Get help from the best in academic writing.

Measure for Measure: The Dark Comedy

The Dark Comedy of Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure, the last of Shakespeare’s great comedies, is also the darkest of his comedies, and represents his transition to tragic plays. This play differs from Shakespeare’s other comedies, and is in many ways more akin to tragedy than to comedy. In setting, plot, and character development Measure for Measure has a tragic tone, however, because none of the main characters actually loses his life, this play is considered a comedy.

Almost all of Shakespeare’s comedies have dual localities: the real world of crime, punishment, and responsibility, and an idyllic world, where reality is malleable, and forgiving. For example, As You Like It occurs in both the world of the court, dangerous for almost all of the primary characters, and the forest of Arden, a sanctuary that nurses conflict to resolution. Measure for Measure, on the other hand, offers no safe haven for the characters. They are trapped in the corrupted mire called Venice. Angelo, appointed scourge of the city, lets no person escape his punishing hand. Painting no “Arden” to provide asylum, Shakespeare gives Measure for Measure a grave tone. The play is more like a tragedy: intense focus on the gravity of the situation with littleemotional respite for the reader and characters. Measure for Measure is like a tragedy in plot development, as well. Shakespeare’s earlier comedies pose situations of extreme danger, but through plot development, Shakespeare handles the conflict with a lighter tone. Much is at stake, but he reassures the reader that good will prosper, and evil will not escape some sort of punishment. Measure for Measure is dangerously close to being a tragedy throughout the whole play.

… middle of paper …

…r protection of her virginity never wavers; not even when her brother’s life is at stake will she relinquish her morals. Isabellaand Angelo are more closely related to Shakespeare’s Othello than they are to Rosalind who constantly adapts to the situation. Whereas Rosalind’s ability to change enables her to affect the plot of As You Like It, Othello’s fierce, short sighted determination sends him reeling through a predetermined fate to a tragic end. Angelo and Isabella, in their stubborn adherence to principles, head for a cruel fate, only avoided through the duke’s manipulation.

Though Measure for Measure ends with no major characters dying, it is only marginally a comedy. The characters, plot, and setting more resemble Shakespeare’s tragedies than his comedies. Shakespeare forces the “happy” ending, and in so doing, announces the end of his comedic works.

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

The Characters of Hermione, Perdita, and Paulina in The Winters Tale

Although Hermione is one of the main characters, we see very little of her in the play. She is horribly betrayed by her husband, but we never really see her feelings on the subject. In many other plays, Shakespeare uses asides and soliloquies to give insight into the characters mind. Hermione must be having complex and very troubling thoughts, but we never see them. Hermione is in Act I Scene ii where she plays the perfect royal hostess. In Act I Scene iii, she is accused of adultery with Polixenes by Leontes and taken to prison. She is not seen agian until Act III Scene ii, where she stands trial for her treason. Immediately after this scene, she dies, or appears to die, offstage. The audience is given no indication that she is still alive until Act V Scene iii, where the statue becomes flesh.

Hermione is portrayed as an innocent victim throughout the play. When her husband fist becomes jealous, she is puzzled by his behavior and wonders if affairs of state are bothering him. Her lack of knowledge about his jealousy gives credit to her plea of innocence. She had obviously never been an unfaithful wife, therefore she had no reason to worry that her husband would suspect her. Polixenes flees in fear of death, but he leaves Hermione behind. If she had known that she was guilty and was facing punishment, she could have left with Polixenes. When she comes back to life as a statue, she says that she has preserved herself in the chance occurance that Perdita was alive. The audience is never given any further explaination, so we cannot conclude that she even saved herself in an illegal or false fashion.

The character of Perdita is a wonderful study in the sociological theories of nature versus nurture. She leaves the royal court when she is only days old and is raised by and old shepherd and his son, the Clown. Although the family found a great deal of money when they found the baby, the upbringing she recieved could not have been equal to a traditional royal upbringing. Nevertheless, Perdita seems to be endowed from birth with a royal manner. She has been crowned Queen of the sheep-shearing feast when we first see her again, and she has won the deep love of a prince.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.