Meet Duke Wimpy

As I read through Act I, one thing became abundantly clear to me; the Duke is a wimp! It seems to me that he has failed at his duties to enforce the laws of Vienna and has turned to others to gets his affairs back in order. At the very beginning of the play he is talking to Escalus about what must be done to clean up the mess he has made of the city. He praises the knowledge Escalus has of the justice system in what I think is an attempt to “butter him up” for the favor he is about to ask of him.
“Then no more remains
But this: to your sufficiency, as your worth is able,
And let them work. The nature of our people,
Our city’s institutions and the terms
For common justice, you’re as pregnant in
As art and practice hath enriched any
That we remember.” (1.1.7-13)
Shortly after we see this, in my opinion, pathetic and desperate gesture, we learn why the Duke has gone through the trouble of sucking up to Escalus and bidding Lord Angelo forth. He wants the two of them to take over his role and enforce the laws he has failed to during his reign thus far.
“Hold therefore, Angelo.
In our remove be thou at full ourself.
Mortality and mercy in Vienna
Live in thy tongue and heart. Old Escalus
Though first in questions, is thy secondary.
Take thy commission.” (1.1.42-47)
With this request, the Duke has pawned his responsibilities off on someone else and he leaves while others do his dirty work. After the Duke runs out of town, Lord Angelo and Escalus get to work. They ban prostitution and brothels in Vienna and they attempt to make the city of Vienna pure again. In the process, they arrest Claudio for impregnating his fiance and they have sentenced him to death which seems pretty harsh for the crime in question. Since Claudio’s life is at stake, his sister Isabella has been forced to leave the nunnery where she has been living while becoming a nun. So, what this all sounds like to me is that the lives of so many people have been unjustly uprooted and turned upside down because the Duke was to much of a coward to do his job all along. The Duke basically admits to his cowardice when he makes a speech to Lord Angelo before he leaves town.
“I love the people,
But do not like to stage me to their eyes.
Though it do well, I do not relish well
Their loud applause and aves vehement,
Nor do I think the man of safe discretion
That does affect it. Once more, fare you well.” (1.1.67-72)
The Duke hear explains that he understand what it means to be a good Duke and leader but that he does not “relish well” in the responsibilities (1.1.68). While reading this passage I felt like screaming “That is your job!!” Just when I thought that it could not get any worse, the Duke who has left others to do his job sets a plan in motion to return back to town in disguise to spy on the affairs that he has never paid attention to before. How typical that the Duke does not even have the courage enough to return to town has himself to check on the job that Lord Angelo and Escalus are doing? Perhaps if he was not such a wimp others would not be suffering…poor Claudio, Juliet, and Isabella. I am nervous to see how many other lives he will have left affected.


9 thoughts on “Meet Duke Wimpy

  1. Unique_Loner69

    First of all, your title made me laugh! But I completely agree with your post. The Duke is a coward of a character that can't do what HE is supposed to do. He is trying to pawn his duties onto other characters (i.e. Escalus and Angelo), when he should be taking care of these things. I can't help but wonder, how did he become Duke? He obviously is not well fit to be Duke, so who decided to let him be this high of a person. He must have shown that he was not right for this role in society.

  2. lizvanburen

    I completely agree with this. With all of this plotting against Angelo, did did the Duke really mean all the praises for Escalus and Angelo in 1.1? If not, he's both a wimp AND a fake! In most of Shakespeare's plays, the one doing the plotting ends up completely screwed, so I'm excited to see how this plot unfolds!PS: Hilarious title!

  3. AlissaKraft

    I agree but I also have to disagree with some of your post. I agree with your argument that the Duke is pawning off his duties so to speak on Angelo and others. But I also feel that the Duke is being responsible by doing this. He realizes that he has let the affairs of Vienna get too out of control and something needs to be done to make the city pure again. And in order to find the root of the problems and a solution that will be fitting for the citizens of the city he must disguise himself. He must disguise himself and hide in plain sight to see how the affairs are currently being handled and devise a plan for how they need to be handled in the future. This disguise also allows the Duke to confirm his suspicions that Angelo rules too harshly, making it clear that the Duke could never leave the city in the hands of Angelo in the future.

  4. Jessica

    I agree with you, Meaghan. The Duke is more concerned with his public image than doing his job. He leaves his responsibilities with Angelo and Escalus, and this makes him look like a coward. Even after he admits he knows he does not take on the responsibilities he should, he does not change one bit. I am anxious to see if he will change throughout the play.

  5. Tony Mancini

    I actually agree with the Duke’s course of action of assigning his subordinate, Angelo, to do his dirty work for him. It seems that the Duke is avoiding enforcing these Puritan anti-sexuality laws because they are not in his interest. He leaves this to Angelo and spies on him, posing as a friar. It would seem the Duke would not want to destroy his reputation as a lax ruler by enforcing these strict laws. His spying can be seen as a mistrust of these conservative values that the “holier than thou” characters like Angelo and Isabella express throughout the play.

  6. Zan Strumfeld

    I agree with you, Meaghan, but agree more with Alissa. Yes, the Duke was definitely extremely irresponsible when it comes to his duties and his lack of fulfilling them, but at the same time, he becomes responsible in the fact that he realizes he must turn over his position to someone he believes could be more responsible than himself. The Duke dressing up in disguise and hiding away to Friar Thomas may seem cowardly, but to the Duke, he feels he must watch from a hidden perspective so he can see how Angelo rules. So yes, the Duke is definitely irresponsible with ruling, but takes responsibility in order to try to turn over all of his mishaps.

  7. Stephanie

    I completely agree with you. The Duke is a complete wimp. It seems that he is unfit to rule because as soon as the stress becomes too great, he hands the burden to someone else and goes into hiding. I also completely agree with your observations that everyone's lives in the play were uprooted as a result of the Dukes action. Perhaps if the Duke had been a more capable leader to begin with, the play would never have taken place.

  8. Gianna

    I love your title I found it super catchy! While I agree that the Duke is a bit of a coward, the thing to consider though is he didn't pick his job. He never asked to be Duke it was something he sort of inherited. But, unlike other people who rise to the occasions they are placed into, the Duke is not one of them!

  9. Genevieve

    HAHA! I laughed at your title as well. I agree with you that the Duke is a complete mess. He's such a coward, but it almost makes the play funny. The more I read this play, the more I feel like I'm reading a soap opera. In every soap opera I've ever watched (which were few in number) there was a character I couldn't help but love, even though he/she may have been incredibly lame. I find the Duke to be so ridiculous that I can't help but kind of like him.


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