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Discuss Shakespeare's Presentation of Isabella in Act 5 of the Play.

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Introduction

Discuss Shakespeare's Presentation of Isabella in Act 5 of the Play Isabella is one of the most important characters in Measure for Measure, along with Angelo and the Duke. Before Act 5 we have a good idea as to her character, we know that she remains by her principles and is not easily influenced by people, even close family. She wanted the rules at the convent to be stricter, which shows her very apparent free will, and determination to do things right. She has already stood up to Angelo when he propositioned her to sleep with him in return for Claudio's life, and when she relayed this information to Claudio she stood up to even him. All of this shows us just how much Isabella values her morals and religion, she is being extremely intransigent. At the beginning of Act 5 Isabella is to participate in the plan put forth by the Duke, she is not to accuse Angelo and if the Duke acts harshly to her then it is all part of the plan. She is not very pleased at this, in Act 4, Scene 6 she says "To speak so indirectly I am so loth", this basically means that she hates the idea of not accusing Angelo in person. ...read more.

Middle

Isabella does not appear again until after the Duke has been de-robed, she asks for his pardon as she says she has "employed and pained your unknown sovereignty" he pardons her. The Duke then asks her to pardon him for not revealing himself sooner and saving her brothers life, he claims that "it was the swift celerity of his death , which I did think with slower foot came on" Isabella then pardons him, though why I do not know, she should surely be disappointed at him for letting Claudio die. However it is apparent that people (except Lucio) hold a lot of respect for the Duke in Measure for Measure, so she might have to forgive him out of respect and compliance with him as an authority figure. The next event is one that I feel is key in determining Isabella's true character. This shows just how far she will go to stand by her faith and morals, despite what has previously happened. The Duke has sentenced Angelo to death for 'killing' Claudio, Mariana pleads with the Duke not to do it but he says that it is necessary to avenge Claudio's death. Mariana pleads with Isabella to support her, "sweet Isabel, take my part; lend me your knees and all my life to come, I'll lend you all my life to do you service." ...read more.

Conclusion

Overall I think that Shakespeare has portrayed Isabella as a very strong female character in a male dominated play, she is the only woman to really have her own say and individuality. Mariana is only interested in getting her husband back; Mistress Overdone is hardly a good, strong, upright member of the community. Isabella may even be the most just and un-corrupt character in Measure for Measure. Because while most of the other main characters have major flaws or ulterior motives, she seems to wear her thoughts on her sleeve so to speak. Even though Measure for Measure is a comedy, it is apparent that it was one of the later plays (first performed in 1604), because of the mature themes dealt with like power, corruption and justice. I think that Shakespeare put Isabella in the play to create a balance between the characters, she gives some much needed morality and common sense to a lot of the play. The audience can relate to Isabella in such a way that they initially feel some anger at her intransigence, but they inevitably later on are sympathetic of her position. At the start of the play I did not take to Isabella much, but now I believe that she is the most interesting character and defiantly my favourite in Measure for Measure. ...read more.

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