Act One Scene One of Measure for Measure is a scene surrounded in ambiguity and complex character motives

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Act One Scene One – The Dukes Departure

Act One Scene One of ‘Measure for Measure’ is a scene surrounded in ambiguity and complex character motives. In this scene the Duke of Vienna meets with his aged advisor Esacalus to discuss his immediate and unexplained departure from Vienna and his plans to appoint Angelo to rule in his stead.

The play simply starts with the Duke saying “Esacalus”. Using the noun in an almost imperative form is an indication of how much power the Duke really has and how much power the Duke will be handing over to someone as inexperienced as Angelo. This instantly begs the question why is he not leaving Escalus in charge? One opinion, which I support, is that the Duke is a Machiavellian Character who is hoping that Angelo fails so that when he returns the people will love him. Due to this manipulative attitude he cannot select Escalus as he may believe that Escalus may actually do a better job than him, something he cannot risk.

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This concept of deceit and manipulation is backed up by the fact that throughout the initial speech by the Duke he seems to actively aim to make Escalus feel of less value than he is worth. An example of this is “But that, to your sufficiency, as your worth is able”. The use of words such as “sufficiency” appear to be designed to make Escalus feel like he is only just good enough and nothing more than that. That way the Duke does not disenchant him completely with the world of politics but instead keeps him in his place. This ...

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