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A Study of Measure for Measure from a Jurisprudential Perspective

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An analysis of Measure for Measure from a legal perspective
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  Symbolism in Measure for Measure “Mortality and mercy in Vienna Live in your tongue and heart.”So speaks the Duke to Angelo upon handing over hat the !omans ould have calledthe poer of the Lictor the symbol of the poer of life and death supreme temporal poer asit ere in a theocratic state. #hus the Duke triggers the concatenation of events in hich e seethe bubbling bedsores of corruption burst the e$ercise of poer outside %ustice and theapplication of &ustice ithout mercy. Measure for Measure is about poer and the principlesthat guide it hether they be %ustice or mercy. 'y the same token the play delves into forms of  %ustice( be it the strict application of la scientifically applied or mystically abrogated bydivine mercy. Measure for Measure is rife ith symbolism of hat it is to rule a society %ustlyor in a tyrannical ay in a Draconian manner or in a merciful one. )haracters can be identifiedith certain aspects of society( here on one interpretation the Duke can be held to representcorruption *sabella mercy and Angelo corruption.Analysis might indeed be confined to the e$ploration of the ideals and beliefs of theauthor himself ho as akin ith other humanists of his time such as +rancis 'acon or #homas ,lyot in his embrace of a ne attitude to life and society hich alloed a certaininherent goodness to human e$istence itself. #his “-umanism” cannot have been ignorant of the ritings of )icero or Seneca nor the thought of enon. Aspects of his play could be held toreflect in a fascinating manner the e$tra/)hristian philosophies of these thinkers. 'y the samemeasure e cannot ignore the possible influence of &ames *0s presence to hose personalma%esty and political ritings Shakespeare is unlikely to have been impervious.-oever to analyse the play on the aforementioned level that is to cut the desiccated principles of 1oer &ustice and corruption from the flesh of the play is to reduce it to a bad puppet sho here the sport is in spotting the ,li2abethan puppetmaster. 3hat Measure for Measure tells us about poer corruption and %ustice does not birth from a dry tome of  %urisprudence it rather roots the Science of La amongst the individuals our kindred hom iteffects. *t incarnates the e$ercise of poer( it makes in%ustice bleed hile corruption oo2es pusand mercy gently grants respite. #hus * ill begin not by concentrating on the symbols alone but rather on the application by and the effect on the characters in the play. -o can ediscuss punishment as a means of deterrent ithout hearing )laudio0s ords4“Ay but to die and to go e kno not here #o lie in cold obstruction and to rot(#his sensible arm motion to become a kneaded clod.” ringing in our ears5 -ere e can appreciate the human conse6uences of Angelo0s strictapplication of Vincentio0s la hile Lucio is ever present to riposte the fanciful notions of theDuke or ,scalus ith some bady aphorism. *n Mrs 7verdone0s despair for her business andthe bumbling of )onstable ,lbo reality interacts ith theory to thro an odd light on“&ustice”. 3hen *sabella pleads ith Angelo for mercy her ords and images are most elo6uentto her task most elo6uent too to those branches of humanistic thought hich ponder ho manis to %udge the creation of 8od his on kind5 #hroughout the play the symbolism therein isgiven real angst and bite by the vibrancy of the language and the evocation of the humanaspects. Dynamic energetic evocations of it is to be human grapple ith intractable principleand ideal. So has it alays been in the evolution of %urisprudence.#illyard in his analysis of the play maintains that Shakespeare as combining tostrands hen riting Measure for Measure but that rather than mi$ing them “!eality” predominates in the first half of the play hilst the “folktale” or the symbolic predominate inthe second. As * have already e$plained hoever e ill e$amine the hole play looking at thefolktale in light of reality. Such analysis ill base itself on such basic symbols as 1oer &ustice or )orruption but also e$amine aspects of mercy punishment and the la and itseffects.  #hus e begin the story of a ruler ho hands his office to a deputy and disappearsleaving a harsh authoritarian to apply the letter of the la( an authoritarian ho later abuseshis position to coerce the se$ual favours of the maiden sister of )laudio ho lies in prisonsentenced to death under strict and rigid application of the la against fornication9 3hereforecomes such poer5 -o should it be ielded5 -as it no stops51oer and its application by the science of government leap at us from the opening felines of the play. #he poer to rule is made unusually tangible in that the can almost be seen todivest himself of it and besto it on Angelo. 3e are not told anyhere in this play hencecomes this poer although it may be presumed that it is derived from 8od to the Duke. #he!uler hoever in Measure for Measure can be seen to be unusually autonomous in his possession of poer( 8od is prayed to and even upbraided by *sabella on occasion but nohereis the ruler seen as directly anserable to him:her. As granted Angelo0s poer is absolute of life and death hoever significantly hen the Duke transfers it to Angelo he has4“lent him our terror dressed him ith our love”Vital to the e$ercise of ruling poer seems to be to have the ae of the public but also to havea love for them. *t is difficult not to be reminded of 1lato0s golden class of 1hilosopher/kingsho rules from their inner virtue hich the Duke compares to a torch hich burns by necessitynot to simply light for itself but also for others. #he Duke sees himself and Angelo as benefitingof a gift of nature to rule. 