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Role-Taking and Restorative Justice: Social Practices of Solidarity and Community in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure

Musolf, Gil Richard
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) Contemporary Justice Review. 5(3):211-230.

This article examines to what extent role-taking inspired characters in Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure to new modes of consciousness and concomitant social pracitices of restorative justice. The play’s main character, Duke Vincentio, engages in a series of role-taking episodes through which he undergoes a self-transformation. He subsequently enacts the social practice of restorative justice. However, the play is neither a paragon case of self-transformation nor of restorative justice, especially since (1) manipulation and power are employed in the reintegrative shaming ceremony, (2) some characters are stigmatized, and humiliated; and (3) the Duke still practices duplicitous, power-based, and punitive measures. Nevertheless, through the process of self discovery and the recognition of others as like himself, the Duke reconceives his kingly role from that of an executor of law violators to that of a mediator of troubled relationships. The Duke’s character reflects in part the cultural contradictions and social trnasformations ongoing in Shakespeare’s Renaissance England.


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