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"Measure For Measure". What is learnt of the character of the Duke as he is revealed in the first scene of the play?

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Introduction

AMDG Edward Gillingham A2 English literature texts - "Measure For Measure". What is learnt of the character of the Duke as he is revealed in the first scene of the play? Within the first scene of the play, Shakespeare makes many suggestions as to the character of the Duke, spoken through the language, tone and imagery he uses, as well as being developed through the reactions and comments of the other characters in the scene. Although the audience has only just begun their journey through the story, and cannot therefore be sure as to whether these suggestions will indeed prove correct, they are able to begin to build a base upon which the Duke's character can be built. From the first few lines of the scene, it is made clear to the audience that the Duke has the respect of his counsel: "My Lord." It is also made clear in his speech that follows, that he in turn has a great respect for his attendant: "...your own science exceeds in that... ...read more.

Middle

Again here, he shows his consideration for the views of others when he asks Escalus: "what think you of it?" Having been given Escalus' full support: "If any in Vienna be of worth... it is Lord Angelo", and assured therefore that he will offer his full service to being his secondary, the Duke sets forward to outline his intentions to Angelo . As Angelo enters, the audience are again given the impression that the Duke, although unconfident, stills earns the respect of those around him: "Always obedient to your grace's will." Again also, they see that the Duke seems to have great respect for and confidence in those he chooses to have close to him as he speaks to Angelo. He talks of the talents and "virtues" that Angelo should reserve solely for his own life, but that would better put to use in a position of authority. He goes onto further qualify his point with the metaphor of how: "...we with torches do, not light them for themselves." ...read more.

Conclusion

Thus, with the state in such an element of moral dilapidation, a strong arm is needed to aid the people back to correct path, indeed one able to carry the torch of the law with a firm and steady hand. Within this opening scene, Shakespeare does much to both bring out a negative and positive side in the character. When writing, for example, of Iago in Othello at no point are the audience struck by a sudden change of heart towards his vindictive and malignant character. This is of course done to heighten the atmospheric tension that surrounds his character, and it works to great effect. Equally here, I feel that in describing both the Dukes faults and admirable qualities, Shakespeare demonstrates that, even with such a position of power, he is only human, and that he is able to suffer all the strains and tribulations that any of the audience watching would feel when placed in such a position. It is the ability to identify with his character, and indeed thus understand his motives for handing over the rule of the people he loves, that leaves the viewer little or no disrespect or admiration for his actions. ...read more.

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