• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"Measure for Measure is a play without any truly sympathetic characters". To what extent do you agree with this view?

Extracts from this document...


"Measure for Measure is a play without any truly sympathetic characters". Do you agree? On first appearance, it could be perceived as though many of the characters introduced by Shakespeare in Measure for Measure are of an unsympathetic nature and make it difficult for an audience to become endeared to any of their situations. Unlike other Shakespearean plays, in particular those which share the problem play genre, some critics have argued that the personalities in Measure for Measure can appear to be one-dimensional, and apart from perhaps Angelo, have little complexity to their character. This perhaps is accounted for in the title of the play, a biblical reference from the book of Matthew (7: 1-2), by which it is suggested that the audience should not be concerned by the individual characters within Measure for Measure, but instead by their roles and what they are symbolic of in the overall portrayal of real and fictional social issues of law, morality and justice. It could also be argued however that whilst no character appears to be truly sympathetic throughout, the moral pressures that Shakespeare places the characters under enables even the most unsympathetic characters such as Angelo to reveal a moral conscience and sense of compassion reveals even the most unsympathetic such as Angelo to have a moral conscience and sense of compassion The Duke can be considered as the puppet master in this play, which facilitates the fact that the other characters are used to illustrate particular moral problems. ...read more.


and it can be said that as general social attitudes towards sex and religion have become increasingly liberal, the amount of sympathy felt towards Isabella, upon her introduction at least, has decreased. On the other hand, Shakespeare also puts Isabella in a situation to which her response makes her appear a much more sympathetic character. Upon hearing about Claudio's arrest, Isabella is coerced by Lucio in to trying to help, despite her protests that she is powerless to change Angelo's orders, "Alas, what poor ability's in me to do him good". Lucio persuades Isabella to act feminine and flirty towards Angelo, "Go to Lord Angelo, and let him learn to know, when maiden's sue, men give like Gods, but when they weep and kneel all their petitions are as freely theirs", despite the fact that Isabella's devout beliefs would usually prohibit her from speaking to a man unless in the presence of a senior nun. The fact that Isabella responds, "I'll see what I can do", endears her to an audience irrespective of context, as she agrees to behave in a way so contradictory to her religious beliefs in order to try and help her brother, a loyal and fairly brave thing to agree to doing when she has no confidence in succeeding at all. At this point in the play, it would appear as though Isabella, although a character with morals that are less popular today, appears to be a truly sympathetic character. ...read more.


by Angelo seems unnecessarily harsh, "See that Claudio be executed by nine tomorrow morning", and an unjust punishment for the 'crime' he is seen to have committed, but equally may have portrayed him as an unsympathetic but strong leader to an audience of the time. Despite the initial unsympathetic perception of Lord Angelo, he further on in the play becomes led more by his instincts and sexual desires as opposed to the measures rationality we are familiar with, a point which to some makes him more sympathetic because he appears to be controlled by human emotions and desires like many of the citizens of Vienna, whereas it can be more strongly argued that the hypocrisy of his decisions secures his position as a truly unsympathetic character within the play. Other characters within Measure for Measure can also be discussed in terms of how sympathetic they are, as despite not being particularly dramatic characters, their roles are important within the play as a whole. Lucio, for example, on one hand attracts sympathy because he appears to genuinely be supportive of his friend Claudio's plight. Despite appearing to take this seriously, his approach to Isabella, typical of his language throughout the play, exudes some of the vulgarities which the authorities in Vienna are keen to get rid of and negate some of the sympathy that may be directed towards him, as he appears rude and mocking of Isabella. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Measure for Measure section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Measure for Measure essays

  1. 'A complex character deserving of sympathy'. To what extent do you agree with this ...

    At the beginning of the play, Kirschbaum notes, Angelo is cruel and inflexible, but this is tempered somewhat by the fact that he is also noble in his consistent adherence to the law. But in the end he is a character who is no longer noble but who is instead "small-minded, mean, calculating (and)

  2. Discuss the theme of deception and disguise in the play "Measure for Measure."

    This is how he is able to talk closely with Isabella, Claudio's sister and Marianna. People also trust him because as a friar he is seen as a messenger of God. There is a key scene in the play relating mostly to deception that will follow, where the Duke is explaining his plans.

  1. Free essay

    Measure for Measure - 'It is comedy and trickery in the play that engages ...

    The audience will therefore gain a different perspective of Isabella as well as being sceptical on her position in the sisterhood, she appears to show no insight to the effect(s)

  2. measure for measure

    Although we cannot ignore that her previous pleas in Act Two to Angelo: "O spare him! Spare him!" in desperation, "tis tyrannous to use it like a giant", and her agitated: "man, proud man" who "makes the angels weep", does arise from pity and a desire for mercy for her brother.

  1. Isabella defines Angelo as an arch-villain(TM). To what extent do you agree with her ...

    that for many twenty-first century audiences would certainly place him as a villain. However he could be exonerated by the fact that it was routine for patriarchal society males to exercise their power and supposed superiority over women. However for many twenty-first century audiences, particularly feminists, this only makes his character even more heinous.

  2. Measure for Measure-A Problem Play?

    virginity was very much part of her identity and self worth and to lose it illegally would have proved difficult for any woman; Shakespeare makes the situation even more problematic by his choice to present Isabella as a woman committed to religion.

  1. In measure for measure,the characters of Angelo and Isabella are similar.discuss

    Angelo's selfishness is evident in the way he abandoned Marianna due a lack of dowry and Isabella's selfishness is evident in the way she was prepared to value her own virginity more than her brother's life and the fact that she wanted Marinna to give up her virginity could also be seen as a selfish act.

  2. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare forces questions to be asked about a wide range ...

    Infact, The Duke and Lucio even share a view of Angelo. 'He scarce confesses his blood flows' says the Duke, whilst Lucio describes him as a man 'whose blood is snow broth'. The fact that both of these men share views that have seen Vienna poorly served, yet the man

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work