'ounds to this poer hich the Duke almost ob%ectifies in itstransferral are to be found inherent in the rulers virtue ;very different to Machiavelli0s virtu<thus mercy is to live ith mortality in Angelo0s heart. Angelo is to rule as the Duke did4“=our scope is as mine on So to enforce or 6ualify the las As to your soul seems good” >ote here that Angelo0s poer is to 6ualify as ell as enforce the la( his poer stands outsideand above the ritten ;the assumption being that as the ruler is one ith the la he cannot actagainst it<#his brings us to an interesting point. #he 1oer hich the Duke sees fit to transfer toAngelo is the mystical poer of medieval of divine provenance. #he Duke must have been bornto such a burden and anointed and:or invested ith the sacred poer. -e does not ield %ustice but he is %ustice. -e may make la or break la for his people as to his soul seems good. #his poer he has transferred to Angelo due to Angelo0s reputation for ascetic morality and precision a man ho4“Scance confesses that his blood flos or that his appetite *s more to bread than stone”Angelo hoever has only this gravity and morality to guide him he has never been born a ruler.Let us ask at this stage hy the Duke did not prefer Lord ,scalus to be deputy ho epitomises balanced merciful yet strict government throughout the play. #he Duke himself admits that in4“#he nature of our people 7ur city0s institutions and the terms +or common %ustice y0are as pregnant in As art and practice hath enriched any that e remember”?uite apart from an e$cellent enunciation of the necessary knoledge and skills to goodrulership the Duke recognises ,scalus0s orth ;although interestingly nohere amongst,scalus0s science does he categorise the divine gift of ma%esty< and yet he looses Angelo and hismoral outrage upon Venice full poer invested in him ithout so much of a delineation of ,scalus0s function. *s he providing Angelo ith a poerless though ise advisor to ignore athis peril5 *t is hard to avoid feeling that Angelo is being set up( the “science” of ,scalus illnot be alloed brake the rope ith hich Angelo is to hang himself. #he Duke already knosthe details of Angelo0s broken betrothal and he goes so far as to state as one of his reasons for leaving Angelo in poer the approbation of hether “*f poer change purpose hat our seemers be”3e itness the Dukes nigh perverse scheming and manipulation of loyalties hopes ande$pectations in his treatment of *sabella )laudio and Mariana. -e plays an almost inhumanmoral taskmaster in a ay redolent of the pagan deities of ancient civilisation. -oever onecannot help suspecting that there is more to his appointment of Angelo than an abstract  e$periment in the effects of poer on morality. 1erhaps the pioneer “machinator” of stateaffairs can illuminate the Duke0s designs.Machiavelli points out in the “1rince” that although a man ho comes to rule akingdom from outside may be a tyrant and not suffer the rebellion of his sub%ects a ruler bornithin the kingdom does not ield sufficient terror to subdue the people to his absolute ill.#he Duke himself admitted to +riar #homas4“Sith @tas my fault to give the people scope @#ould be my tyranny to strike and gall them+or hat * bid them do.”#he Duke has indeed list his “#error” hich he professes to lend to Angelo( one needs butglance through the scenes of Lucio to find hat the profane perception of him is4 Lucio speaksthus of the Duke and his attitude to fornication4“-e had some feeling of the sport( he kne the service And that instructed him to mercy.”#he Duke has spent his terror / the lion has roared himself hoarse and no cannot sallo. 3ehear the frustration of a benevolent ruler of an immoral public in the ords4“*n time the rod becomes more mocked than fear0d4 So our decrees dead to infliction to themselves are dead.”May e perhaps then believably vie the Duke0s intentions as being to borro a“Dracon” from outside to invigorate the terror of the la5 #his hoever rings somehat falsein vie of the conclusions he must have dran from previous knoledge of Angelo0s character and the very vies he has of authority and rulership %ustice and mercy hich he e$presses later on.1erhaps delving once more into Machiavelli the Duke even more pragmatically seeks todo as the Duke of 'orgia does to one of his ministers. -e allos his minister to abuse his poer in a most tyrannical manner over his sub%ects until hen choosing the right moment theDuke himself appears vested in the mantle of the true ruler and orders the minister to be “doneto death” cut in to and his cadaver displayed in public. Such action as lauded as asuperlative manner of inning the support and loyalty of one0s sub%ects( perhaps the Dukemight be trying to effect similar results in killing to birds ith one stone restoring the terror of la reneing the potency of his rulership by moral force and regaining the respect andappreciation of his people through his salvation of them from the tyrant. *n the tradition of David did he send his captain to fight ith flaed cannon5#his is indeed possible but there remains to us a final tist hy the poer might have been transferred. #o unfold this possibility hoever it is necessary to e$amine closer hoAngelo ill ield his poer( hat concepts of %ustice he uses to inform its use and also thecorruption against hich he is pitted.