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Consider Act II of "Measure for Measure", with regard to ideas of Justice and Mercy

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Aman Thakar 7T Consider Act II of "Measure for Measure", with regard to ideas of Justice and Mercy Right at the start of the Act we are provided with a distinct definition of Angelo's view of justice in regard to what has happened with the law concerning illegitimate fornication. The law has in effect been made a joke an in Angelo's view justice is not being served. In this scene that battle of Justice and Mercy is fought between Angelo And Escalus with Escalus holding the flag of mercy arguing that Claudio's fault is one innate in human nature. "Whether you had not sometime in your life err'd in this point, which now you censure him", terror should be exercised with view to mercy. The mockery that is endured by Justice sometimes is also expressed by Angelo in his speech spanning from lines 17-31, "The jury passing on the prisoners life may in the sworn twelve have a thief or two, Guiltier then him they try", this is seen as perfectly reasonable by Angelo, oblivious to the contradiction within this. Over the majority of Scene I in this act the wide repercussions of Angelo's tyranny are revealed. From lines 133-6 we see what little patience Angelo actually has for this issue. He shows little regard for the Bawds telling Escalus simply to whip them away and walk away from the scene. With such restrictions in place it is something that Angelo would have had to deal with regularly with activity fuelled by such strong desires as lust being clearly undeniable and unstoppable for people, a key theme repeatedly expressed throughout the play. ...read more.


This is evidence that justice is indeed being carried out under Angelo's rule and given the motives the Duke had to put Angelo in it could be argued so far that his standpoint to an extent is justified. Scene III though does suggest that mercy is required in this case particularly and Isabella uses mercy to appeal in an attempt to get at Angelo's heart, but it is not her way with words that strikes a chord with his heart. She begins with the simple switching of situations presenting mercy in regard to how it can be a great remedy for a man saying, "mercy then will breathe within your lips like a many new made". There is a feeling of redemption to this, Isabella focus is uniquely upon Claudio's case though and Angelo is forever looking beyond it and onto Vienna as a whole with its wider consequences. This idea is exemplified from lines 101-6 when Isabella tries to push him into showing pity: I show it most of all when I show justice; For then I pity those I do not know, Which a dismissed offence would after gall, And do him right that, answering one fool wrong, Lives not to act another. Be satisfied; Your brother dies tomorrow; be content. This speech is exemplary not only of Angelo's thinking but also the Dukes train of thought when he first decided to put Angelo in his position. ...read more.


She clearly believes giving up her chastity is like giving up her soul but as Angelo suggests "Pleas'd you to do't, at peril of your soul, were equal poise of sin and charity. Isabella rather hard headedly disregards this though and holds the firm view that her chastity is so important, without even reasonable contemplation of the alternative. This would suggest that Isabella is incapable of and really mercy herself, can we really condemn Angelo so when Isabella cannot act upon what she is arguing? Of course as a magistrate, some qualification has to be required as they have to be capable of showing mercy, but when in office, men are seen as deputies of God on earth, this demi god authority has to be carefully balanced between justice and mercy so it is not just "thunder, nothing but thunder", and this responsibility lies solely on Angelo's shoulders and in this respect he fails, and to an extent the duke with poor choice may be seen to fail as well. In Claudio's situation a wise magistrate would have seen a case for leniency, instead a well-intentioned young man on the verge of becoming a father is sentenced to death and a hardened professional bawd in Pompey is allowed to escape on the sly. Angelo insists law should be enforced with exemplary terror in case it falls into contempt in contrast with Escalus who s a good magistrate and alludes to the right circumstances causing any man, even Angelo as he does, to err like Claudio. ...read more.

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