Std: 'Selfishness the Disease' in William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure

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Keegan Allan Michal Lewis
ENC 4331
Dr. L. Thomas
May 20, 2008
STD: ‘Selfishness the Disease’ in Measure for Measure
The prevalence of disease, though not stressed directly, is an issue of importance when addressing William Shakespeare’s play, “Measure for Measure.” At the surface the reader is made aware that there is an abundance of sexually transmitted diseases. The commonality of such maladies is a direct result of the widespread practice of the Earth’s oldest profession, prostitution. Brothels such as the one run by Mistress Overdone were plentiful in the days of Shakespeare and this is illustrated in the play. The period, unlike today, offered no preventative measures from sexually transmitted diseases other than abstinence and monogamy. Neither of these, however, seem to be the common practice, thus disease runs rampant through the population, particularly Syphilis, or as it is called in the play, French Velvet. While the presence of physically detrimental diseases is not to be overlooked, it does not represent all of the cases of disease in the play, for there is also the existence of moral and social disease.

In “Measure for Measure” selfishness is clearly an infection that runs through the blood of certain characters. Selfishness can first be identified in the Duke. Although he is a character with inherently qualities, to identify him as a person with STD (Selfishness the disease) would be the correct diagnosis. When things begin to spin out of control under the Duke’s reign he is forced to face his inability to maintain order in the city. His disposition is too light, thus is reign too lax. Instead of handling this, per the obligations affixed to he who holds the title of Duke, he pins the dirty work on Angelo and does so in a sneaky way. The Duke pretends to have to attend matters of peace abroad and tells Angelo that it is now his duty to see to the order of the town. The Dukes does this in such a way to make Angelo feel as if he...
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