Assistant Arts Editor
Julia Reinhard Lupton, professor of Shakespeare Studies at UC Irvine, spoke at the “Sovereigns, Citizens and Saints: An Introduction to ‘Measure for Measure’” lecture as a part of the La Verne Shakespeare Experience prior to the Saturday performance of “Measure for Measure.”
Lupton discussed the background of the characters and the plot to make the 17th century play easier to understand by explaining the politics and society norms of the time.
The play begins with “the art of governing,” with many aspects depicting politics of its time, Lupton said.
The sovereign included the ruler, magistrate, judge and God.
The characters are King James I, Duke Vincentio of Vienna and Angelo.
Lupton said Duke Vincentio is a character of rule and a way for Shakespeare to reflect on King James’ actions.
The city’s representatives also try to clean up the city in areas such as prostitution and prisons, with the latter being aspects that continue to be relevant even today in urban cities, Lupton said.
“It’s a play of the past as well as a play of the present,” Lupton said.
The Duke attempts to solve problems by passing them onto other people, such as hiring Angelo, the Duke’s representative that is talented in many areas.
The citizens are the middle-class inhabitants and the life of the city, Lupton said. It includes Claudio, Juliet, Lucio, Mistress Overdone and Pompey.
Claudio is flexible with moral codes and impregnated his girlfriend Juliet, which may seem to be an uncommon issue in the 17th century.
Despite the unusual issue, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of women in England had premarital pregnancies at that time, Lupton said.
Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, was also pregnant with his child before their wedding.
Claudio is arrested because at the time, law enforcement stood by the concept of “you took her maidenhead, we’ll take your head,” Lupton said.
The saints include the holy people of the Catholic Church and the God’s elected.
It consists of Isabella, Claudio’s sister and Angelo, who believes himself to be morally strict and the Duke in disguise.
Isabella tries to save her brother who is arrested for pre-marital sex from Angelo, who is enforcing the laws.
However, Angelo wants Isabella to sleep with him in exchange for saving his brother.
Although the religious aspect of the play, such as the representatives of Catholicism, is not necessary negative portrayals, it still caused many criticisms and scholarly debates for centuries, Lupton said.
The audience, including students and faculty members, portrayed the different characters analyzed in the lecture by reading out different scenes of the play.
Lupton helped analyze the text by asking the participants what they think of the selected text and discussing it with the audience.
“I really enjoyed it,” said Kristen Sarko, senior English major. “I haven’t read ‘Measure for Measure’ so it was a whole new world for me.”
“After listening to the lecture, I’m interested in the play now,” said Sophia Zhang, sophomore business administration major.
“The most helpful thing was talking about the words and sentences and the background of the play,” Zhang said.
“The lecture was definitely helpful,” said Erica Williams, senior English major.
“Just by watching it, I wouldn’t be able to (understand) a lot of the material,” Williams said.
“I thought it was really informing and interesting seeing how much (Lupton) can pull from scene to scene,” Williams said.
Cody Luk can be reached at email@example.com.