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

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Aman Thakar 7T

Consider Act II of “Measure for Measure”, with regard to ideas of Justice and Mercy

        Right at the start of the Act we are provided with a distinct definition of Angelo’s view of justice in regard to what has happened with the law concerning illegitimate fornication. The law has in effect been made a joke an in Angelo’s view justice is not being served. In this scene that battle of Justice and Mercy is fought between Angelo And Escalus with Escalus holding the flag of mercy arguing that Claudio’s fault is one innate in human nature. “Whether you had not sometime in your life err’d in this point, which now you censure him”, terror should be exercised with view to mercy. The mockery that is endured by Justice sometimes is also expressed by Angelo in his speech spanning from lines 17-31, “The jury passing on the prisoners life may in the sworn twelve have a thief or two, Guiltier then him they try”, this is seen as perfectly reasonable by Angelo, oblivious to the contradiction within this.

        Over the majority of Scene I in this act the wide repercussions of Angelo’s tyranny are revealed. From lines 133-6 we see what little patience Angelo actually has for this issue. He shows little regard for the Bawds telling Escalus simply to whip them away and walk away from the scene. With such restrictions in place it is something that Angelo would have had to deal with regularly with activity fuelled by such strong desires as lust being clearly undeniable and unstoppable for people, a key theme repeatedly expressed throughout the play. With such desire it is farcical to outlaw it and not particularly justified. Angelo continually justifies the tough punishment by saying it is a sort of mercy within itself due to future conduct being affected by such an example to draw reference upon. This sentiment is repeated by Escalus on line 280 when he says “ Mercy is not itself, that oft looks so; Pardon is still the nurse of the second woe”, Angelo believes in his justification due to future deterrence But he is attempting to stop something to which he is prone to himself which is a clear injustice. What is worse though is the test case he picks out in order to illustrate his terror. Claudio is sentenced only due to a technicality of the dowry and as is scene in scene’s II and III he is making a child fatherless. Angelo takes this decision without looking at the case too carefully as he is clearly obliged to do, even when shown the flaws of his decision he is incapable of acting with mercy and this along with his future conduct is what makes Angelo’s decision a travesty to justice.

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        In scene II it is generally a battle between mercy and justice with Angelo taking up the helm of justice once again and Isabella fighting for mercy. It is clear though that in the end Isabella wins this skirmish. One of the key speeches in this scene is the following from lines 134–142:

Because authority, though it err like others,

Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself

That skins the vice o’ the’ top. Go to your bosom,

Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know

That’s like my brother’s fault. If it confess

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