Monday, November 7, 2016

Understanding Angelo's Duality

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As I read Measure for Measure I was surprised to find how morally ambiguous the play seemed to be. All sexually related injustices are reconciled in the end of the novel and mercy is extended unto everyone, including the "villainous" Angelo, yet as I read the play I was surprised to find that I did not regard Angelo's character as an unadulterated villain. It was apparent that when the Duke assigned Angelo as his substitute that he was aware Vienna's chaotic state of legal affairs and thus appointed someone who could restore a firm sense of justice to Vienna, which Angelo accordingly sought to restore.

While Angelo's unyielding and even tyrannic restoration of justice is often perceived as tyrannical, I began to note that Angelo presented a paradoxical nature. When Angelo propositions Isabella into having sex with him so that she may free her brother he was captivated primarily by her innocence and purity. Although his proposition of Isabella is hypocritical and one cannot justify his action, he seemed to ultimately desire to of her purity, rather than taint it. It was as if he so desperately sought perfection, as shown through his legal implementation, that he sought to create a symbolic union with that purity.

This argument would clearly divide an educated audience, as most scholars do not address this duality of character. I have found many scholars who comment on his hypocrisy, yet I could easily use those sources to establish my opposing argument. It's always fun to counter argue what everyone else is saying! I also found an interesting source that addresses the Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin's poem entitled Angelo. This source is interesting as it explains how Pushkin elaborated upon Angelo throughout the poem and provided an alternative perspective on the play altogether. I'm planning on comparing that poem to Shakespeare's Angelo to see how Pushkin revised his character. I haven't watched any film adaptations of Measure for Measure yet, but I'd be interested to see how Angelo is portrayed, or if a more sympathetic portrayal of Angelo even exists. What if he's just as misunderstood as Severus? haha...


  1. I'm not going to lie, when I first opened your post and saw a picture of Snape I thought you were going to be talking about Harry Potter and I was very disappointed to find out that you are not. Regardless, I'm sure this will be a great paper (just be wary about how you're drawing your audience in - they may come with some high expectations). But in all seriousness, I haven't read this play so I don't know much about it, but from what I've read in your post it certaintly seems like a play worth reading. So you're off to a good start! If you can hook your reader with your preliminary ground work - your paper will probably be top notch.

  2. What a wonderful idea! This will definitely divide an audience. I would love to read your analysis and close reading of scenes that you're using to back up this claim. Does this idea relate to other characters? Are you looking at Claudio and his motives as well? I admit that it would be difficult (and ill-advised) to try two against-the-grain readings of characters simultaneously, but it's interesting to at least think about.