Measure for Measure Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Why are the characters in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure problematic?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The simple answer to your question is that the characters in Measure for Measure are “problematic” because they are found within one of Shakespeare’s few “problem plays.”

The term “problem play” was coined by a literary scholar named Boas who ascertained that there were a few plays in the middle of Shakespeare’s writing career that bridged the gap between his original comedies and the darker work of his tragedies. As a result, these few plays shift dramatically in tone throughout, causing issues for the characters (and the actors). The list of these “problem plays” are as follows (says Boas): Measure for Measure, All’s Well That Ends Well, Troilus and Cressida, and Hamlet as the true bridge. Further, Boas says the following:

Hamlet, with its tragic close, is the connecting-link between the problem-plays and the tragedies in the stricter sense.

Now, why are they considered “problem plays”? Because even though they end on a general note of happiness, they have deeper and...

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