Shakespeare and Prison : A critical reflection on Richard Wilson’s Foucauldian reading of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure
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Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is through various scholars interpreted from a Foucauldian perspective based on Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la prison. Richard Wilson is one of them and states that Measure for Measure already contains elements of the 18th century Age of Confinement although it is written in the early 17th century. In this BA thesis is shown, that although elements of the Age of Confinement are mentioned, other passages indicate that the English society in the early 17th century found itself in a phase of transition between two penal systems. Moreover, although Foucault states that the ‘disciplinarisation’ of society gave rise to the new penal system, this is not described as the cause of the transition in Measure for Measure. It becomes therefore questionable, which other reasons for the transition are given in Measure for Measure, that could possibly reflect the perspective from the 17th century English society on the developments. The main reason that is given in the play is that the use of excessive power by a monarch will turn his subjects against him – in the case of Angelo – and therefore, a merciful and just attitude is more effective for a monarch – in the case of the Duke – in order to be able to maintain his influence in society.