With what measure you mete out, it shall be measured unto you (Mark 4: 24).
The tangled plot of Shakespeare’s comedy Measure for Measure might initially convince any audience that Shakespeare finds little of serious value in the Christian tradition. The Duke of Vienna leaves his troubled town in corrupt hands of his highest deputy, Angelo, and masquerades in a friar’s guise. Posing under this religious pretense, he encourages and orchestrates an act of fornication. Further, he deceives Isabella, making her think that her brother Claudio is dead. Finally, he brings the play to a comic conclusion using marriage and unilateral forgiveness in a manner that seems to signal a failure to bring justice to a town reeling with lax law enforcement and moral depravity. Why does the Duke knowingly submit Vienna to Angelo’s cold corruption? How can the Duke’s representation of religious authority be anything other than mockery if he sanctions and even causes immoral acts? How can an audience accept a comic ending brought about by such “dark deeds”—an ending that seems to unilaterally solve social ills by means of imposed marriage?1 [Read more…]