Measure for Measure

Shakespeare's Presentation of Isabella

'Different audiences respond to Isabella in different ways.' Show how Shakespeare's presentation of Isabella could lead to a wide range of responses.

The mere mention of Isabella's name appears to strike indignant fear into the heart of the literary critic. Her character divides them into factions of warring interpretations, just as her moral dilemma divides an audience. In the words of Quiller-Couch, critics make 'two opposite women of her, and praise or blame her accordingly.' As Measure For Measure has aged, new dimensions of moral outrage and blind exoneration have added to this complexity, which is, in essence, the confused reactions of writers and audiences to Isabella's decision in the face of Angelo's 'sadism'.

To the esteemed Quiller-Couch (1922), there is a 'rancid' element in Isabella's chastity brought to the surface when she turns into a 'bare procuress' substituting Marianna shamed body for her own. He highlights the divide between Isabella's morally 'righteous choice' and her own deplorable self-preservation. Rosalind Miles (1976) also remarks on her 'unscrupulous readiness to place another head on the block intended for herself' after...

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