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Measure for Measure


Measure for Measure


“Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall…”

In the subtle, complex and troubling Measure for Measure, Vienna is in a state of lawlessness and immorality.

Perhaps the most problematic of all the so-called darker comedies of Shakespeare, Measure for Measure is the Bard’s fascinating but warped study of what happens when inflexible morality is brought to bear on a decadent society: Measure for Measure doesn’t have a single character whom modern readers are likely to root for.

Young Claudio and his betrothed, Juliet, have consummated their relationship before marriage; for this dreadful moral offense, the Duke’s deputy, Angelo, sentences Claudio to death. 

Claudio’s sister, the chaste, soon-to-be-a-nun Isabella, appeals to Angelo for mercy for her brother.

Angelo, however, suddenly smitten with lust for Isabella, offers to commute the sentence only if she will have sex with him.

Outraged, Isabella tells Claudio of the offer; Claudio, not wishing to die, asks her to do it. 

And therein lies the rub: is a woman’s virginity more precious than life?

Its most seemingly righteous figure, a power-wielding puritan, turns out to be a lust-addled hypocrite.

Its demure heroine, a rigid nun-to-be isn’t about to give up her virtue, even if it means saving her brother’s life.

As for Duke Vincentio who runs both the state of Vienna and the plot of the play, he’s a self-appointed deus ex machina who goes into disguise to interfere cruelly in the affairs of others for reasons he can’t even explain to himself.


WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616) was an English playwright poet, and actor, regarded as the world's pre-eminent dramatist, and the greatest writer in the English language. Author of such timeless works as Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet and King Lear, he is often called the “Bard of Avon,” England's national poet.



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