ENGL 353: Later Shakespeare
Response Paper Two
February 17, 2014
Sex in Measure for Measure
Sex: the theme seen in many a book and play, can be seen in Measure for Measure in many different places. This theme is the biggest and most intricate one throughout this play. It is seen more with death, venality, and decay in this seeming dark, dismal play. Why? Because there are brothels everywhere and venereal diseases run rampant, killing many a lover and whore. There is also the rise in illicit children due to all of these brothels even though they do use safe measures to make sure their girls do not become pregnant.
Even though prostitution and fornication were illegal in Vienna, it seems that the entire city of Vienna were playing against the law and sinning with pleasure in pleasure houses. Angelo made sure that these pleasure houses were shut down. Disease and illegitimate children are social problems that are also seen throughout this play due to sex. Going back to death and decay, the venereal disease can cause death and decay and make people never want to have sex again, or in Lucio’s case, have no effect on sex drive.
This portrayal of sex in Measure for Measure is right on, even for today’s society. Many people become illegitimately pregnant before marriage and then some come across nasty venereal diseases that can kill them. Thankfully today we have medications and doctors who can help those who have become pregnant and need an abortion, or have a disease and can’t turn to their family for help. Back then, you either stayed pure, or you died from disease.
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