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Measure for Measure-A Problem Play?

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Introduction

Discuss the reasons why Measure for Measure might be termed 'a problem play'. The play does not fit comfortably into any other genre, such as tragedy or comedy although some aspects can be, and will originally have been, interpreted comically. Measure for Measure could therefore be seen to reflect everyday life more so than any other of Shakespeare's plays; that is a situation made up of many moral complications, dilemmas and light moments. In this sense the term 'problem' is perfectly suited to the play as it does not single out one issue and explore it in a typical dramatic fashion, instead it acknowledges the many areas and problems within life and shows how difficult life can be when one has to deal with many issues at once. The problem of defining Measure for Measure at the time it was first performed also seems to introduce the idea that Shakespeare wanted to produce a play with more than one message or plot running through it; he may not have wanted it tied down to a certain genre. The new genre of a 'problem play' allows individual productions a great deal of flexibility in the way each character is presented making the play ideal for society at the time of each production. ...read more.

Middle

The theme of justice is particularly interesting when discussing this issue, as it is clear that past decisions and leniency have led to a justice system so corrupt that to even attempt to correct it can cause an even greater number of problems than it solves. When deciding whether to punish Claudio for his crime many issues have to be taken into consideration and any decision will cause problems. As Claudio is quite obviously in love with Juliet sentencing him to death would be almost as if Angelo was dismissing human emotions and traditions in favour of legally binding vows however, if Claudio was allowed to live it would be even more difficult to sentence another person for the same crime at a later date. These factors alongside the issue of who is in charge of justice makes for a large moral and political debate as to which of many possible decisions is the correct one. Angelo defends his decision to sentence Claudio to death by stating it is the law not he who is responsible for passing judgement and Isabella responds to this by reminding Claudio that there is a greater power (God) ...read more.

Conclusion

Thirdly, the position of Angelo as 'divine ruler' for the time being can be seen as highly corrupt as he uses his power to show Isabella she would never be believed if she was to report him. This one situation has presented the audience with many problems dealing with a wide range of issues from morality to human rights and the justice system. In this sense the play is unlike a tragedy such as Othello, which attempts to present one main villain and a hero who becomes persuaded into drastic actions. Here all the characters can be seen to carry blame to some extent, which poses a problem for the audience when interpreting the play. If Claudio asks his sister to go through with Angelo's request he dismisses her worth, yet if Isabella commits the act she has contributed to worsening an already corrupt system and Angelo can be seen as causing a problem by changing his principals and contradicting himself in a short period of time. Even the Duke can't be seen as the villain as it seems he is attempting to improve the situation by speaking to others involved and trying to carry out a plan that will be beneficial to all involved. Natalie Lealand Word Count-1186 ...read more.

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