In the Vienna of Measure for Measure unrestrained sexuality is ostensibly subverting social order; anarchy threatens to engulf the State unless sexuality is subjected to renewed and severe regulation. Such at least is the claim of those in power. Surprisingly critics have generally taken them at their word even while dissociating themselves from the punitive zeal of Angelo. There are those who have found in the play only a near tragic conflict between anarchy and order, averted in the end it is true, but unconvincingly so. Others, of a liberal persuasion and with a definite preference for humane rather than authoritarian restraint, have found at least in the plays vision if not precisely its ending an ethical sense near enough to their own. But both kinds of critic have apparently accepted that sexual transgression in Measure for Measure - and in the world - represents a real force of social disorder intrinsic to human nature and that the play at least is about how this force is - must be - restrained.
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