Friday, September 26, 2014

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

Measure for Measure

Mass Market Paperback336 pages
Published July 1st 2005  

Shakespeare's Measure for Measure centers around the fate of Claudio, who is arrested by Lord Angelo, the temporary leader of Vienna. Angelo is left in charge by the Duke, who pretends to leave town but instead dresses as a friar to observe the goings-on in his absence. Angelo is strict, moralistic, and unwavering in his decision-making; he decides that there is too much freedom in Vienna and takes it upon himself to rid the city of brothels and unlawful sexual activity. Laws against these behaviors and institutions already exist, and Angelo simply decides to enforce them more strictly. Claudio is arrested for impregnating Juliet, his lover, before they were married. Although they were engaged and their sexual intercourse was consensual, Claudio is sentenced to death in order to serve as an example to the other Viennese citizens.

(I cut the summary short due to the fact that it spoils the entire play)

I am going to first start off by saying that I have never really been a fan of Shakespeare. People sometimes find that odd, like it is somehow a requirement for one who is studying English Literature to automatically worship the man and his works. Perhaps my indifference stems from my first experience with Shakespeare being in a high school English class. No one ever really likes required reading, but I feel as though it is just as simple as his writing not being in my taste.

That all being said, I have to say I was somewhat surprised by Measure For Measure. It was entertaining, yet completely bizarre. The Duke of Vienna pretends he has gone travelling the world but in truth disguises himself as a monk. He does this so he can see how his cousin Angelo behaves as leader and supreme judge of his subjects. Will Angelo be a just and fair leader? Or controlling and unreasonable? Angelo is thought of to be a virtuous man. He is anxious about the Duke leaving him in charge, feeling as though he is not ready for the task; to have such power. He wants a test to make he is ready. However, the Duke "leaves" and no such test is given. 

Most of the story revolves around Claudio, a man who is condemned to death for getting his betrothed pregnant before they were married. Claudio's sister, who is entering the nunnery, tries to reason with Angelo and begs for mercy for her brother. At first, he outright refuses saying the law is the law. However, he soon falls "in love" with Isabella and makes a not-so-virtuous offer in exchange for her brother's life. 

The story was amusing but I found that my amusement only lasted for so long, and my interest in these characters rapidly diminished. I felt as though there was a lot of unresolved questions, and that the story itself was not something that held my interest. Though I liked this play a lot more than I have liked many of his others. 

Measure For Measure was required reading for my Shakespeare university course. I went into the play, and all others we have read, keeping my bias and past disappointment with Shakespeare out of my mind while I read. However, I find that my opinion still has not changed. Maybe someday soon I will read a Shakespeare play that knocks my socks off and completely changes my view. But as for now, 3 stars for being somewhat entertaining. 


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