HOW DOES SHAKESPEARE INFUSE ACT ONE OF ‘MEASURE FOR MEASURE’ WITH CONTEXTUAL REFERENCES?
‘Measure for Measure’ is set in Vienna, in 1603. It was written just after James the first, a protestant ruler came to the throne in England after the death of Queen Elizabeth, who was catholic. Religion is a big part of the play, especially in Act one, when the new proclamation is first introduced. Both Catholics and Puritans believe that sex before marriage is wrong, and during James the 1sts reign, the puritans tried to make adultery a criminal offence. This belief is portrayed in the play through Claudio, who is being arrested for getting his fiancé, Julietta pregnant. In Act one scene two, Pompey describes Claudio’s offence as “Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.” The word “peculiar” is used because Claudio and Julietta were nearly married, however hadn’t sorted out the dowry, a payment to the groom and his family from the bride’s family. (This was common practice in Jacobean/Elizabethan society.) The view that sex outside of marriage is wrong, is further emphasised by the belief in the seven deadly sins, the foundation of morality in Jacobean society. One of the deadly sins is Lechery (lust) which is what most of the population of Vienna is guilty of. This is why all the brothels in Vienna are going to be closed down and Claudio is being arrested, and used as an example to the rest of the people in Vienna. Angelo is the person who implements the law, and wants to kill Claudio as a punishment for his offence. He appears to be a strict puritan, and is described as “snow-broth” which means he is someone who doesn’t experience any immoral or sinful, sexual feelings, however, the audience soon change their views and start to view him as a hypocrite when he later on asks Isabelle to have sex with him in order to save her brother, Claudio. In London, and Vienna, common practice was the opposite to ideals of religion and state. For example, in Elizabethan and...
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