• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

'Bear the Sword of Heaven': Does the Duke strike you as a wholly good upholder of Justice in Measure for Measure {William Shakespeare}.

Extracts from this document...


'Bear the Sword of Heaven': Does the Duke strike you as a wholly good upholder of Justice in Measure for Measure {William Shakespeare} The Duke can be interpreted in a number of different ways. By the end of the play, readers have had compelling reasons for both agreeing and disagreeing with the title. How the Duke's character is construed has a crucial effect on the interpretation of the whole play. The central focus of my essay will be the various acts of punishment, reparation and forgiveness that the Duke prompts at the very end of the play. Primarily, I feel that the Duke can and has been likened to a kind of God like character who moves unseen and all seeing among his people. G.Wilson Knight suggests that the Duke is, 'lit at moments with divine suggestion comparable with his almost divine power of foreknowledge, control and wisdom.' I feel that the Duke's disguise could be because he wants to be able to dominate his people better {which conversely is not at all God like} or, which I find more creditable, because he believes that he will be able to reach the source of the problem in Vienna when he rids himself of his authoritarian appearance. ...read more.


There is also some reservation about the mental state of the Duke to uphold justice. The Duke paints a picture of the world turned upside down in Act 1, Scene 3 because the laws have not been enforced: 'quite athwart/ Goes all decorum'. He uses a sequence of animal imagery, 'o'er-grown lion in a cave' to convey this disturbed state, and his first image is a mixed metaphor, which may highlight both the topsy-turvy state of Vienna and of the Duke himself. I think that in the way these speeches represent a breakdown of order in the state they also reflect a breakdown in the Duke, which surely cannot lead to a just leader. The Duke's natural ability to be an authority figure is illustrated at certain points in the play. In Act 3, scene 1 it is clear that he is a ruler even when he is dressed as a monk; his orders to Isabella are clear and detailed, full of imperative verbs of command, almost breathless in their speed and length, 'Haste you speedily to Angelo; if for this night he entreat you to his bed, give him promise of satisfaction.' ...read more.


So the initial thought of callousness on the Duke's part is erased through deeper deliberation. There is one worry that is evoked after reading the last act of the play and that is that the Duke seems to have lapsed into excessive clemency, which is a reminder of what happened before. This worry is soon expunged when the reader realises that the laws before were allowed to 'slip' but this time the Duke is in full control. In conclusion I have decided that as mediator between the extremes of Angelo and Isabella stands the Duke, 'a gentleman of all temperance'. He applies principle to practice to the near tragic situation and all of his decisions have been proved beneficial to nearly everybody. The only fault I can express would be his treatment of Lucio as he, I feel, has misinterpreted Lucio's lighthearted character and taken his slanders too seriously. Through the whole play the Duke's remedial functions work according to plan, with exception of Barnadine's head, conveying the wisdom and careful considerations of the Duke. Justice is suitably combined with mercy and thus one can rightly conclude that the Duke does, 'bear the sword of heaven' and that he is an upright dispenser of justice. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Measure for Measure section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Measure for Measure essays

  1. Discuss the theme of deception and disguise in the play "Measure for Measure."

    Because the law in Vienna had been ignored the people saw no need to hide their crimes from the law. They felt they no longer needed to deceive the law since it was never likely to come after them. Usually brothels and speakeasies, which have always been seen as illegal are hidden underground but still remain there.

  2. Comment on Shakespeare's conclusion to 'Measure for Measure'

    point he that the Duke has been a secret witness of his cruel deeds, and he says 'O my dread lord, I should be guiltier than my guiltiness, to think I can be undiscernible, when I perceive your grace, like power divine, has looked upon my actions.

  1. Consider Act II of "Measure for Measure", with regard to ideas of Justice and ...

    Angelo has to be careful with his office in order to exercise justice and mercy measure for measure yet he falls short of this. He wants to set the ball rolling for reform but in the speech Isabella suggest it will simply form a palliative covering the vices without healing them.

  2. How far and in what ways do the opening three scenes constitute a suitably ...

    However Claudio's actions did not allow him to continue living as a free man he was now condemned to having to spend time in jail for a crime which in the eyes of some was not a crime at all.

  1. Angelo, Escalus and the Duke present three kinds of ruler. How does Act I ...

    This quote from James I suggests that a ruler should first establish himself as a good and fair ruler who wishes to strive for justice by punishing those who go against it. Once his people know that he is serious about the laws of his country, then a good ruler can use judgement to punish where appropriate.

  2. What evidence is these in the play to support these opinions? How do you ...

    Of course this is digging his own grave as he too breaks the law and faces punishment. Therefore, it could be argued that the Duke leaves Angelo in charge because he genuinely thought he could bring law into the state.

  1. What different views of the Duke are presented in acts 1-3?

    that the town is in, "'twas my fault to give the people scope", although he still doesn't do anything about it. When the Duke is talking to Pompey in act three scene two, we see a different character emerging. From his 'real life' experience he appears to have gathered confidence

  2. "Measure for Measure is a play without any truly sympathetic characters". To what extent ...

    These actions could be perceived as contributing to a sympathetic character, but his second appearance in Act one, scene three of the play gives cause to the audience to probe further in to his actions, indeed one of the purposes of a problem play, but something which arguably detracts from

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work