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A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 5

Andrea Lewis | Wednesday August 03, 2011

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  1. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 1 + Scheme of Work
  2. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 2
  3. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 3
  4. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 4
  5. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 5

The Duke, who left Vienna in secret and who has always shied away from the limelight, returns very much in public and in the open to bring judgement and justice – hence the trumpets, symbolic perhaps of the Last Judgement? This act is one very long scene and must obviously be studied in some depth by A level students. In contrast to the revelation of the Duke’s fallibility in Act 4, here he does take on something of the role of divine ruler.

He appears at first to disbelieve totally Isabella’s charge against Angelo, sharing with Angelo the comment ‘the vanity of wretched fools’ and suggesting that Angelo be ‘judge’ of his own ‘cause’ (line 168)

Mariana’s testimony prompts a similar dismissive response from the Duke at which point he exits in order to be able to re-enter later as Friar. His exit also allows Lucio the opportunity to slander the ‘Friar’ as he earlier slandered the Duke, an attack he continues when the Friar/Duke re-enters the stage ensuring, of course, his own comic downfall, ‘This may prove worse than hanging.’ (line 356).

Some points to note in the rest of the scene:

Lines 365-371 Angelo’s reaction. He wants the full punishment of the law once he has been found out. He wants ‘measure for measure’, the exact punishment he has given to Claudio.

­The Duke orders marriage for Mariana’s honour but appears to agree with Angelo – line 405,

‘ ‘The very mercy of the law cries out
Most audible, even from his proper tongue:
An Angelo for Claudio; death for death.
Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure;
Like doth quit like, and Measure still for Measure.’ ‘

a stance which is obviously intended to provoke a reaction from Mariana and later...


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