Measure for Measure

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Measure for Measure

    Dave Cope's

    Shakespeare Course Handouts & Cues

Copyright ? David Cope. Revised: December 12, 2001

File Two: Plays 1600-1611 / The Sonnets

    Hamlet (1600-01) 2

    Twelfth Night (1601-02) 7 Troilus and Cressida (1601-02) 11

    Measure for Measure (1604) 17

    Othello (1604) 23

    King Lear (1605) 29

    Macbeth (1606) 33 Antony and Cleopatra (1606-07) 39

    Cymbeline (1609-10) 44

    The Winter's Tale (1610-11) 53

    The Tempest (1611) 59

    The Sonnets 65


    1. Tragedy: focuses on the fate of an individual whose downfall shakes the nation; unlike com- edy, where the trajectories of individuals lead to a common celebration, here the focus is on the agonies and psychology of one man (and often his antagonist). In Aristotle's discussion of tra- gedy, this hero is one who may be superior in any number of ways, but who contains one fault that is his downfall. Tragedy works, according to Aristotle, when the audiences recognizes and identifies with the struggles of this good or humane person; we are moved when he cannot free himself and experience sadness at his overthrow.

2. Revenge Tragedy: an Elizabethan sub-genre of tragedy, based on the Senecan model,

    which features at least six recognizable motifs. These are:

     (1) blood revenge for the murder or flagrant injury of a relative as the basic thrust

     of the plot;

     (2) action prompted by the accusations of a ghost;

     (3) hesitation on the part of the hero because of the need for proof or a suitable occa-

    sion to effect the revenge;

     (4) madness, either feigned or real, as part of the hero's agon;

     (5) a Machiavellian villain;

     (6) numerous murders, both on-stage and off, usually as part of the climax.





     (Horatio, 1.1) and playing (Polonius): Julius Caesar

     by their elders' disorders: Romeo and Juliet

     : Romeo and Juliet

     : Troilus

     and Cressida, Othello, The Winter's Tale

     to entrap other characters: Merry Wives


     sons defending murdered fathers; possible commentary

     on fitness to rule (vis-a-vis attitude toward action)

     2.1: Polonius hires Reynaldo; 2.2: King & Queen hire R & G

     : feigned (?) madness and consideration of suicide / real madness

    and real suicide.


     Shakespeare is renowned for the

    numerous father-daughter and father-son combinations in his plays, but few

    plays include mothers e.g. (Volumnia in Coriolanus, Lady Macduff and, peculiarly

    enough, since the children are missing) Lady Macbeth.

     --Thus the Gertrude-Hamlet relationship has given twentieth century Freudian critics

     fodder for their examination of the supposed oedipal relationship. See Ernest Jones.


     ceived as clever, vicious, and yet possessing a conscience. His manipulative abilities

     should be most apparent in his persuasion of Laertes.



     "so oft it chances.." (1.4.23-39). Hamlet describes

     Claudius, but he equally describes himself.

     <2.2.329-61 (1204) Topical ref to "little eyases": children's companies who were suc-

     cessfully competing against more established companies and depriving actors of their

     incomea real problem, connected to the war of the theatres, in London.


     a. 1.5.169-80 (1199)explanation of "antic disposition" to come.

     b. 2.1.74-97 (1200)playing to Ophelia.

     c. 2.2.170-221 (1202-03)playing to Polonius

     d. 2.2.222-310 (1203-04)playing to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

     e. 3.2.392-99 (1214) and 3.4.1-104 (1215-16)playing to Gertrude

     f. 5.2performing the duel with Laertes (until the "playing" breaks down).


     a. 2.2.109-11 (1202) Polonius weighing the language of Hamlet's letter.

     b. 2.2.550-605 (1207) Acting, artifice, and emotion; use of play to manipulate


     implications re audience psychology? nature of imaginative figures?

     c. 3.2.1-45 (1209-10) Aesthetics of performance (with actor)

     as a device employed for exposure (in some plays, it is to

     provide a killing ground (e.g. Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, Webster's The White Devil);

     as a masque, it functions as a purifying device in Merry Wives and as a wedding en-

     tertainment in The Tempest.


