So, not really a book, but Shakespeare’s play “Measure for Measure” really doesn’t get enough hype. It’s a play of problems as a young man is sentenced to die for getting his girlfriend pregnant, and his sister – a soon-to-be nun – needs to beg for his life. The man in charge (Angelo) agrees to spare her brother if the nun will sleep with him. So the girl needs to find a way to save her chastity and her brother. After many tangled webs and convoluted plots, the actual ruler returns and all is solved.

The reason this play is so cool is that the villain isn’t actively malicious. I wrote a paper on it with the thesis of “Angelo isn’t evil; he’s just stupid”. He always acts within the law, but he doesn’t temper the law with common sense and mercy. This turns his actions from just to cruel. In the same way, the prince who acts as the savior in the end, isn’t really that good. He’s so lax and merciful that the whole city is suffering from the rampant corruption. In this way, existing in different shades of grey, all the characters are more sympathetic and seem more realistic.

This isn’t the first of Mr. Bill’s plays to deal with hypocracy, but it’s one of the only ones that I can think of where the hypocracy is so blatent. Angelo wishes to kill a man for sleeping with his fiancee outside of wedlock, but he’s willing to do the same thing to a nun – so now we’ve got an unwilling partner. This is the only time when Angelo strays outside the law. To his credit, he angsts about the decision for an act or two. In the end he is foiled and forced to marry a girl he jilted long ago. Fitting punishment, I think.

I found this play to be a lot more interesting than many others that I read. The theme of Law vs. Mercy, and the question of moral absolutes are fun things to think about. So, anyways, yeah… more people should read “Measure for Measure”.

Advertisements