How does the balance of power change in pages 42-51? Trace the arguments, and look at the cliquey at the end of the scene.
Within Measure for Measure, upon their first meeting Isabella goes to Angelo pleading for her brother’s life to be spared. Lucio who is aiding Isabella tells her that she is ‘too cold’. However, during their argument Isabella holds her position of authority and shows herself to be a figure of power. Instead of lowering herself she relies on her faith in god to help her argument along.
Angelo’s argument however, is that it is too late for her brother as he has already
been sentenced. His job is to uphold the laws of society, and he therefore goes only by the rules, not compassion. Angelo divorces himself from the law; he is emotionless and just enforces the law, without passion. In his own eyes Angelo thinks of himself as a personification of the law itself.
Isabella’s key speech throughout this section explains in terms her feeling towards Angelo’s actions.
“I would to heaven I had your potency,
And you were Isabel! Should it then be thus?
This is a preview of the whole essay
No; I would tell what’ twere to be a judge,
And what a prisoner.”
Isabella realises that Angelo is a figure of power but feels that justice should be done. She uses her Christianity to try help save her brother, and here, voices her opinion that if she were in his position she would certainly not waste a life. This relates to another speech made by Isabella in which she implies that Jesus Christ gave his life for them, he saved them and forgave them. Here she suggests that Angelo, in such a position, should perhaps forgive Claudio, and let him go free.
Angelo’s reply to this is that ‘it is the law, not I, condemn your brother’. This proves that Angelo is impassive and insists on the law being enforced.
Isabella feels her brother is not ready for death, spiritually, and tries to delay Angelo’s actions.
“Who is it that hath died for this offence?
There’s many have committed it.”
Angelo’s reply to this however is dormant. It reveals more of his character, and we come to understand that his ideology of the world is that society should be perfect. Everything that the law stands for should be upheld, and that means simplicity.
“The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept:
Those many had not dar’d to do that evil
In the first that did th’edict infringe
Had answer’d for his deed.”
Here Angelo argues that if the law had been abided by the people in the first instance, then people would not have committed the crime. Isabella’s brother would therefore not be sentenced to his death. Angelo is simply enforcing what he thinks is right.
Isabella continues with an orthodox Christian approach, and argues that god holds more authority than man himself. She feels that Angelo is merely abusing his power within his position. At this point in the argument Lucio believes that Isabella is breaking Angelo down, ironically the provost himself ‘pray’ that she win him.
Isabella’s plea then becomes emotional and personal.
“Go to your bosom,
Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know
That’s like my brother’s fault. If it confess
A natural guiltiness, such as his,
Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue
Against my brother’s life.”
Angelo realises that Isabella is making sense, and at this instance tries to leave. However, Isabella asks him to ‘turn back’, and he tells her to come again tomorrow. As he again turns to leave Isabella claims that she will ‘bribe’ him. Angelo asks her how, and Isabella replies;
“Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you.”
Isabella claims that she will bribe him not with money or jewellery, but with preys from ‘preserved souls’. Angelo finds this awkward, and once again tells her to come tomorrow. Isabella bids that ‘heaven keep your (Angelo’s) honour safe’ and here we see a true sign of weakness from Angelo. He is extremely taken with Isabella, and replies Amen. At this, he is, himself praying that he will be kept safe from her and from temptation.
When all characters leave, Angelo is left alone on stage presenting his cliquey. From his speech we observe that he is confused, and that Isabella has stirred up his passions. This is unusual for Angelo and he questions whether it is his fault or hers.
“Who sin’s most, ha?
Not she; nor doth she tempt me; but it is i
That, lying by the violet in the sun,
Do as the carrion does.”
Here, Angelo realises that it is he, who holds the passion. He realises that Isabella would thrive in the sun as a violet whereas he would shrivel up and die. This shows that Isabella has a certain strength which has proved to change Angelo’s character. Everything which he believes in has been destroyed through his ardour for Isabella. He begins to ask himself questions;
“What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
Dost thou desire her foully for those things
That make her good? O, Let her brother live!”
Finally, Angelo reveals to the audience that he wants to corrupt her; he has been overcome by Isabella and her goodness and her integrity. This in itself contradicts Angelo’s whole perspective of the law being kept and abided by.
“Most dangerous is that temptation that doth goad us on to sin in loving virtue.”