Measure for Measure Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are the dramatic effects of this play?

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katemschultz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It depends on what you mean by dramatic effect--it's a sound effect that can simply mean that someone is at the door. However, if it contributes to any of the above themes--say, someone needs to disguise himself...

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nomatamsanqua | Student

IT is not only the conveying of progression of the plot of the play that makes the duke an imprant character it the play. through the character of the duke the major characters in the play are broughtout. For example, angelos immoral and unjust, cruel character is brought out. The virtue of Isabella is cleary highlighted through the faeturing of the duke. despite the characters of individuals, major themes are also brought out the the duke, e.g, the theme of corruption, abuse of power, immorality and forgiveness. Therefore the dukes character plays a major role in brining out most of the important aspects of the play....

charl1eg1rl | Student

where can find  afilm (on CD,DVD,...) of Measure for Measure. i'm working on this play but the nightmare that still appears is the film. how can find a version of the BBC or the RSC. something that makes me crazy.

I found this contempoary re-working of the play on - it's set in the modern day British Army. Power and Sex still dominate the narrative, as all prepare to justify their morality; it is a semi-professional production but arguably the best thing out there in terms of filmic adaptations.


We're long overdue a major adaptation - come on Jackson/McKellen/Branagh et al!

charl1eg1rl | Student

I think that Shakespeare utilises the theme of appearance versus reality as the key dramatic device to drive the play forward. Angelo and The Duke are naturally the most obvious characters who represent this, however Isabella has her part to play too whilst the ineffable Pompey deliberately clouds events through his chameleonic language and attitudes...

medi | Student

where can find  afilm (on CD,DVD,...) of Measure for Measure. i'm working on this play but the nightmare that still appears is the film. how can find a version of the BBC or the RSC. something that makes me crazy.

robfoley | Student

I'm currently playing the Duke in a production of Measure in Redlands, CA. When I first started rehearsals, I asked the same questions you did about him.

The Duke is a man-child at the start of the show. He has vlountarily isolated himself from the rest of the world, and as a result, is immature. I think his character arc goes from child to adult during this play. When he is forced to see that there are consequences for his actions, through his exposure to all of the prostitution and corruption in his city, he is forced to grow up.

My director also had a great idea for the Duke. Measure is about 30% comedy, 70% drama. What if the Duke is portrayed as a comical character, rather than a dramatic one? He then becomes interesting. What if he is a bad actor who doesn't know how to play a friar properly? There are many examples in the play where he misrepresents the actions of a real friar, i.e. giving away confessional information, acting as a pimp for Mariana, etc. If he's a bad actor, an audience can watch him fumble through the play. It also make him less omnipotent, which is really what makes him a boring character.

lizziebennet | Student

-the Duke decides to give him a chance through the use of the "bed trick." If Angelo is really a good man, he will change his mind when Isabella (Mariana) comes to him in the dark. But he doesn't, of course, and I think the Duke, at this point, would have merely forced him to marry Mariana to set an example for the rest of the city. However, Angelo gets his way sexually, and then FAILS to keep his end of the bargain! He demands Claudio's head on a platter (to punish Isabella for her impure behavior?) and definitively shatters any similarities between himself and the Duke. Finally, the Duke demands an "Angelo for a Claudio" or "Measure for Measure" - and Mariana & Isabella beg the Duke for mercy... thereby saving Angelo's life.

So, the Duke sees himself through the looking glass of Angelo and determines that to preserve his personal "moral goodness" (and collectively, Vienna's) -- whilst satisfying his just and natural sexual desires - he shall set an example for the whole bunch by arranging all of the marriages (Angelo/Mariana, Claudio/Juliet & Lucio/Kate), AND by marrying himself to Isabella.  He is a flawed man, to be sure, but that doesn't mean he is boring. His pride is his biggest flaw (much like Othello or Lear) - but he departs from these men in the manner that he does not seem to love with the same passion. And, I think that's why we don't get Isabella's answer in the end. He certainly doesn't love her as much as he loves himself.

lizziebennet | Student

Hi. This is a response to lrosenb, and hopefully the start of a conversation. I had the same doubts and questions about the Duke upon the first reading of the text. For all of his power, clever disguising and manipulation of the other characters (esp. Angelo, Isabella & Claudio) - in the end, he comes across as devious and rather "ineffectual."  So, why does he do all of this to begin with? Why "pretend to go to Poland?" Why leave Angelo in charge, rather than Escalus? Why all of the trickery in thwarting Angelo's wicked, hypocritical plans? Why doesn't the Duke just march right back into his palace when he's heard of Angelo's treachery, spare Claudio's life and be done with it?

I think we have to see this as the Duke's story (in the main) and we, naturally, need to mine the script for the answers to these questions. Bluntly put, the city of Vienna is in a state of moral (and even some) physical disrepair due to the un-checked licentious behavior of it's citizens.  Syphillis and illegitimate children run rampant, because the Duke doesn't want to "put his foot down" and enforce the rigid laws. So, he asks Angelo to play Bad Cop for him.  My opinion is that he chooses Angelo b/c he is a man similiar in years, breeding, and education. I think that the Duke admires Angelo for his purity and strength, and thinks of him as an extension of his "better self."  So, when Angelo disappoints him with his merciless and hypocritical acts...

lrosenb | Student

How on earth can one play the part of the Duke without his seeming merely a big bore who moves the plot forward? Are there interesting sides to his character that one might at least explore and try to convey to an audience? What makes him a fully rounded person? I'm so used to Shakespeare's great characters, this one is giving me headaches. Help!

nas411 | Student

what about the usage of stage direction, such as the knocking on the doors? does it contribute to the dramatic effects of the play?