The moral, social, and political atmosphere in Measure for Measure


William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is a literary giant in the field of drama. He is famous for his latent talent by which he has represented the environment of the contemporary age such as the moral, social, and political atmosphere and so on. The play “Measure for Measure” is an important document of such an atmosphere. 

The emptiness of the morality 

The timespan when the drama “Measure for Measure” (1623) was written James1 reigned England.  It seemed that the character Duke of Vienna was the proper portrait of King James I. In that time, the duke was virtuous but his officials were not honest like him. People like Angelo are outwardly very much virtuous but inwardly shown the emptiness of moral values. So, we can say that the moral atmosphere of seventeen Century England was not good. 

More Notes: Measure for Measure

Showy moral values 

William Shakespeare established a gloomy and dark atmosphere in his drama “Measure for Measure”.  Here we find fake moral ethics in the character that got the temporary administrative power of the kingdom of Vienna. In this drama, he is the embodiment of showy moral values. Another character Claudio also bears the sign of showy moral values. If he had moral education, he could not seduce Juliet. So, this point is proved that the real moral values have died but the fake moral ethics left. 

Various types of social disorder 

The drama “Measure for Measure” is the representation of various types of social disorders such as injustice, seduction, violation, and so on. The Duke of Vienna is a humble and virtuous person. So, the people of Vienna are gradually pervaded by the duke’s laws and orders. So, he decided that he would hand over the administrative power to a strict ruler named Angelo.  But during the reined of Angelo various types of social disorders are found. 

Expecting democracy 

Throughout the drama, In Act V, scene, we noticed that Isabella put some charges against the temporary Duke Angelo in front of the gate of the duke’s palace. This scene is a fine example of democracy which is the underlined meaning of the scene of Isabella’s charges against Angelo. 

Lack of Justice 

The characters of Claudio, Isabella, Juliet, and Mariana are the sufferer of social injustice. Though Claudio has committed a hate crime it is not proper Justice to sentence them to death for his crime.  Another injustice happened to Isabella when Angelo offered Isabella to surrender her virginity to get the release of her Brother Claudio’s life.  Such kind of proposal is totally unexpected from Angelo. There is a proverb that, “The Keeper is the eater” here in this drama Angelo has played such a role.  So, from this point of view, it is proved that social injustice is happening here and there. 

Strict ruler 

The political condition of that time was not sound. Though Angelo appeared as a very strict and rude ruler the people of Vienna were not satisfied with his Region. Unsatisfactory attitudes of the common people to the present ruler are a great sign of the political disorder that is going through the kingdom of Vienna. 

More Notes: Measure for Measure


In light of the above discussion, it is said that Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” has provided a contemporary picture of the social, moral, and political atmosphere of then England. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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