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Is the plot of Measure for Measure a happy one? Does act 5 make it any happier?

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Introduction

M.Judge 4 alpha/a Is the plot of Measure for Measure a happy one? Does act 5 make it any happier? Today 'comedy' can describe any number of productions or acts. We have a good understanding of satire, sarcasm and alternative comic methods and subversions. We are great fans of black humour and find almost anything funny if it is different and fresh. In Elizabethan times, however comedy was expected to adhere to particular traditional patterns. It usually comprised of a number of slightly manic, zany and indeed foolish characters juxtaposed with either the perfectly normal or humourless hard faced individuals who were usually mocked or taken advantage of by the other characters. The plays were usually based around a light hearted comic plot in which confusions or complexities were resolved before the end. This almost standard formula was often used by William Shakespeare. The other conventional aspects of traditional comic plots (inherited from classical Rome) involved young lovers, represented by Claudio and Juliet in Measure for Measure, who would overcome adversity to eventually marry by the final act. Although in this play Shakespeare, in Measure for Measure, deliberately uses elements of a traditional comic play but forces them together with a more serious insight into our notions of morality and indeed the questioning of law, justice and mercy. From the beginning of Measure for Measure we are shown a man who has been sentenced to death as he has got his girlfriend pregnant and has therefore had sex before wedlock. The situation of these two young lovers is used to raise questions concerning the justice system, law and morality. ...read more.

Middle

Angelo's morals are then placed under scrutiny as he who is supposedly the keen upholder of the laws is suggesting to a nun that they should have sex out of marriage which is precisely the thing the he has been trying to deter people from doing. This sudden turn in opinion not only makes us laugh due to his hypocrisy but also makes us question whether any character is this play has half decent morals and can uphold them. Next, though, the man that we feel great sympathy for due to the dire situation he is in, Claudio, pleads with his sister to sleep with Angelo when she returns saying that she will not and asks her to throw away her life as a nun making him, the object of our sympathy, seem as bad as Angelo in his moral reasoning. It shows him to be hugely selfish. All of this is comical in its content and indeed makes us laugh due to its idiotic logic but when we find ourselves laughing at this situation we realise that this is not a laughing matter at all as the characters are playing with a man's life and losing almost every piece of moral standing which at first we thought he had. There actions may appear comical but the consequences of these action are very serous indeed. In setting up this situation Shakespeare forces us to decide in what way we would deal with it and indeed if we have empathy with any one of the characters. We must decide as to what the morally right thing to do is. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is hugely ironic as the whole play is based around the grave situation that he is in and how severe the situation is for him but at the end of the play he goes free and is given exactly what he wants an incredibly is punished the least. All of these things make us shake our heads at the foolishness of this conclusion and indeed the Duke's perverse way in dealing with everybody. All of the other marriages seem to punish the people who either have good intentions, Mariana and Isabelle, and reward the crooks, the Duke and Angelo. Lucio, however, appears to be punished fairly in a very ironic way as he, the bawd, is forced to marry a woman of equal moral dubiousness and is therefore punished to spend a life time with the person that he used for sex. Ironically he will have a life time of sex with this person which strangely seems far less appealing after they are married. The final straw in the Duke's massive foolishness and naivety is the point where he assumes he can marry Isabella. Completely out of the blue this leaves us open mouthed as the curtain closes. Shakespeare in this play has taken a serious plot and turned it into a farcical mockery of all comedic plays. Then act five does not make the play a happier one. The skilled way in which Shakespeare forces a very serious issue of morality into a comedic frame not only make us laugh but does something more. It makes us question our views on morality and upholding the law without seeming deliberate or overt. ...read more.

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