Preview
Preview

Politics, Power, and Purpose in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Essay

No Works Cited
Length: 6633 words (19 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Blue      
Open Document




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Politics, Power, and Purpose in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure


In Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Vincentio, Duke of Vienna, observing that his Dukedom has fallen into licentiousness and chaos through his neglectful government, has pretended to leave Vienna and has turned over the government to Angelo, his upright and up-tight Deputy; and that the Duke has resolved to remain in Vienna, in disguise, so that he may observe how Angelo's character is revealed or transformed in the crucible of the power with which he has been invested. The Duke tells Friar Thomas, who is party to the plot:

Lord Angelo is precise,
Stands at a guard with envy, scarce confesses
That his blood flows, or that his appetite
Is more to bread than stone. Hence shall we see
If power change purpose, what our seemers be. (1.3.5-54)

My subject is how "power" changes--or at least influences--"purpose." But the "purpose" in question is not, as in the play, the government of a city or of a state, nor even (as in the case of Angelo) the government of one's psychological and physical appetites, but the creation of a work of art, of a theatrical performance. Talking about Angelo, the Duke poses his assertion as a conditional: he wishes to test "if power change purpose." My hypothesis is that, in the theatre, power does indeed change purpose.

I base this hypothesis upon several premises: that the theatre, as a complex collaborative art form, depends upon the coordination of the talents and temperaments of a wide range of individuals; that, in the theatre, these individuals must be organized into a process which inescapably involves the establishment and articulation of power; that theatrical artists are, by their very nature, sensitive, e...


... middle of paper ...


...ulates the other characters and, like a playwright, creates scenarios for them to play; etc., etc.

I am, I believe, arguing something else altogether. The play is not alluding to its mode of performance to tell its story. The play and the performance are simply telling the same story: a story about the same power relationships that informed the process by which the performance was created. It's not that life is like the theatre. It's that the play and the performance and the theatre in general are built upon the raw materials of life: upon wayward human beings struggling to work together to live with one another in the world. The story that any production of Measure for Measure tells is that power, in the theatre as in life, changes purpose. Just as the Duke tests Angelo, when we go to the theatre, we go to see, "If power change purpose, what our seemers be."


Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »







This essay is 100% guaranteed.