     during this period, superstition is widespread; not only is there a

     terrifying fear of devils and Hell (stirred not only by the long tradition of apocalyptic

     storytelling culminating in Dante's vision of Inferno, but also by native traditions of

     fairies and other supernatural beings, ranging from the puckish Robin Goodfellow to

     banshees and "ghosties and ghoolies."

    a production of Dr. Faustus in which more devils appeared on stage than were in

    the cast: locals thought the play had called the devil from hell, and closed the


     the popularity of the memento mori and a greater awareness of death generally (the


     James' own book on Witchcraft; puritan habit of finding the devil in everything not

    connected with their own beliefs: see Philip Stubbes' Anatomy of Abuses.


     a. ghosts: Hamlet

     b. "weird sisters" (witches): Macbeth

     c. fairies and monsters: MND, Tempest (Ariel and Caliban)

     d. fears and portents: Comedy of Errors, Julius Caesar


     1. In Shakespeare's time, ghosts are real: they can either be blessed or


     2. When they return, something is wrong with the world or society: either they

     come to warn of possible troubles, or they come to mislead those to whom

     they appear (is the ghost good or is it evil?).

     3. They generally appear at night and must return to their places by day.

     4. In Hamlet, the afterlife seems to be divided into the traditional three-part

     structure described in Dante: Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Old Hamlet's

     ghost claims he's undergoing purgation (i.e. after purification, he may be

     released to heaven), yet he is "in fires"an image more in keeping with hell.


9. METAPHYSICS AND THEOLOGY: The world of Hamlet seems to imply a neo-platonic

     Christian metaphysics involving an afterlife characterized by Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell.

     Unlike in Dante or St. Thomas Aquinas, however, the Devil is understood in the Manichaean

     sense, that is, he functions as an independent adversary of God. Thus, when Hamlet is

     confronted with the apparent ghost of his father, he is troubled with the question of whether

     the ghost comes from God or from the Devilwhether it is a blessed spirit warning him of

     danger or a damned one, trying to get him to damn his own soul. The ghost claims that it is in

     Purgatory by dayand is thus being purified of sins for which it had not done penance in life

     yet its demand for revenge seems more in keeping with the worldly code of honor, which de-

     mands that one exact vengeance for the sins of others.

    Important Questions and Concerns

between Hamlet and Claudius. How much does each one know,

    and when? How does each cover his position? What explanations does Claudius give for not simply murdering Hamlet and being done with him?

Feminists see the world of the play as a classic pic-

    ture of the patriarchal society, in which males are socially privileged and yet constricted in their emotional lives, while women are kept as a "privileged" underclass, feted with luxury yet with little or no real voice in the exercise of power. In such an arrangement, the male under terrible stress will often take out his frustrations on the one he loves most. The questions, then, involve the kinds of roles women could play in this society, and the relationships of Claudius and Gertrude, and Hamlet and Ophelia.

     1. What roles may Gertrude and Ophelia play in this society? What is the extent of

     their power, education, etc.?

     2. How much does Gertrude influence the decisions of her husbandand when she

     does, where does that influence lie?

     3. What are the differences in the education of Laertes and Ophelia, and in the way their

     father treats them?

     4. Most importantly, how much does Gertrude know about Claudius's actions?

     5. What are her attitudes toward her son? (In some modern versions of the play, Hamlet

     is seen as the classic oedipal figurein love with his mother, an attitude of which she

     is not completely scornful).

     6. What do you make of Hamlet's changed behaviorhis abusiveness after earlier atti-

     tudes of kindness and gentle regardtoward Ophelia? In what kind of situation does

     she find herself?

Note the international

    stresses with which the court lives. What effects do international relations have on Claudius? on Hamlet? on the society as a whole? What are the causes of these stresses, and how do these in- form our perceptions of characters and the action of the plot?

Follow the triple examination of this theme

    in the trajectories of Fortinbras, Hamlet, and Laertesand in the ways in which they conduct

    themselves. What is Shakespeare implying about the qualities of the successful prince?

This question centers on the inner conflicts

    between what society (at the time) would call just actions and what the religious moral code would seem to claim.


    some critics have expended a lot of ink on the question of whether Hamlet is mad, or whether the madness he claims is part of his attempt to disguise what he's up to. Note all the metaphors of sickness, disease, etc., that crop up in his language. Are there times in the play when he indeed seems "mad" or is he merely overwrought? Is he aware of his own dilemmas and excesses, or is he a man whose consciousness cannot understand what he is about?

the play anatomizes the various ways in which a corrupt, self-

    satisfied older generation's defects are visited upon the younger generation: the sins of the fathers (and mothers) have devastating effects on their children, and in this world-gone-mad, the children must struggle to find the proper way to live--and here, only Horatio seems to have found that key.


