Jaques's speech is still a moving explanation of how quickly and totally human beings can change, and, indeed, do change in this play. The same theme carries through "Measure for Measure." Isabella has to change to save her brother. She has to change her ambition to become a nun; she has to learn how to love, and to learn how to sacrifice. Her outlook on the law also has to change through the play for her to grow up. She realizes the laws are not made for everyone when Angelo propositions her. She is shocked but she will not give up her virtue, even to save her brother. "Which had you rather: the most just law now took your brother's life; or, to redeem him, give up your body to such sweet uncleanness as she that he hath stained?" (Shakespeare II iv). She has to change, and that is part of the theme of the stages in our lives that Shakespeare builds throughout these two plays.

Another important theme that runs through both plays is the natural world compared with the confined world of the court. In "As You Like It," the city dwellers make fun of country life, those who live in the Arden forest relish their surroundings, and their closeness to nature and the natural world. "Are not these woods / More free from peril than the envious court?...And this our life, exempt from public haunt, / Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, / Sermons in stones, and good in everything. / I would not change it" (Shakespeare II, i). The life in the court is stiff and boring, while life in the country is free and pleasant. The same is true of "Measure for Measure." The Duke's court is full of morals and laws and strict beliefs, while the lives of the people are far different, and much more natural and relaxed. Shakespeare develops these themes to show his audience how laws and morality are not always the only right path to choose, and that laws are not made for everyone, or every situation. The "natural" world of the people in the town in "Measure for Measure" is more natural than the stiff and unyielding court, with its impressive ceremonies and dependence on rules instead of emotions. The theme here is that people are naturally more emotional, and they may sin from time to time, but that does not make them evil, it just makes them human. The themes all blend together here, and that is another way Shakespeare demonstrates the themes throughout these two plays - they all come together in the end, which means they all balance each other.

In conclusion, Shakespeare uses many themes in his plays to reach his audience, and to get across important messages about life, love, growth, and happiness. Sometimes he uses humor, as in "As You Like It," and sometimes he uses a more dramatic style, as in "Measure for Measure." Either way, he always manages to get his themes across through his characters, and the things they experience as they move through the play. His themes are important in their lives, and in our own lives, too.


Shakespeare, William. "As You Like It." All Shakespeare. 2002. 15 June 2003.

Measure for Measure." 2000. 15 June 2003.