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In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare forces questions to be asked about a wide range of issues, all of which are brought together throughout the play by one character: Lucio.

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Introduction

The dramatic impact of Lucio cannot be underestimated. Not only does he entertain, stimulate and provoke, but he also informs us of contextual issues relevant to both Jacobean and contemporary audiences. Provide a detailed analysis of how this is achieved in Act 1. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare forces questions to be asked about a wide range of issues, all of which are brought together throughout the play by one character: Lucio. As the most vibrant and intriguing character in the play, Lucio moves between scenes and situations, and is apparently agreeable to all, regardless of status or social class. Despite the character only appearing in six scenes, and rarely speaking more than a few lines, Shakespeare utilises this tool to full advantage, employing Lucio as a device with which to illuminate the stage, whilst carrying the weight of Measure for Measure's contextual load, introducing it throughout Act 1 and maintaining and highlighting it throughout the play. We first meet Lucio in the second scene, whilst at his most typically jovial. After the whimsical musings of the Duke in the previous scene, dramatic impact is achieved instantly as the sharp, choppy retorts of Lucio and 'the two gentlemen' are exchanged on Bankside, a contextually relevant area of London infamous for its abundance of brothels and prostitution rings. ...read more.

Middle

It is even Lucio who observes Angelo's flaws, extending the implications of irony in the contrast between their two characters. Angelo would wish to appear to the citizens of Vienna to be the voice of morality, bravely crusading to clear the city's streets of the evils of promiscuity and sex outside of wedlock. Yet, as Lucio himself observes, and as we learn later in the play, privately Angelo is a man whose self-centred ambition is open to corruption, and who is more disinterested in helping Vienna's people than anyone. As we meet Lucio for the second time, Shakespeare again creates incredibly strong dramatic impact, again with the swift contrast of setting, but this time using the tool of Lucio to full effect. Lucio fit so easily into the seedy settings of Bankside, yet as he travels to inform Isabella of her brother's plight, he seamlessly moves into the surroundings of a nunnery. A lesser character would surely move awkwardly into such a scene, yet Lucio knows almost instantly how to act and how to speak. That he cannot resist trying a trademark joke 'virgin - if that you be' is forgivable- he does not repeat such a mistake after he realises it is totally unsuitable for the serious situation, and continues with the business of requesting Isabella's assistance in gaining mercy for her brother. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is a view clearly held by both the Duke and Lucio, who, despite Lucio's outward light-hearted promiscuity, are both morally proper men, whose apparently just resolution on law enforcement appears to have failed Vienna. I believe this also, albeit very subtly, brings into question the issue of the devine right of the monarch, an issue very topical at the time Measure for Measure was written. Just as the Duke, James I was a popular and good King, yet just as Vienna, London seemingly had a problem with prostitution, regardless of comparative extent. By showing, through the use of Lucio, that both the Duke and James I had the right idea on how to apply the law, yet their application was not appearing to be particularly effective, it would seem that Shakespeare brings the divine right issue into question, an issue that links neatly to that of morality of rule and of the ruling class' obsession with monetary value - something explored at the very beginning of the play. Obviously as we come only to the close of Act 1 no resolutions are suggested for these issues, Shakespeare ever playing strongly on the ambiguity of the people and social problems residing within the Vienna of Measure for Measure. ...read more.

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