    <He shows different sides of his character according to the situation and the people he is with. Bradley says he is a changed man as of 5.2: see especially lines 219-24.

    In a sense, everything Hamlet does is (except in soliloquy and with Horatio) is a performance designed to test his assumptions, other characters, and the claims of the ghosthe does not know whom to trust (other than Horatio), and proceeds care- fully before acting.


    ; sidetracking: use of Ophelia to set Claudius on wrong track ("madness" and romance). ; "reading": reading the performances of R & G, Polonius, the Queen, etc. by "throwing out

    an angle" to make them reveal themselves.

    ; testing: testing the ghost's claims via play within play, etc.


     tasteful charge, coping with need for action only after struggling with his anxieties.

    ; Villain view: holds that Hamlet changes, becoming more evil himself: the sensitive young man is rendered more and more villainous as he assumes his rolekilling R & G without

     a thought, raging at Laertes over Ophelia's body, wanting not simply justice against Claudius,

     but wanting to wait to ensure that he will go to hell.

    ; Inertia view: Hamlet's delay is directly responsible for the numerous deaths: in the end, he must accept responsibility for this slaughter because he failed to immediately follow through on his charge.

    ; Oedipal view (psychoanalytic): Hamlet's oedipus complex is awakened by the murder of his

     father and the "incest" of his mother:

    Ernest Jones: from Hamlet and Oedipus

     For some deep-seated reason, which is to him unacceptable, Hamlet is plunged into an- guish at the thought of his father being replaced in his mother's affections by someone else. It is as if his devotion to his mother had made him so jealous for her affection that he had found it hard enough to share this even with his father and could not endure to share it with still another man. Against this thought, however, suggestive as it is, may be urged three objections. First, if it


    were in itself a full statement of the matter, Hamlet would have been aware of the jealousy, whereas we have concluded that the mental process we are seeking is hidden from him. Secondly, we see in it no evidence of the arousing of an old and forgotten memory. And, thirdly, Hamlet is being deprived by Claudius of no greater share in the Queen's affection than he had been by his own father, for the two brothers made exactly similar claims in this respectnamely,

    those of a loved husband. The last-named objection, however, leads us to the heart of the situ-ation. How if, in fact, Hamlet had in years gone by, as a child, bitterly resented having had to share his mother's affection even with his own father, had regarded him as a rival, and had se- cretly wished him out of the way so that he might enjoy undisputed and undisturbed the monopoly of that affection? If such thoughts had been present in his mind in childhood days they evidently would have been "repressed," and all traces of them obliterated, by filial piety and other educative influences. The actual realization of his early wish in the death of his father at the hands of a jealous rival would then have stimulated into activity these "repressed" memories, which would have produced, in the form of depression and other suffering, an obscure aftermath of his childhood's conflict. This is at all events the mechanism that is actually found in the real Hamlets who are investigated psychologically.

     The explanation, therefore, of the delay and self-frustration exhibited in the endeavour to fulfil his father's demand for vengeance is that to Hamlet the thought of incest and parricide com- bined is too intolerable to be borne. One part of him tries to carry out the task, the other flinches inexorably from the thought of it. How fain would he blot it out in that "bestial oblivion" which un- fortunately for him his conscience contemns. He is torn and tortured in an insoluble conflict.

Jones, Ernest. Hamlet and Oedipus. New York and London: Norton, 1976: 69-70.


    Twelfth Night

    Key Questions

1. Nature of love as represented?

    2. Cross-dressing (homoerotic arousal? friction? nature of gender relations? 3. Casting out Malvolio: nature of comedy

     a. Contextualizing the play--the question of satire:

     b. comedy: when does laughter become cruelty? social function of such art? 4. Frye's blocking character: who: Malvolio? the characters themselves? 5. Gender as constructed hierarchy preventing clear signals?

