Lex-Ham Community Theater
Shakespeare Reading Series
Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure is the tale of Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, who leaves town, supposedly on some secret diplomatic mission, but in reality, stays in the city disguised as a Friar to find out what really is happening.  Before he left, the Duke has placed Angelo, the Deputy, in charge.  During the Duke's absence, the laws against sexual promiscuity and houses of prostitution, long unenforced, began being enforced with a vengeance.  This change results in the arrest and sentence for execution of Claudio, who got Juliet, his common-law wife, pregnant.  Lucio, Pompey, and Mistress Overdone, all of whom were active in the bawd 'trade' also have their lives affected.  Isabella, the sister to Claudio and who had just prepared to enter a nunnery, learns of Claudio's fate and goes to Angelo to petition for his life.  Will she succeed?  What price must she pay?

Measure for Measure uses the images of scales and measuring and appearing to be something different than you really are throughout the story.   Mercy versus Justice.  Public versus private morality.  There are many references to coins and metals.  The play has a certain quirkiness that people either find attractive or problematic:  there are many inconsistencies in the play as far as when and where things happened or are about to happen, odd stage directions about when people enter or leave the stage, and lines that seem to be missing or misplaced.

Some good references for Measure for Measure are:

The Story
Text of the play

SparkNotes summary of the play
Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare - Measure for Measure
Essays on Measure for Measure
Holy Cross' Interactive Shakespeare Project
Background information
Croft Study Center background of the play
Shakespeare timeline - 1603

Sources
Shakespeare On-line play sources
George Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra
Giambattista Giraldi or Cinthio

Film Versions
Measure for Measure (1979 BBC)
Measure for Measure (1994)

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Last updated: 08/18/07