Justice and Mercy in Measure for Measure

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Justice and Mercy in Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is a play which portrays many different interesting aspects to learn. This play is one of Shakespeare’s plays where many different parts of the society of his time become more prominent, especially those parts that deal with the law, punishment and justice. Two very different contrasting views of justice are used in Measure for Measure to explore the concept of justice with the audience. During that time King James and other people in Renaissance England were among the audience so he had to deal with concepts to make them familiar. Shakespeare wrote this play during the time when laws in Elizabethan England were very harsh by today’s standards, and would be included in the protection against cruel and usual punishment in the Bill of Right. “From the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign to the end of the seventeenth century high treason and all felonies, except petty larceny (i.e. theft of goods under the value of twelve pence), were punishable with death” (Underhill). Some of the methods of punishment were very harsh such as things like hanging and beheading to being pressed to death by heavy rocks placed on one’s front while lying on sharp rocks to break the back. “The Elizabethan age was pitiless, and the way of the transgressor was certainly made as hard as it could be.” (Underhill) In the middle of all these, this play was written and it was intended to portray the need for a balance justice and mercy. Shakespeare seemed to use difference characters to represent different means of defining and carrying out justice. Isabella was one of those characters. She was studying to be a sister in a convent, and generally was a very conservative person. When asked to plead to Angelo on behalf of her brother, she is not sure what to do. She knew that what Claudio did was wrong, but as he was her brother, she
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