    Some Motifs & Dramatic Devices

; CROSS-DRESSING / DISGUISE (with larger issues): the heroine disguises herself as

    a man as a means of empowerment. Practically speaking, this was an easy way for the

    boy actor playing the heroine to act as a boy, yet the device in and of itself raises issues

    about gender and its representationfor whoever's playing her, Viola is a woman, caught in

    the hierarchies of gender typical of the period, and struggling to make her own wayto find

    herself, her place in society, and to fulfill her wishes.


    1. Two Gentlemen Julia / Sebastian to find her supposed lover, Proteus 2. The Merchant of Venice Portia / Balthasar to rescue Bassanio from Shylock 3. As You Like It Rosalind / Ganymede to find Orlando & get his love 4. Twelfth Night Viola / Cesario to seek refuge / find love with Orsino 5. Cymbeline Imogen / Fidele to escape her father & Cloten / to

     find Poshumus


    1. Middleton, Dekker: The Roaring Girl, or Moll Cutpurse. (not disguise, but deliberate

    identity & defiance).

    2. Jonson: Epicoene, or The Silent Woman. (disguise as misogynist means to bring

    down an obnoxious misanthrope).


    Modern Critical views:

     "radical discontinuity in the meaning of family"

     cultural anxiety over the destabilization of hierarchy.

     means for woman to be assertive without arousing hostility.

     "deep-seated fears" that the self is not stable.

     "homoerotic arousal"

     site where women are free to play with gender identities.


    A New Historicist approach:


     prostitutes in Alderman's Court (1565-1605)


     regulated dress.

Philip Stubbes'

     Anatomy of Abuses (1583) claimed that transgressions of dress code "don't just signal social

     disruption; they constitute it."

<The proclamation against "inordinate apparel" (1597) stated that subjects must dress

     according to their social class (see Riverside 2004).


     onstage, the playwrights were taking a political stance supporting the flouting of dress codes,

     and opposed to Puritan and conservative complaints about this change.

    Sources re Cross-dressing

    Bullough, Vern L., and Bonnie Bullough. "Playing with Gender: Cross Dressing in the

     Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries." Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Phila-

     delphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1993: 74-93.

Garber, Marjorie. "Rosalind the Yeshiva Boy." Vested Interests: cross-dressing and

     cultural anxiety. London and New York: Routledge, 1992: 71-77.

    Woodbridge, Linda. Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of

    Womankind, 1540-1620. Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois, 1986.

; "Plans" Motif

     1.4 (445)

     3.4 (461-62


; Letters as a device to connect or change characters:



     3.4 (463)


; Ring as device: Olivia's ruse to get Cesario to return 2.1 (449)

; Spectacle: yellow stockings, swordfights (comicAndrew & Cesario / serious

    Sebastian & Toby)


    Plot & Characters

Plot Type: (Romance (mistaken identities) with minor Intrigues):

     1. Romance plots (mistaken identities): Orsino>Olivia, Olivia>Cesario (Viola),

     Cesario (Viola)>Orsino

     2. Reuniting brother and sister (twins theme from Plautus)

     3. Intrigue: Toby's use of Andrew.

     4. Intrigue: Toby's and Maria's intrigue re Malvolio.

    Social context: the play not only explores the ridiculous posturing of the willful, but also pre-

    sents satire of the type of the Puritan (see "Satire, the Puritan, and a Little History," and

    Appendix D, pages 1996-2008)

Characters: who are these people?

     1. "The Lovers": Orsino, Olivia, Viola, Sebastian. Situation and tonic key? What

     do you make of each of these? How does each "deal with" the situations he/she is

     dealt? What social and psychological assumptions may one make about each?

     2. Other CharactersTypes (see "Comedy" page of syllabus):

     1. Parasite/Vice: Toby

     2. Gull: Andrew

     3. Killjoy: Malvolio (Puritan / Jonson?)

     4. Wise fool (Feste)

     5. Tricky slave: Maria Note others: Ms. Quickly, Thersites, Caliban and Ariel

    3. Malvolio as a Character:

     a. Topical Views:

     1. Leslie Hotson's claim: Sir William Knollys, the pompous comptroller of the royal


     2. David Riggs' theory: Shakespeare's contribution to the poetomachiaMalvolio

    as a caricature of Ben Jonsonon the basis of a reference in the Return from

    Parnassus II, where Will Kemp remarks that Shakespeare has given Jonson "a

    purge that will beray his credit" (Riggs 84).

