MEASURE FOR MEASURE ACT I
I felt that the first act of Measure for Measure introduced a very strange story with plenty of contradictory characters. Some of the characters seemed believable while others seemed more like caricatures.
I cannot decide how I feel about the Duke. He is clearly a cowardly man who is afraid of how the people of Vienna think of him. What’s interesting about his reasoning for giving Lord Angelo power is that he claims it wouldn’t be comfortable to enforce laws now that they’ve been in effect for so long without enforcement. He claims that he would be seen as joke or not taken seriously, losing authority. This doesn’t make sense to me. How does the Duke think that giving power to Lord Angelo to enforce the law will grant him more authority or earn him more respect? I would think that taking control and enforcing his own laws would warrant more respect ultimately that giving power over, which seems like he’s waving a white flag. The Duke tries to reason that if he were to enforce his laws at this point, the people of Vienna would think badly of him. The way I see the situation is that giving power over to Lord Angelo only makes the Duke seem like a coward unfit to govern. Ironically, the Duke is so concerned with what the people of Vienna think of him that he is completely blind to the reality of what they think of him.
Despite what I think is a bad move on the Duke’s part, I do not find him to be an unlikable character yet. I’m trying to see the positives in the Duke’s laws, as I believe he intended them to be helpful and not seen as restrictive. To ban premarital sex does seem extreme, but I can see the potentially good intentions behind this ban. If it were punishable to have premarital sexual relations, there would likely be less pregnancies out of wedlock, less infidelity, less sexual harassment, etc. Vienna would be in totality a less sinful place with “pure” citizens. This would benefit the reputation of the city, the Duke, and the citizens. It all seems like a win-win situation- if it were practical and likely, or in the Duke’s case, enforceable.
I suppose that the Duke chose Lord Angelo because he knew he would be a strict leader, but I wonder if he truly knew Angelo’s character before giving him his power. Angelo seems to be a caricature; although there have definitely been leaders in the past who have governed as unjustly as Angelo. Regardless, he seems like a very sleazy and unlikable, power-hungry and selfish man. It seems as though the Duke does not fully trust Angelo, as he disguises himself as a friar in order to observe Angelo at work. This makes me question why the Duke would chose Angelo in the first place, if he did not have full confidence in him taking on the job.