Exercise of Authority in Measure for Measure Essay

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At the outset, we find the Duke transferring his power and authority to Angelo. He lends to Angelo his own terror and dresses Angelo with his love, “giving his deputation all the organs of his own power”. He says that from now on “mortality and mercy” in Vienna would live in Angelo’s tongue and heart. The Duke motive in appointing Angelo to function in his stead is, as he tells Friar Thomas, to rid the country of the evils which have taken strong roots and which, he thinks, he himself cannot eradicate because of his reputation as a very lenient man. Now the question is how far the Duke is justified in appointing a substitute to rule the kingdom and reform the corrupt Vienna society. We do not think that the Duke is justified in taking such a step. We are certainly not convinced by the reason which he gives to Friar Thomas for not undertaking the task of reform himself. Why should the Duke evade his responsibility? He tells Friar Thomas that, if he were now suddenly to become strict and stern, his actions would cause much resentment among the people. But this is no reason why a ruler should himself go into the background and appoint another man to take his place. Besides, we soon afterwards find that the Duke in interested more in observing Angelo at work as his deputy, and less is seeing evil being eradicated. We find that the Duke is concerned more with spying his deputy’ actions than with the process of reform. He becomes more interested in watching and prying into the personal as well as official life of Angelo than in the direction which the public affairs of the country are taking.

Angelo’s Exercise of Authority
As soon as Angelo is given charge of the kingdom, he begins to exercise his authority in a relentless manner. H...

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...e protested against justice being totally pushed into background with mercy holding the field. The Duke compels Angelo to get married to Mariana, the girl whom he had once betrayed and forsaken, and the girl whom he has now seduced. But that is the only punishment which is imposed upon a character who proves to be the worst sinner among all the characters of the play.


[1]Marsh, Nicholas. Shakespeare: Three Problem Plays: New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
[2]Montrose, Louis Adrian. Shaping Fantasies: Figuration of gender and power in Elizabethan cultures: 1983.
[3]Rogers, Pat. The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature: Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993.
[4]Schanzer, Ernest(1963). The problem plays of Shakespeare: London, Routledge&Kegan Paul, 1963.
[5]Tillyard, E.M.W. Shakespeare’s problem plays: London, Chatto&Windous, 1964.

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