Measure for Measure minimized

It was said that a number of people in London in 1603 believed that local regulations governing civil society were not being adequately enforced, Shakespeare being one of them. James I, a man from Scotland, was England’s new king.  This play, set in Vienna, may well have been intended as advice for the new king, Vienna perhaps being a stand-in for London. 

1. Vienna’s duke has turned his authority over to a man named Angelo, the duke planning to leave the city for an extended period. Angelo promptly arrests Claudio for “getting Julietta with child,” Julietta being his fiancée. In fact, the duke hasn’t left the city. Claudio’s very attractive sister, Isabella, about to become a nun, is asked to visit Angelo to see if she can get her brother released, since “well she can persuade.”

2. Claudio is “to be executed by nine tomorrow morning.” Isabella meets with Angelo.  He doesn’t budge. She is told to be more passionate, that “you are too cold.”  She more firmly makes her case. Angelo lets us know of his “desire for her,” but he is too subtle as he goes about telling her there is a way to save her brother.  She comes to recognize his plan, telling him “I’ll tell the world aloud what man thou art.” He says “who will believe you?”  She accepts what is, concluding her honor is dearer than her brother’s life.

3. Disguised as Friar Lodowick, the duke overhears Claudio and Isabella, Claudio saying “sweet sister, let me live.” She snaps back “Is’t not a kind of incest to take life from thine own sister’s shame?” Years ago, over the loss of her dowry, Angelo had left his fiancée, Mariana. The duke suggests Mariana stand-in, so to speak, for an encounter Isabella should arrange with Angelo.

4. Isabella and Mariana agree to the scheme. Their plan works just as designed. Isabella and Mariana learn that “the duke will be here tomorrow.” The duke and Angelo will enter the city together, Isabella and Mariana to be well located along the entrance route. 

5. As the men enter the city, Isabella cries “Angelo is a hypocrite, a virgin-violator.” Angelo tells the duke she has been “a suitor to me for her brother.”  Isabella mentions the name “Friar Lodowick.”  The duke says “Who knows that Lodowick?” He exits.  Mariana removes her veil. Angelo acknowledges her. The duke re-enters as Friar Lodowick, but his hood is pulled away. The no-longer-disguised duke says “an Angelo for Claudio, death for death, measure for measure.” Isabella cries out “For Angelo, intents are merely thoughts.”  Claudio is brought forward and pardoned by the duke. The duke says “joy to you, Mariana,” as he pardons Angelo, saying “Love her, Angelo.” The duke and Isabella marry. 

 

 

Copyright © 2010 Minimized Shakespeare

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