Shakespearean Communities

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

Description of Activity

‘“Lord Angelo is Precise” – Measure for Measure and the prospect of puritan power in the seventeenth century’ In Measure for Measure, written at the time of the Hampton Court conference between the newly enthroned James I and the English puritans, Shakespeare conducts a thought-experiment into what would happen if puritans took charge of the state. Half a century later, under the English Commonwealth, imagination turned to reality during the Puritan exercise of power between 1645 and 1660. The failures of the moral state, as conceived by Shakespeare, hinged on resistance by the majority in the community to the extreme moral imperative, and the insufficiency of proclaimed virtue against human fallibility and the corruptions of power, a trajectory, according to critics of the puritan regime of the 1650s, eventually mirrored in actuality. This paper explores Shakespeare’s place within the long tradition of anti-puritan discourse, centring on the character of Angelo, who begins the play, as ‘a man whose blood Is very snow-broth’, reflecting contemporary stereotypes, but via Shakespeare’s sympathy for human failure, comes to transcend them.
Period15 Apr 2016
Event typeConference
LocationUniversity of Portsmouth, United KingdomShow on map


  • Shakespeare
  • Religious History