For this weeks event analysis I attended the play “Measure for Measure” by William Shakespeare. The play was done by the actors of the American Shakespeare Center and ran a little over two hours in McManus Theater. The play is considered a comedy although there are very serious aspects to its story. Although long, the play ended up being something I enjoyed as I found myself trying to figure out the major themes that were evident in it. I found that the themes and elements of the play were able to be related to some of the works we have read in class.
The actors of the American Shakespeare Center did a great job acting as well as singing, and put a lot of emotion into their characters. On stage there were a few rows of seats where people could actually sit and watch the play unfold. There were even a few instances where the actors would go up to the people sitting on stage and briefly incorporate them into the play. In “Measure for Measure” the Duke of Vienna intends to leave control of his city to Angelo, who when instated, restores laws against sexual depravity. We soon meet a man named Claudio who has committed premarital acts with his fiancee Juliet. Due to these new laws he is arrested and sentenced to death. Claudio’s sister Isabella is then forced to beg Angelo to spare her brother’s life but he refuses to do so unless she gives her body up to him. Meanwhile, the original Duke has disguised himself as a friar and is watching all of this ensue. To conclude the plot summary, The Duke attempts to rescue Isabella from having to sleep with Angelo, save Claudio’s life, and reveal Angelo’s wrongdoing all at once which causes quite a surprising ending to the play. I found myself very drawn into the story unfolding on stage from start to finish.
After the play was over I began to think of the major points or themes that the play was trying to convey. One theme that I thought appeared evident in the play was the theme of the ruler being an exception to his rules. When Angelo was instated as the new Duke he reinforced the law that abolished premarital sex. Then when Isabella begged for him to spare Claudio’s life he said the only way he would do this was if she slept with him. Thus, Angelo was hoping to break his own law just because the circumstances of the situation allowed him to do so. This is an example of the ruler using his power to his advantage. Another major point I thought the play was trying to get across was to treat others the way you would like to be treated. Angelo broke his own law and in doing so mistreated Isabella. He also mistreated his betrothed Mariana by denying that they were together. This came back to haunt him at the end of the play when the Duke reveals himself and all the wrongdoings of Angelo are sent back to him and he is now sentenced to death. Through this, the play is portraying the idea that we should treat others as we would like for them to treat us or we will be impacted negatively.
There were some elements of the play that I thought were evident in our readings for class. The short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor could be related to the play through the characters of the Duke and the misfit. The misfit and the Duke both passed judgement on other people and pointed out their flaws which brings up the common idea of people living justly. The misfit views the grandmother as another person who doesn’t live the right way saying “She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life”. The Duke who has been viewing the behavior of Angelo throughout the play sees that he is treating people unjustly and thus he makes sure that Angelo’s flaws are revealed by the end of the play.
Also, I saw a commonality between the poem “God’s Grandeur” by Gerald Manley Hopkins, and the play “Measure for Measure”. The poem “God’s Grandeur” is a celebration of God’s presence in the world. In line four however a question “Why do men then now not reck his rod?” is posed. The speaker is wondering why some people do not recognize God’s authority. In the play the character of Angelo was also in a way refusing to recognize God. In attempting to break his own law by having sex with Isabella he was acting above the law and above God. Angelo wasn’t glorifying God in what he was doing he was acting selfishly, only interested in ways he could benefit.
The play “Measure for Measure” was done very well by the actors of the American Shakespeare Center. I enjoyed watching the play and thought it had a great ending. I found it easy to relate the play with some of the readings we have read for class. The major themes and points in the play point out that we should always treat others right if we want to be treated the same way.