Title Length Color Rating  
Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Essays - Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Game-playing in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Thieves for their robbery have authority When judges steal themselves Critics have often seen Vincentio, the Duke in Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure, as performing a function similar to that of Prospero in The Tempest. The reasons for such an assumption is clear in the very first scene of the play, as both characters set the plot into motion by exercising their power, withdraw to observe events from behind the scenes, then return to restore order at the end....   [tags: Shakespeare Measure Essays]
:: 4 Works Cited
2062 words
(5.9 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Morality in Measure for Measure by Shakespeare Essay - Morality in Measure for Measure          Shakespeare's play, Measure for Measure, focuses on human morality. The play also explores the question of what kind of sexual conduct is socially acceptable, and what is not. The play depicts various attitudes toward prostitution, promiscuity, and premarital sex. But it also suggests that human laws and perhaps human morality are quite arbitrary and relative.   Measure for Measure considers the need for statutes and laws to govern sexual appetites and ensure domestic tranquility....   [tags: Measure for Measure]
:: 8 Works Cited
2108 words
(6 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Open Silences in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Essay - How Productions from 1720 to 1929 Close Shakespeare's Open Silences in Measure for Measure Prologue: Playtext. Performance. and Open Silences In the Preface to his edition of Shakespeare's plays, and even as he vigorously defended the playwright against attacks by other neo-classical critics, Samuel Johnson nonetheless also offered his own survey of Shakespeare's weaknesses. Among the more well-known and provocative remarks is his assessment of the endings of the plays: It may be observed, that in many of his plays the latter part is evidently neglected....   [tags: Shakespeare Measure for Measure]
:: 20 Works Cited
6617 words
(18.9 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Essay - William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure The desires of the characters in Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure are not entirely clear, and are made ambivalent and ambiguous by the use of their language. Particularly in 3.1.52-153, when Isabella visits Claudio in prison, ambiguous lines and puns make it unclear whether Isabella desires Claudio’s death and whether he truly desires to be free of sin. These desires were further convoluted by viewing the current Folger Theatre production of the play....   [tags: Shakespeare measure for Essays] 1216 words
(3.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Disguise in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night Essays - Disguise in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night        Disguise is a device Shakespeare employs frequently in both Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night. It allows a disguised character like the Duke of Vienna to glean information that would otherwise go unknown, and a character like Viola to take advantage of potentially beneficial situations. It gives these characters access to worlds that might otherwise be denied; for the Duke, he can now "haunt assemblies / Where youth and cost a witless bravery keeps" (1.4.9-10)....   [tags: Measure Twelfth Night Essays Shakespeare]
:: 3 Works Cited
1221 words
(3.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Measure For Measure on the Stage - Measure For Measure on the Stage Near the end of his well known treatment of transgression and surveillance in Measure for Measure, Jonathan Dollimore makes an observation about the world of the play that deserves further consideration by feminist scholars: the prostitutes, the most exploited group in the society which the play represents, are absent from it. Virtually everything that happens presupposes them yet they have no voice, no presence. And those who speak for them do so as exploitatively as those who want to eliminate them....   [tags: Shakespeare's Measure For Measure Essays]
:: 12 Works Cited
4821 words
(13.8 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Measure for Measure Essay: Immorality and Corruption - Immorality and Corruption in Measure for Measure         In ‘Measure for Measure’, Shakespeare demonstrates that there is an innate immorality and corruption in the heart of man. Shakespeare illustrates that power does not cause corruption.  This is achieved by presenting the Duke, who has the most power in Vienna, as a moral hero, and conversely revealing the corruption of the powerless class through characters including Pompey, Mistress Overdone, and Barnadine.  Through all this, Shakespeare uses Lord Angelo in Measure for Measure to show that immorality and corruption is innate in mankind....   [tags: Measure for Measure]
:: 5 Works Cited
1566 words
(4.5 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on Matrimony and Recompense in Measure for Measure - Matrimony and Recompense in Measure for Measure (A version of this essay appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (Winter, 1995), 454-464.) Since 1970, when the Isabella of John Barton's RSC production of Measure for Measure first shocked audiences by silently refusing to acquiesce to the Duke's offer of marriage at the end of the play, Isabella's response (or lack thereof) to the Duke's proposal has become one of the most prevalent subjects for Shakespearean performance criticism.See, for example, Jane Williamson, "The Duke and Isabella on the Modern Stage," The Triple Bond: Plays, Mainly Shakespearean, in Performance, ed....   [tags: Shakespeare Measure Essays] 7072 words
(20.2 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Themes of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure Revealed in Angelo’s Soliloquies - Themes of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure Revealed in Angelo’s Soliloquies Angelo’s soliloquies (2.2.161-186; 2.4.1-30) express themes of the tragicomic form, grace and nature, development of self-knowledge, justice and mercy, and creation and death as aspects of Angelo’s character. By the theme of the tragicomic form I mean that which “qualified extremes and promoted a balanced condition of mind […] It employed a ‘mixed’ style, ‘mixed’ action, and ‘mixed’ characters—‘passing from side to side, it works amongst contraries, sweetly tempering their composition’.” (Guarini’s Compendio della Poesia Tragicomica (1601) cited in Lever lxi-lxii)....   [tags: Measure for Measure]
:: 2 Works Cited
821 words
(2.3 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
The Character Elbow in Shakespeare's Play, Measure for Measure Essay - The Character Elbow in Shakespeare's Play, Measure for Measure In Act 2, scene 1 of the play Measure for Measure the character Elbow, a representation of the "Comedic Constable" often depicted in William Shakespeare's comedies and traji-comedies, gives the director an unusual creative license in portraying this figure to give the audience a rich theatrical experience. (Evans 427) These characters are most commonly depicted as "artless, inadequate, naïve, and prosaic men who bumble through their official duties, sublimely unaware of their blunders, intent upon fulfilling their offices even when they are not really sure just what those offices are." (Evans 427) They are honest men as well...   [tags: Measure for Measure Essays]
:: 5 Works Cited
1502 words
(4.3 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]