Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell
William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure | Play
William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (1604)
William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (1604) is a comedy about the qualities that a ruler should exercise to provide good government, especially mercy. Notably, the play acknowledges that good government requires both harshness and kindness to maintain the wellbeing of the people and an orderly society. To this end, the administration of the law should be done with appropriate discretion involving flexibility, proportionality and mercy, in particular in regards to the enforcement of laws dealing with sexual morality.
Importantly, a ruler who imposes the rule of law on others should live by these laws himself. This is considered fair. However, if the ruler administers a law and breaks that law himself, he is a tyrant.
With this principle in mind, the play deals extensively with the legislative enforcement of sexual morality by the state. The play will condemn moral hypocrisy in these matters, especially when it involves transgressions by the rulers who administer these morality laws.
In general, the play invites people to treat others as they would wish to be treated themselves. It also invites them to be careful how they judge others regarding moral transgressions.
With the rigorous enforcement of morality laws shown to produce injustice, the play argues for rulers to exercise flexibility, proportionality and mercy, thereby applying the principle of measure for measure.
Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez
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The purpose of the concise The Meaning in a Nutshell notes by Dr Mark Lopez is to provide help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal. (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my Melbourne private tutoring business.)