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Isabella defines Angelo as an arch-villain(TM). To what extent do you agree with her that Angelo is the villain of the play?

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Introduction

Measure for Measure Isabella defines Angelo as an 'arch-villain'. To what extent do you agree with her that Angelo is the villain of the play? Though he displays many villainous traits and commits some seemingly irredeemable acts of cruelty, it would be unfair to judge Angelo outright as an 'arch villain' All of Shakespeare's plays contain at least one character who displays villainous characteristics. These vary greatly from the remorseless evil of Iago in Othello to the more comedic antagonists whose main role is act as a block against true romance. Angelo poses a problem as does not fit seamlessly into either group. The dictionary defines the term 'Villain' as a wicked person or evil person. Certain actions that Angelo undertakes certainly would lead some to regard him as that. The most obvious of these would be the seemingly cruel act of ordering Claudio's execution for the human act of impregnating his lover/wife Juliet. This from the outset is an extreme and unjust measure for a crime that even in Jacobean times would not warrant death. ...read more.

Middle

Yet there would have been certainly those in the Jacobean era who would have regarded Angelo's behaviour as abhorrent. In a period of where many people were deeply religious and God-fearing, a woman's virtue and chastity was of the upmost importance as Isabella so rigidly declares "More than our brother is out chastity" Forcibly taking this virtue from a woman that would ultimately ruin her life would for some sixteenth century males be villainous. With regards to the twentieth-century where universal perceptions of chastity and sexuality have shifted for many Angelo still remains a villain as even with his lust satisfied with 'Isabella' , Angelo proceeds to have Claudio executed. Even more chilling is the fact he feels more fear that Isabella may oust him as hypocrite "How might she tongue me!" than any real genuine remorse for Claudio's death. This lack of remorse reflects one of Shakespeare's most evil creations; Iago of Othello. Though Angelo does not display the same inerrant evil as Iago, this link to his character does provide more evidence of his villain Yet if ...read more.

Conclusion

We must also consider the character of the Duke and his role in bringing about Angelo's downfall. Though often portrayed as a benevolent presence or even a Christ-like figure, The Duke's manipulation of Angelo to remedy his own failings as a leader has led one to question the Dukes character. The Duke seemingly knowing of Angelo's openness to hypocrisy "Lord Angelo is precise; scarce confesses that his blood flows; or that his appetite is more bread than stone" allows him to be a scapegoat in order to be absolved of where he himself has failed. This act of cowardice and failure to face up to his misdeeds may for twentieth century audiences in particular place him in the role of the villain rather than Angelo. To conclude in Measure for Measure there are no outright, atypical villains. Angelo though antagonistic has none of the malevolence that made characters such as Iago and Claudius so evil. Angelo is merely part of the ensemble of characters that that all are a mixture of faults and virtues. And considering the conflicting nature of tragedy against comedy in this play, Angelo's character is nether unfitting or unsurprising. ...read more.

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