Measure for Measure

"If the law would allow it": Pragmatism and Absolutism in Measure for Measure College

Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure explores concepts of moral law within an immoral setting and set upon by leaders with questionable morals. Measure’s Vienna is a setting where pragmatism and absolutism can compete both in the shadows and up front for the control of the city’s system of justice regarding sexual immorality. The conflicts between these two thoughts of law are played through the characters of Angelo, Isabella, and the Duke. Shakespeare uses the apparent sexually immoral city as a backdrop for the change from absolutism to pragmatism to parallel the need for the characters themselves to change from one to the other. One could argue that this dark comedy vindicates the idea of pragmatism towards issues of sexual immorality, rather than absolutism, but Julia Lupton points out that the ending of the play seems to leave the reader on a questionable note, making way for the argument that Shakespeare might have been titling pragmatism as the lesser of two evils, but perhaps not absolutely vindicating for either school of thought regarding the law, especially in cases where corruption seems to have a hold like it does in Vienna. Nevertheless, Measure for Measure follows the transformation of an administration and society...

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