     3. The type of the Puritan as seen by his enemies: 2.3.140, 147

     b. Phases of his character: (Note that he cannot change except by suggestions

     arousing ambitions / hopes already present but hidden in his personality (like

     Macbeth later)

     1. Self-righteous puritan / misanthrope (pages 446-47; 1.5)

     2. Puffed-up "lover" /ambitions exposed (pages 456-57, 461-62; 2.5, 3.4)

     3. Tortured prisoner (pages 467-68; 4.2)

     4. Enraged Pathetic (page 473; 5.1)

     c. What to do with the "outsider"?


    the body politic?


    too. Some are reconciled to the new society, some not: Why?


    Questions for Debate: Twelfth Night: Satire, the Puritan, & A Little History

Donna B. Hamilton (1992) claims that Twelfth Night may be seen as a loose allegory of the

    Elizabethan state in which Olivia/Elizabeth presides over a family/state pitting Toby and Maria as conforming Anglicans against the Puritan Malvolio. To support this contention, she points out that Toby and Maria exhibit the kinds of excesses that Puritans accused the bishops of, and that the famous exorcism scene (3.4. 84-125) displays the sort of interrogations that Puritans endured from their accusers. Hamilton supports her views by examining the case of John Darrell, a Puritan exorcist who had been convicted for this outlawed practice in 1598 and died in prison in 1602. She also claims that the major political event of the periodthe rebellion and eventual beheading

    of the Earl of Essexexacerbated the tensions between these rival factions and the government.

    The history between the Puritans and the state church had long been a running sore in the government, which simultaneously had far more important issues to contend with: warfare with the Spanish at sea and on the continent, Tyrone's Irish uprising and, as the new century opened, Essex's rebellion (1601).

    About the time Elizabeth was engaged against the Spanish Armada (1588), Puritans wrote the Martin Marprelate tracts attacking the Anglican church. A pamphlet war ensued from 1588-1590, and in the following years, Elizabeth's government struggled to contain this Puritan minority and to destroy the influence of the Catholic church altogether. Important events include the Hacket Conspiracy of 1591(in which a Puritan fanatic proclaimed himself King of Europe), state proclamations against recusancyenforcing Anglican church attendance against secret Catholics

    and non-conforming protestants (1591, 1593), and the 1593 trial and execution of three Brownists (Barrow, Penry, Greenwood). Yet the Puritan influence on the court continued to grow, in their objections to the immorality of the theatres, to "inordinate" clothing and extravagances, in their continuous critiques of Anglicans, and in their eventual request that the newly-installed King James appoint a commission to revise the protestant Bible.

    Before and during this entire period, Elizabeth's major religious problem involved Catholics and was exacerbated by the imprisonment and eventual death of her cousin Mary Stuart, the Catholic claimant to the throne. The Arden and Throgmorton (1583) and Babington (1586) plots involved assassination attempts in the hopes of restoring a Catholic kingdom, and in 1586 the Pope himself offered a million crowns to finance Spain's attempt to invade and destroy protestant England. Connected with these are a propaganda war and consequent tightening of control over printed materials, massive arrests of Catholics (see Riverside 1994), the execution of Jesuits in 1584 and 1595, all of which also figure in the passage of recusancy ordinances and other close supervision of the intellectual life of the people.

    The playwrights take up satire where the Martin Marprelate controversy left off, eventually expanding its scope to include every kind of courtly fop, rich country bumpkin, prostitute and miser, Puritan and priest. In 1599, Archbishop Whitgift and his council issued a proclamation against it; playwrights responded with "comicall satyres" in a PoetomachiaJonson levelling

    blasts against court parasites and allegorized personal attacks against Marston and Dekker, who responded by "untrussing" the contentious poet. According to David Riggs (1989), Shakespeare's Malvolio is his contribution to the poetomachiapresenting the self-righteous

    puritan as a send-up of Jonson, whose personal arrogance and aesthetic contentiousness targeted Dekker and others as pretenders to the title of poet. Jonson's satire of Puritans is far more acerbic than Shakespeare's, in any case: Malvolio is almost likeable next to Ben's ridiculous Tribulation Wholesome and his deacon Ananias (The Alchemist, 1610) or the

    obnoxious Zeal-of-the-Land Busy (Bartholomew Fair, 1614), whose supposed skill at contention

    is overmastered by a puppet.


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