Measure for Measure Essay: The Virtuous Vanity of Isabella
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The Virtuous Vanity of Isabella in Measure for Measure
Shakespeare's work, Measure for Measure, puts the "problem" in "problem play" as it, examines the difference between law and justice, virtue and goodness. It's a case study of abuse of power that has a particularly contemporary resonance. Isabella is a very intriguing Shakespearean female. She is one of the few intelligent females who are also innocent and holy. Measure for Measure focuses primarily on her moral dilemma. Does she save her brother and give up her valued chastity or does she save her own soul while allowing her brother to die? By playing on Elizabethan viewpoints concerning women, nuns, and chastity, Shakespeare uses Isabella in developing his plot and…show more content… It is, therefore, questionable whether Shakespeare's audience would have approved of Isabella's skills at rhetoric. Although agreeing with her stance concerning Claudio (they, too, probably saw his punishment as excessive), they would not necessarily see Isabella as an entirely upright female.
The most significant aspect of Isabella's character is her desire to be a nun. This immediately establishes the importance of her chastity while at the same time aiding in characterizing the setting in Catholic Vienna. Her decision to enter into a convent is especially interesting considering the fact that Shakespeare's audience was predominantly Protestant. Reformation England abolished convents and monasteries and discontinued the practice of forcing celibacy on the clergy; however, there was still a certain reverence for the holiness of virginity. This respect for virginity was, to a certain extent, superficial. Elizabethans did not always make a distinction between chastity and virginity. Isabella's spiritual commitment to abstain from sex, her chastity, would be rendered false when there was an end to the physical state of virginity. Sleeping with Angelo, even under these unusual circumstances, would make her unsuitable for the convent. By diverging from his source materials and making Isabella a novice in a convent, Shakespeare further complicates