Measure for Measure

The Prince and Its Relation to Measure for Measure

While the connection between Machiavelli and Marlowe is distinctly articulated in the preface to the latter's Jew of Malta, the parallels between Machiavelli's Prince and Shakespeare's Measure for Measure are less explicitly expressed, but certainly no less significant. One must, of course, be cautious in suggesting that Shakespeare was familiar with Machiavelli's Prince in its original form - it is most likely that he read one of the numerous English or French paraphrases that were circulating at the time. There is no doubt, however, that the great majority of characters in Measure for Measure - the Duke, Angelo, Claudio, Pompey and even Isabella - display Machiavellian qualities. An comparison of key passages, both of The Prince and Measure for Measure, will establish this very fact.

A study of kingship, arguably the entire premise for Measure for Measure, is immediately introduced in the first scene, with the Duke's declaration "Of government the properties to unfold/ Would seem in me t'affect speech and discourse." It is not until the third scene of act one, however, that this political discussion becomes specific and, ultimately, linked to the Machiavellian notion of statecraft. In this...

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