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What do you find interesting in the presentation of Isabella?

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Introduction

What do you find interesting in the presentation of Isabella? In Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure', Isabella is a most complex character. Her nature showing often conflicting sides during different parts of the play. This ambiguity of her true character means Shakespeare can constantly keep his audience on edge, never truly defining Isabella as either good or bad, tying in with the genre as a whole, as a problem play. Isabella's character clearly reflects the complexity and diversity of 'Measure for Measure' whilst also being an important tool for Shakespeare, in allowing him to balance out parts of the play. Shakespeare first introduces Isabella in Act 1 scene 4. Here Shakespeare focuses on her religious qualities, on her absolute nature. Her piety is emphasised through her conversation with Francisca 'rather wishing a more strict restraint upon sisterhood, the votarists of St Clare.' Here Shakespeare is focusing the portrayal of Isabella on here strict religious principles, balancing the scene perhaps in that the audience have previously been told of all the immorality of Vienna. Even from this early stage in the play Isabella's character can already be interpreted and accepted by the audience in more than one way. Firstly her absolute nature may appeal to the audience and be seen as an admirable characteristic. However it may also be taken to the other extent, seen as repulsive and cause the audience to turn against her character. This conflict in character can be seen throughout 'Measure for Measure' and has been open to much contrasting criticism over the past. Many have argued that Shakespeare intends Isabella to be portrayed as a virtuous heroine. Mrs Jameson, author Characteristics of Shakespeare's Women in1832, comments 'Upon what ground can we read the play from beginning to end, and doubt the angel-purity of Isabella, or contemplate her possible lapse from virtue'. This view is supported perhaps on the grounds that even over her brother's life Isabella is determined to remain virtuous. ...read more.

Middle

The classification of the heroines into 'Characters of Intellect, Characters of Passion and Imagination, Characters of the Affections, and Historical Characters,' reminds one of the eighteenth century, and is not in the least scientific, since it leaves Cleopatra out of the list of the characters of passion and puts her with the Roman matrons, Octavia and Volumnia, among the historical characters, and separates Rosalind and Viola and joins Rosalind and Isabella as 'characters of intellect.' ' Portia, Isabella, Beatrice, and Rosalind,' she declares, 'may be classed together, because when compared with the others they are all distinguished by mental superiority.' She gives no citations in support of this view, and we are very sure that their superiority over Viola, Imogen, and Helena in intellectual acuteness or activity is not at once manifest. It may be that Portia, Beatrice, and Rosalind excel the others in wit, but Isabella certainly does not. In putting Portia and Isabella in the same class, because both are eloquent, though in very different ways, Mrs. Jameson confounds two entirely different types of women. Jameson unreliable- as poor concept of human nature shown within her works and v.lil scientific knowledge expressed. The prevailing attitude of Victorian critics is well summed up by Walter Raleigh, writing at the beginning of this century: 'In criticism of Measure for Measure', he remarks, 'we are commonly presented with a picture of Vienna as a black pit of seething wickedness; and against this background there rises the dazzling, white, and saintly figure of Isabella.'1 All that remained in order to arrive at a picture of unrelieved gloom was to blacken Isabella without whitening her surroundings. CRITICAL APPRECIATION OF MEASURE FOR MEASURE Critics have diverse views regarding the value of the play. Some consider it very good, filled with wisdom; others consider it one of Shakespeare's weakest plays, filled with unexciting characters. It is important to remember that Measure for Measure is an old story told over again. ...read more.

Conclusion

It seems that Isabella's religious side is often lost in the play of certainly not highlighted as much as may be expected, considering at the start of 'Measure for Measure' she is about to become a nun. In modern productions this is often more prominent, yet it must be remembered that during Shakespeare's time religion was on the whole a much more influence aspect of peoples' everyday lives. The religious content of 'Measure for Measure' was therefore more appropriate then than tit is to a modern audience, especially the concept of hell, which then was a very real concern, as shown through Isabella's refusal to compromise her chastity. Isabella is as a character, a most powerful tool to Shakespeare. Her ambiguity throughout the play keeps his audience on edge, due to Shakespeare never allowing them to clearly discover her true nature. The ending of 'Measure for Measure' is most interesting as it leaves the audience to decide upon Isabella's real character, in whether they eel she will or will not take up the Duke's proposal of marriage. Was she to accept it she goes against all the principles in which she ever believed in, meaning all she ever stood for becomes completely insignificant and would mean Shakespeare had managed through the careful and skilful use of such a ambiguous character betrayed he is audience all along. The unfairness of the audience never having Isabella's nature revealed to them, signifies Shakespeare's main point of injustice. Balance?????? Ambiguity- if marrys duke at end goin against all ever believed in, all she stood up for becomes insignificant Balance with Lucio- a1s4- yet v. ambiguous character, used to balance- give religions views of the time on issues, and to highlight theme of justice.- religion major part of peoples live- taken very seriously. Corruption? - even most pure in such immoral societies loose some of morals? How character relates to genre as a 'problem play'. Comic aspects? Questionable- not directly from Isabella but maybe from her innocence- dramatic irony when talking to Angelo. Jemma Millhouse 12EE ...read more.

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