Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Hoyt Bowen, George McCelvey, Nancy Davis

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The multiple and widely varying interpretations of Duke Vincentio in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure can be reconciled and made into a consistent interpretation by the application of a framework consisting of both literary and Elizabethan conventions as well as a view of comedy that accepts the comic function of movement toward identity as comedy's goal. Duke Vincentio is the comic drive in the play. His behavioral motives are based on his sincere concern for his constituency and his courageous use of his power during a time when reform is vital. The morally equivocal means he sometimes employs are justified by his hoped-for ends. Each decision the Duke must make is based on his goal of redeeming his dukedom to a place of harmony and order. He keeps in mind all the while both man's frailties and man's potential. The major characters come to a degree of self-knowledge that enables them to accept and apply a more loving justice. Through humility and mercy, a new pattern for reconciliation is provided. The marriages at the end serve to provide the characters with a position within which they can employ their new wisdom.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Playwriting | Theatre and Performance Studies