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Home » , » Comment on the significance of the title of the play, Measure for Measure.
A good title of a play depicts the theme of the play. It must also be such that it attracts attention. The title of the Measure for Measure is very apt. It is also highly significant. It stresses the main theme of the play. Here we find that the Duke uses the word, "Measure" in the sense "to judge". And the title Measure for Measure indicates some wild kinds of justice. It is obvious that Shakespeare while giving his play this title had in mind the sermon in the Mount quoted in the New Testament, " With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." The play also incorporates in spirit and in word one other famous saying in the Old Testament about being merciful to everyone around us, "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful".

The title of the play, Measure for Measure itself can be interpreted in two different ways. It could be interpreted negatively in terms of justice. When the Duke demands - an Angelo for a Claudio, the first thought that comes to our mind is that the Duke wishes to punish Angelo exactly to the extent that Angelo would have tried to punish Claudio. Both commit premarital sex. But soon after he has uttered these words, and once Angelo has accepted his guilt, the Duke forgives Angelo not only for his sexual misdeeds, but for his two other main crimes, misuse of power, and extreme cruelty towards his subjects. Once the Duke calls for moderation and mercy, the Aristotelian meaning of the title becomes obvious.

Then the term, " Measure " must mean a combination of mercy, forgiveness and moderation. The problem with the play is that it has many ambiguous and loses threads. The punishment against premarital sex is very clear. It is clear that the Duke considers premarital sex as sinful. In the end of the play everyone is forgiven with a lot of compassion. In this sense we must expect the title to mean "Forgiveness for Forgiveness". Shakespeare wishes to interpret forgiveness to mean that it must be given to the worst of criminals. That is the reason why even someone as horrible as Barnardine is forgiven in the play. The Bible asks him to forgive and he will reach out to forgive by superimposing his own will.

The play is undoubtedly about judging from the beginning to the end. This judgment may be actually uttered through words or it may be revealed through action. Sometimes it also takes the shape of silence. Angelo judges Claudio, Claudio judges Isabella, Isabella judges Angelo, Lucio judges the Duke; even Abhorson judges Pompey. Barnardine judges human life with his gloomy philosophy. But the worst of all is the Duke. He thinks that his sole job in the governance of his state is judging all and sundry.

Thus Shakespeare attempts to achieve the kind of justice that can only be possible through compassion and true understanding of what the characters of the play demand. The Duke arrives at the solution that only a combination of forgiveness and mercy can provide joy. The Christian believe that men are all sinners by birth, and have come to this world to do penance for the original sin committed by Adam and Eve. Measure for Measure is about forgiveness of these crimes. So the title of the play is justified.


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