Hamlet was first performed in 1601 to 1602 during the reign of Elizabeth I. During the time that the play was written it was said that Elizabeth I was not in good health. There was no actual heir to the throne so there was always a possibility that there would be a fight over who would be the next ruler and take over the throne. In the beginning of Hamlet a similar storyline is used after Old Hamlet’s death causes changes to the heirs of the throne and the question of who will take over his role on the throne.
In comparison when Measure for Measure was first put on in 1603, James I would have probably gone to see it so Shakespeare may have based the Duke character on him to flatter him. James I had published a book which outlined things that were most important to be a successful ruler. A monarch was advised by him which could be the purpose of in the last scenes from Measure for Measure when the Duke shows that he will obey the New Testament’s approach to morality by tempering justice with mercy.
During the Elizabethan era in the 1600’s women were treated in a different manner and were not looked at as equal to men. Within a marriage a women was expected to obey her husband and a husband were expected to be the head of the family household, bring their families up in a good way and treat their wives with respect. Women were said to have needed this sort of masculine guidance as they were spiritually weaker.
It may have been Shakespeare’s purpose to use Gertrude getting re-married so soon after the death of her husband, Old Hamlet, to help portray that women needed to have a man by their side in order to gain respect and for guidance throughout their family life. Not only were women in a marriage expected to obey males but even within a family. Shakespeare uses Ophelia to show this when Laertes and Polonius forbid her from seeing hamlet. This shows that women were taught to respect the men and believe that what they told them was going to be in their best interest.
Throughout England men were inferior to women so Shakespeare uses this in many of his plays to show that men overpowered the women and makes the men create most of the effect and storyline’s of the play. Even though women being lower than men were like this it meant that the men had more responsibilities than the women which is shown in measure for measure when its Claudio facing the death penalty for Juliet being pregnant even though it was both of their faults.