Measure for Measure Act I

Having never read Measure for Measure before, admittedly I was a bit confused while reading Act I, Scene I of the play. But continuing my reading through the first act I understood, and it is apparent a major theme is sexual interaction. As it is common in most of Shakespeare’s work, it appears as though two characters are bringing the subject to an extreme: Mistress Overdone, who manages what I gather to be several brothels, and Isabella, Claudio’s sister who refrains from sexual interactions so she can become a nun. With Lucio’s approach during Scene 4, it is apparent that soon Isabella will have to leave the sanctity and order of the church and wander into the world apparently filled with all that she has disgraced in order to save her brother.

What I believe thus far to be the main concentration of the play is if premarital sex is really that big of a deal; Claudio and Juliet were in love, and although with most honorable intentions, they became pregnant before announcement of their engagement. When he is arrested and charged and being brought away to prison, Lucio asks Claudio his crimes, first asking if it was murder due to the severity, but appears dumbfounded when he is informed the truth: “Is lechery so looked after?” (I.ii.147).

So far throughout the reading, I actual find Angelo to be a noble character; he is trying to clean up Vienna, closing brothels, decreasing the chance for illegitimate births and in that regard, protecting women; within the conversation of gentlemen it is also apparent that venereal diseases seem to be running a muck, another excuse for why Angelo is enacting these dormant laws as he is trying to prevent exposure. It is stated that this is what the Duke had wished to do, but could not find the means to do so. Instead he informs Angelo he is departing but is really disguising himself as a friar to observe his city and the reaction to the newly instated laws. However no matter the honor, the penalty of death for fornication is a bit absurd, particularly because Claudio and Juliet were betrothed and bidding their time. I’m sure that with many Shakespeare plays their will be a happier conclusion after such a conflict, and I am eager to complete the remainder of the play.

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2 thoughts on “Measure for Measure Act I

  1. Rachel Ritacco

    I agree with your point that it is odd to punish Claudio for an act that was barely a crime, while the sex trade and spread of venereal disease has been allowed to go on unpunished. However, it does seem that under Angelo's new rule this, too, will be taken under consideration of the law. As we hear from Mistress Overdone, all of the brothel houses in the suburbs are to be struck down. I think that the overall trend here, then, is to crack down on promiscuity, and that Claudio is just the unfortunate first example (or victim) under Angelo's harsh new rule.

    Reply
  2. Cyrus Mulready

    The Duke was getting a lot of support in our class discussion today, but it's good to remember that he essentially sets up Angelo to fail, as Aimee points out here. It's interesting to see some voices on the blog that point out the failings of the Duke–we can make the final reckoning next week!

    Reply

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