Angelo is brought to justice, in a manner of speaking. And what with one thing and another, the Duke proposes to Isabella. If the demands of the genre are met the two of them join the celebrations of three other happy couples in a perfectly symmetrical comic ending. All in all, very odd. Dark matters are brought to light—things usually presented by Shakespeare in the tragedies—and yet, despite our impressions to the contrary, no one seems to do anything terribly wrong, and no one seems punished in the end. Except for Angelo, that is. Allan Bloom claims that he is the only one to suffer “punishment and humiliation” (Bloom 1993, 330).
It is conventional to describe Measure for Measure as a “problem play,” and to avoid the problem of its content by emphasizing the problem of its form. It begins as a tragedy, but half-way through it becomes a comedy. Northrop Frye, for one, considers this to be the most important question of the play. He writes: “Measure for Measure is not a play about the philosophy of government . . . [or] the social problem of prostitution . . . [but rather] about the relation of all such things to the structure of comedy” (Frye 1983, 24). Insofar as the play’s cross-dressed genre can be made to yield a content, it is often read as a sophisticated Christian allegory.
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