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The principalcharacters in 'Measure for Measure' are motivated by personal gain.' How far would you agree with this view of the play?

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Introduction

The principal characters in 'Measure for Measure' are motivated by personal gain.' How far would you agree with this view of the play? In your answer you should: * Set out clearly the ways in which Shakespeare presents the motivations of Isabella and the Duke; * Explain your own views on the importance of personal gain in the play; * Comment on the place of relevant issues such as personal liberty and the application of the Law. 'Measure for Measure' does not fit into a particular genre of other Shakespearean works and has thus accumulated the label of 'tragicomedy'. The Duke's philosophy, "Tis a physic that's bitter to sweet end" reveals the overall course of the play. The preponderance of the play is not a comedy; many of the characters, like Claudio, Isabella and Mariana have been put in distressing situations and subjected to great deals of unfairness. Yet through the Duke's manipulations and his plot with Isabella, the play will proceed to a neat, happy ending as was the convention of the Elizabethan comedies. The question is- are the Duke, and Isabella's motivations to achieve a just application of the law, or to protect their own integrity? The Duke is the protagonist and how we interpret his character has a crucial effect on the interpretation of the whole play. ...read more.

Middle

Although many readers have seen her as unsympathetic we must remember here the historical context; significantly no-one in the play criticises her for her firm belief as this was the moral orthodoxy of the time. Isabella's predicament is also affected by the obtuse limitations of the law, which in this scenario is a direct contrast to justice, where a death is more lawful than a birth: "I had rather than my brother die by the laws, than my son should be unlawfully born." It is, however, interesting to note that Isabella fiercely protects her own virginity, but does not extend the same logic and protections to Mariana, encouraging her to pose as herself, and sleep with Angelo, in order to ensnare him. She even describes the plot as a "prosperous perfection." In Act IV Scene III the Duke manipulates the action as the friar, but with a plain purpose in mind; the fact that he decides to tell Isabella that her brother is dead, so that she can be happier later, serves no purpose but the Duke's hidden ones. The Duke tells Isabella "trust not my hold order if I pervert your course"; this is meant to comfort Isabella but is a big license on the Duke's part. Here he plays on Isabella's trust in the clergy to get her to go along with his play. ...read more.

Conclusion

Indeed, the Duke gains stature throughout Angelo's repressive rule, as many wish to have him back, realising how fortunate they were with his leniency before. If the Duke felt true empathy for the people whom he has led astray through weak rule, he would not then abandon them. There is a famous saying, "A Captain goes down with his ship" and in the same way, the Duke should bear the troubled times of his city and then bring it back to a morally acceptable standard, instead of delegating it to someone else. In contrast, although the piety of her character restricts her, Isabella is a far more selfless character than the Duke, offering to sacrifice her life for Claudio, instead of her virginity. In accordance with her religion, this does not make her self-centred but wise. Many of the protagonists in this play seem more motivated by their own integrity than upholding the law of the city- much of it which is archaic and unjust itself. But without the Duke's manipulation of people and events, Claudio would have died, Angelo would have remained unexposed, and Mariana would not have gotten married. Justice depends upon the Duke's machinations and manipulations within the play. That cannot be denied, however self-serving his actions may have been. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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