How do Isabella's religious faith and intention to become a nun affect Measure for Measure?

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Isabella’s religious faith and intention to become a nun contribute to the moral ambiguity that is central to Measure for Measure. Isabella’s strongly held beliefs about morality, including sexual celibacy, are challenged when she has the chance to save her brother. Her decisions match well with the play’s emphasis on the complex issues involved in moral dilemmas.

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Measure for Measure is a play that explores numerous dimensions of morality as a matter of personal faith and social convention.

Isabella is the only main character who had decided to pursue a life of seclusion and celibacy as components of her religious convictions. William Shakespeare deliberately makes her the primary person who is called upon to question the importance of those intentions and convictions.

By focusing on her predicament, the playwright emphasizes the idea that most problems do not have easy solutions. As a person who has sworn to uphold certain values, Isabella is forced to confront the prospect of not just indulging in hypocrisy but sinning in the eyes of God. Whereas previously, she had not believed that a life devoted to faith would contradict her family responsibilities, now she must face this paradox. The strength of her faith is tested through her ability to show compassion and make sound choices.

Similar dilemmas to those in which Isabella is caught up are expressed through other characters’ equally difficult choices. As the leaders of Vienna, both Duke Vincentio and his deputy Angelo must consider how to enforce laws concerned with sexual morality. The fact that Angelo lusts after a novice nun enhances the hypocrisy of his outwardly rigid moralist stance. The duke offers a different kind of contrast, as he disguises himself as a man of the cloth in order to monitor and later correct the social transgressions that plague his domain.

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Isabella's deep religious faith and her desire to become a nun make Angelo's actions all the more disgusting in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Isabella's brother, Claudio, finds himself in deep trouble when Angelo temporarily takes over the rule of Vienna. Angelo is determined to wipe out all sexual immorality from the city, and Claudio has gotten his girlfriend pregnant. Therefore, Angelo intends to make an example of Claudio, who is to receive the death penalty for his offense.

Angelo does, however, have a proposition for Isabella. If she will sleep with him, he will let her brother off the hook. This proposition, of course, makes Angelo a major hypocrite because he is willing to do the very thing he has just condemned Claudio for doing. Isabella's vow to chastity adds further weight to the dilemma she is faced with: saving the life of her brother or maintaining her own virtue.

Of course, everything turns out well in the end, for Measure for Measure is a comedy. Angelo gets what he has coming. Claudio receives a pardon from Duke Vincentio (who has been watching and guiding the whole matter in the guise of a friar). Isabella retains her chastity, but she decides that she isn't meant to be a nun after all and ends up married to the duke.

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