Thursday, June 11, 2015

Measure for Measure

Can a mere playwright -- God though he seems upon the stage -- write a play in which everything about plays can be freshly tested, intertwined, and 'measured'? Might there be a comedy without a marriage, a history without history, a tragedy without a death? Measure for Measure is Shakespeare's answer to all these questions, and his most taut and hazardous experiment, one in which the license of the stage itself -- for the Globe was in the suburbs, the 'liberties' of London -- is called into question.

Here, even more so than in As You Like It, we have a plethora of motifs -- the disguised Duke, the untested ruler, the faithful retainer, the bawds and tapsters (and judges and magistrates) of every other play he ever wrote, all bundled into one. The issue at the center of it all is justice, and its application -- and it's not just Angelo who will be sorely tested. And, with Isabella, Shakespeare gives us his the most compelling and eloquent of all his female characters, one who, though initially reluctantly, will so challenge Angelo's justice that she wins all hearts, including -- unwittingly -- his.

'Judge not, that ye be not judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you againe" -- in this abjuration seems to lie the title and the whole matter of the play. And indeed, the language is that of the King James Bible, s first published in 1611, just six years or so after the play (though the phrasing of the line is nearly the same as Tyndale's translation of 1526, and Shakespeare would doubtless have been familiar with it from his youth).


  1. I was not a big fan of the play Measure for Measure, I enjoyed the other plays that we read this semester a lot more. Reading the play I couldn’t really link or connect with the characters like I did while reading the other plays. I can understand why this play has not been made into a modern film because it does seem like it would be difficult for modern day audiences to bond with the characters at all. I do like the idea that was talked about in class, if this play was set in a high school or military school type setting it might have a chance of being somewhat relatable. The play is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, but it is not a traditional comedy, even though the problems seem to be solved by the end. I even read a review online that said the play should be viewed as a “dark” comedy because its bitterness and cynicism. I didn’t really read it as “dark” but I can understand how some people can.

    Ashley Ricci

  2. I have to say that watching the play today changed my feelings on how this play is perceived. In reading the play, Angelo appeared to be a hardcore enforcer of Vienna's laws and would follow and enforce these laws at all costs. Enter Isabella and all enforcement is gone. He caves to a woman an (almost) a nun to boot. This showed a completely different view than the reading. We could almost see a tear in his eye as he listened to Isabella plead to him. This showed a softer side to Angelo that we were not able to get while reading the play. Also the play in video is better than the play in the book. I was thinking about what you said in class today about why this play has never been remade and I believe that of all Shakespeare's plays, this is my least favorite play and I would believe that I am not alone on my opinion. It has very few scenes that are comedic and the play is quite long. This may be why this play has never been remade. With that being said, there are still many others that are quite enjoyable.

  3. Measure for measure was a perfect example of what power can do to some. The Duke gave him him the power to rule for a short period of time and all hell breaks lose. He sentences a young man to death without any remorse. He was willing to take a man's life for something so small, a crime that could be easily forgiven if proper measures were taken. Angelo decided to play god with his power by deciding who lived n who died because he is in charge. Power, greed and money is always the ruler of all evils. Angelo's actions were either an attempt at revenge for all those who are happy because he was hurting and unhappy or his actions were an example of a greedy man seeking power. I liked the dukes idea of dressing as a frair to observe Angelo. He was a wise and Noble Duke. Claudina pereria

  4. I greatly enjoyed reading "Measure for Measure." I feel the question of its genre is one that is difficult to figure out. It's not really a romance, since the characters are hastily married off in the end and the main action of the play concerns itself with Claudio's fate. Also, there is very little love poetry in it, unless you count Angelo's lusting after Isabella, which I would not. Nor can any of the characters be said to be truly happy with the arrangements made for their nuptials at the end. Isabella being potentially married to the Duke seems pretty cruel, considering that he's been existing as a mockery of a religious man while she represents true religion. On the other hand, this play is not really a drama. We know that Claudio can't really be executed, because the entire plot of the play revolves around him. And the play is also not a comedy, although it has comedic moments.