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Redemption and Damnation in Measure for Measure and Othello

Redemption and Damnation in Measure for Measure and Othello

Measure for Measure and Othello are closely related. There is a thesis-antithesis bond between these two plays. Much more than just sharing a trait or a source, the two constitute a paired study of the processes of redemption and damnation.

Measure for Measure counterbalances Othello. Looking at the text of each play, one finds parallel and contrasting circumstances and characteristics that would incline one to interpret each play in light of the other. First instance: the issue of being passed over. In the opening scene of Measure for Measure Escalus is passed over for the position of deputy in a most explicit fashion. The Duke praises Escalus as peerless in his knowledge of government and then declares without explanation that he is taking leave of his duties and appointing Angelo as his deputy. Escalus, in response to the Duke’s request for his opinion on the choice, expresses approval-as he more or less must under the circumstances-but also shows at no subsequent time any hurt pride at not being chosen. In the first scene of Othello Iago declares to Roderigo, to whom he seldom tells the truth, that he has no desire to further Othello’s interests as in the case of this sudden elopement because, having been passed over by Othello for position of lieutenant, he feels bitter and desires to avenge his wounded pride. The shallowness of Iago’s speciously proclaimed motive-did “great ones” of the city really petition Iago’s candidacy to Othello?-is heightened by contrast with Escalus’ benign acceptance when actually passed over. Second instance: interceding women. In Measure for Measure Isabella pleads with Angelo to rescind his sentence of death on Cla…

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…does occur in Measure for Measure, and it makes all the difference.

Works Cited

Barish, Jonas A. The Antitheatrical Prejudice. Berkeley: U of California P, 1981.

Battenhouse, Roy C. “Measure for Measure and Christian Doctrine of the Atonement.” PMLA 61 (1946): 1035-36.

Bentley, Eric. “Henrik Ibsen: A Personal Statement.” Columbia University Forum, I (Winter 1957): 11-18. Rpt. In Ibsen: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Rolfe Fjelde. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1965. 83-92.

Evans, G. B., ed. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1974.

Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1970.

Leggatt, Alexander. “Substitution in Measure for Measure.” Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (Autumn 1988): 342-59.

Mahood, M. M. Shakespeare’s Wordplay. London: Methuen, 1957.

Darkness and Death in Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Themes of Darkness and Death in “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

One of the forms of analysis and criticism that is best used with many works is the analysis of archetypal images. Many words and objects are images that have much deeper meanings and values than you, as a reader, take at face value. Many of the words and sentences in Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” give away the poems underlying theme of darkness and death.

One of the archetypal images Thomas uses is that of the wise old man. “Though wise men at their end know dark is right, because their words forked no lighting they do not go gentle into that good night.” This passage speaks of wise men that fail. The archetypal definition of the wise man is one who possesses the qualities of insight, wisdom, cleverness, a spiritual principle, and much more. But aside from the fact that these men are wise, their words still mean nothing. This passage gives the reader an unmistakable image of darkness in the lives of even those who are wise.

A second image that portrays this theme is the fourth stanza of the poem. “Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, and learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, do not go gentle into that good night.” Here the image of the sun represents the passing of life. And the men, who were too late in catching the sun and grieved it on its way, are giving us the image that the sun is setting. Or, as it could be interpreted, the sun for that day is dying. Here again we have a passage that is giving us a clear image of darkness. And here, also, we see Thomas referring to death.

One of the strongest, if not the strongest, images of darkness and death is shown in the last two lines of the poem. “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” The death of the light here shows us blackness: the ultimate darkness.

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