#he conventional medieval conception of society of the time as of something inherentlyinfernal. -arshness of las are %ustified by the primary evil innate in human e$istence. Anysuffering undergone is seen as richly deserved. #he rulership of man by man is seen by avariety of )hristian thinkers from St Augustine to Ambrose and beyond as a necessary evil.#his rulership ithin society is seen as having the goal of bringing as much of the “)ivitasDei” into the “)ivitas #errena” as possible. 1lato conceived the same goal for society( society being in 1lato0s thought to aid the citi2en in his search for the ultimate truth. *n the same aythe Duke ;and Angelo< strive to repress vice and promote virtue. #he Duke0s motivation in thisregard seems to be somehat more esoteric than those %ustifications advanced by Angelo ho ismore utilitarian in his perception of la as a necessity to safeguard others( speaking of mercyhe claims4“* sho it most of all hen * sho %ustice(+or then * pity those * do not kno 3hich a dismissed offence ould after gall.”#he striking distinction one may divine beteen Angelo and the Duke hoever in thee$ercise of poer is in their attitude to la. #he Duke is the La( he is the ord of laincarnate. -e carries the la in his heart and on his tongue there is no science to his pronouncements there is simply him. -e might see himself as the mystical Lagiver the  Lycurgus of Vienna. -ence the Dukes insistence on the co/ordination of ruler ith pronouncement and %udgement( the to are co/ordinate as they are one4“-e doth ith holy abstinence subdue that in himself 3hich he spurs on his poer to 6ualify in others( 3ere he mealed ith that hich he corrects #hen ere he tyrannous”+or the Duke0s poer is braked by his innate sense of %ustice and his harsh %ustice is tempered by divine mercy.Angelo on the other hand does not internalise the la to ield it as he ould himself butrather he e$ecutes the la laid don by the Duke ;and harsh las they ere too by all accountsif the punishment for se$ outside marriage as death<. Divested of human compassion bymoral dishonesty and emotional sterility he applies the la to the letter ignorant of any mercy.#he reaction of the public sho that such la is alien to hat they hold as morallyreprehensible or identify as %ustice. )laudio0s ords e$press ell the lot of the little victims of the la4#hus can the demi8od Authority Make us pay don for our offence by eight / the ords of heaven 7n hom it ill it ill and on hom it ill not So yet still is it %ust.”Angelo pursues a strict application of his Lords la( he heeds not *sabella0s suggested testhereupon if finding a “natural guiltiness” in his heart consonant ith that hich he condemnshe may not condemn that guilt. -e is the angel of %ustice( a harsh immutable %ustice so severethat ,scalus is prompted to call him “&ustice” ith a frisson of human horror at the inhuman.-oever a vie of Angelo0s use of his poer is incomplete ithout e$ploring his concept of  %ustice the corruption it seeks to e$tirpate and the riposte to that %ustice hich the samecorruption bred.Vienna is rife ith corruption in this case mostly se$ual. #he play seethes ith imageryof the corrupt as Shakespeare shos us gentlemen bartering bady banter in the street hilstthe local bad is ell knon to all and even to the Duke are imputed the most lecherous of  practices. Shakespeare is an e$pert in depicting the corrupt state rotten and disintegrating fromithin. Angelo0s lecherous lust for *sabella only brings this corruption to a point although inthis case our particular disapproval is reserved for such hypocrisy in the head of state and suchmanifest abuse of poer. -oever such corruption is not depicted as in some medievalmorality play here the villain is inhumanely evil and corruption is base and degrading.Shakespeare gives to Angelo an epiphany of human frailty hich earns him our sympathy andthe even the ini6uity of Viennese society has a peculiar aspect. Let us e$amine merely thescapegoat of Angelo0s corrective measures( )laudio and &uliet. *t is they ho are singled out not 1ompey nor Mistress 7verdone ho are both notorious bads nor Lucio and the other gentlemen outspoken fornicators all. *t is rather )laudio and &uliet ho for a mere monetary6uibble ould be married are to suffer. 3e are given an illuminating glimpse of the absolutenature of hat a transgression of the la in the medieval period as notithstandingcircumstances in the stigma attached to &udith0s pregnancy. -oever the shame felt by &udithis paralleled by a fascinating development symptomatic of the dynamisation of the lay classesin the !enaissance. *n contrast to a crime being that act contravening the letter of the lacertain elements of society see )laudio0s and &uliet0s “misfortune” as cause for re%oicing. Lucioallos no hint of condemnation in the lines4“As those that feed gro full as blossoming time #hat from the seedness the bare fallo brings #o teeming foison even so her plenteous omb,$presseth his full tilth and husbandary”such conduct for hich Lucio declares to *sabella “*f myself might be his %udge -e should receive his punishment in thanks-e hath got his friend ith child.”
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