presentation of Isabella in Measure for Measure

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Harriet Gardner                Isabella

Throughout the Measure For Measure Shakespeare presents Isabella as an innocent victim of male desires and exploitation.  However, some may argue that she is a worldly woman who is capable of taking care of herself and not been dependant on others.  This essay will discuss these assertions and how far they can be justified by the text of the play and it will show the judgement, which I have made towards Shakespeare’s choice of character.

        In his attempt to exploit Isabella, Angelo uses blackmail to get her to sleep with him in return for the rescue of brother from his proposed execution.  She does motivate his lust towards her, but does not physically do anything to provoke it, he Angelo admits himself in his soliloquy at the end of act two scene two;

        “Nor she nor doth she tempt; but it is I

        That, lying by the violet sun,

        Do as the carrion does, not as the flower,

        Corrupt with virtuous season…” (pg36)

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In contrast to this, it is suggested that Isabella uses language, which in some cases can sometimes unconsciously be erotically charged and this could be one of the things that Angelo is attracted too.

        “…To strip myself to death as to a bed

        That longing have been sick for…” (pg 46)

In act two scene four, Isabella tries to assert herself against Angelo by saying;


        “…my brother

        Or with an outstretched throat I’ll tell the world

        Aloud what man thou art” (pg45)

Although, as Angelo continuously uses blackmail to exploit her innocence, she is impotent ...

This is a preview of the whole essay