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Thursday, 9 January 2014

Characterization: Claudio; Lucio; and Angelo: Critical commentary (Act I, Scene II)

When we first meet Claudio, he is under arrest. As the Provost seems to be parading the arrested Claudio at a public place, Claudio makes a mild protest against being thus exhibited. The Provost thereupon explains that it is under orders from above that he is exhibiting him (Claudio) to the public while taking him to the prison, Claudio makes a generalization in which he blames men of authority for being callous towards those who have incurred their wrath: “Thus can the demi-god, Authority, Makes us pay down for our offence by weight.” He makes another generalization when Lucio asks him why he has been arrested. In this case he says that too much liberty always invites restraint, meaning that a man who enjoys too much freedom is likely to be put under restraint. When Lucio asks him whence comes this restraint, Claudio replies: “From too much liberty, my Lucio. Liberty, As surfeit, is the father of much fast; So every scope by the immoderate use Turns to restraint.” Here he speaks almost like a moralist, and he speaks in a sententious, pithy style. Claudio, is giving to Lucio an account of the events leading to his arrest, tells him that he had been sleeping with Juliet whom he regards truly as his wife even though he is not yet formally married to her. He gives Lucio the reason why the ritual of marriage between him and Juliet had not been gone through. He then goes on to inform Lucio that a drastic action has been taken against him by Angelo who is the new governor of the country and who is probing to be a tyrannical ruler. Claudio says that Angelo has revived a certain law which had long been in disuse and has condemned him to the maximum punishment permitted by that law. He then requests Lucio to convey his predicament to his sister Isabella. Claudio would like Isabella to use all her graces and her persuasive manner of speech to try to win a pardon for him from Angelo. Claudio’s comments on Angelo lead us to believe that Angelo is really asserting his authority with the maximum rigour. Lucio’s manner of speaking shows him to be a frivolous kind of person. In fact, Lucio too is a comic character, like Pompey and Mistress Overdone even though he belongs to a higher class of society.

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