severitie of justice once settled your countries, and made them knowe that ye can strike, then may ye thereafter all the days of your life mixe justice with mercie, punishing or sparing, as ye shall finde the crime to have been wilfullie or rashlie committed, and according to the by-past behaviour of the committer." ...read more.

Conclusion

This allows the audience to see what kind of ruler he is anyway, even though he is not the highest authority around. This produces a direct comparison between the three as rulers and means that the audience is able to compare them in turn as they each show their signs of rulership. In conclusion, it appears that each character that is presented as a ruler takes up a different corner in terms of how they each approach their position of authority. While the Duke has recognised that he has been too leniant in recent years, it could easily be suggested that his actions are cowardly and even unwise. Angelo, on the other hand, sees the opportunity to enforce laws that have not been in place. This seems to be the aim of the Duke's plan, yet one may question to what extent the Duke wished Angelo to force these laws on the people. This makes us assume that Angelo has taken almost the complete opposite approach to the Duke. Escalus, however, seems to provide a contrast between both the Duke and Angelo. Whilst he does not seem like the type to let people get away with anything, he also does not seem like the type to put innocent, decent men to death. It seems to me that Escalus is the character who follows James I's advice the best, using his judgement and circumstances to provide honest justice. ...read more.

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