Theme: Male/Female relationships and the role of women
* Look at the way Shakespeare explores relationships between men and women in Measure for Measure. Consider how the male characters treat the female characters and in particular, how Isabella reacts to Angelo’s proposition
When Shakespeare wrote Measure for Measure in approximately 1604, society was very sexist towards females and men were seen as the stronger sex, however Shakespeare included lots of strong female characters in his plays such as Portia in ‘Mercent of Venice’ and Lady Macbeth in ‘Macbeth’, he was aware that his plays wouldn’t change society and that unlimitedly, women are regarded as subservient to men. They were not allowed to vote, state their real opinions, go to university and they were never formally educated; their only expected roles in life were to run the household and provide children. Consequently, many men regarded their wives and daughters as possessions who were expected to abide by their husbands and fathers no matter what. When it came down to relationships with the opposite sex, virginity was regarded as a virtue and a prize. Men expected their wives to be pure in preparation for marriage and the women that had ‘succumbed to the pleasures of the flesh’ before they were married were considered ruined women. Men however were encouraged to learn the arts of seduction and some men of the higher class were sent to Italy to learn the art.
In the society of Measure for Measure, men clearly use and abuse women. One of the main characters Angelo is placed in charge of the city in Vienna by Duke Vincentio. The Duke had been quite an easy going ruler who feels that it is time to clean up the Viennese society and administer a greater sense of honour. He chooses Angelo because of the strong characteristics and principles that he has make him stand out for being the perfect person to do so. Despite his name being a play on the word ‘angel’, he absurdly proves to be the villain...
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