Skip over navigation

Measure for Measure

William Shakespeare

Characters

Overall Summary

Act I, Scenes i-iii

Isabella -  The main character, Isabella, is a very virtuous and chaste young woman who faces a difficult decision when her brother is sentenced to death for fornication (unlawful sex). Isabella does not approve of her brother's actions at all, but she pleads for his life out of loyalty and sisterly devotion. Isabella is a spiritual person who starts off wanting to become a nun.
The Duke  -  The other central figure is the Duke, who spends most of his time dressed as a friar in order to observe what is happening in his absence. The Duke is unfailingly virtuous, good, and kind-hearted. He tends to rule a little softly, which is why he enlists Angelo's help.
Claudio -  Isabella's brother Claudio is a young man sentenced to death for impregnating an unmarried woman. He was engaged to her by a common-law agreement, but they had sexual intercourse before the legal marriage took place. Claudio depends less on the guidance of laws and religious practices than on his sister.
Lord Angelo -  Angelo is the villain of the play, a man who rules strictly and without mercy. He has his own weaknesses, however, and he is loathsome more for his hypocrisy than for anything else. He presents Isabella with a difficult proposition and then does not even hold up his end of the bargain.
Escalus -  Escalus is a wise lord who advises Angelo to be more merciful. He is loyal to the Duke and seeks to carry out his orders justly, but cannot go against Angelo's will.
Lucio -  Lucio, described by Shakespeare as a "fantastic," is a flamboyant bachelor who provides much of the play's comedic content. He is a friend of Claudio's and tries to help him.
Mariana -  Mariana was supposed to marry Angelo, but he called the wedding off when she lost her dowry in a shipwreck that killed her brother.
Mistress Overdone -  Mistress Overdone runs a brothel in Vienna.
Pompey -  Pompey is a clown who also works for Mistress Overdone.
Provost  -  The provost runs the prison and is responsible for carrying out all of Angelo's orders.
Elbow -  Elbow is a dim-witted constable who arrests people for misconduct, particularly of the sexual variety. He speaks in malapropisms and provides comic-relief throughout the play.
Barnadine -  A long-term prisoner in the jail, Barnadine is sentenced to be executed together with Claudio. The Duke originally considers him hopeless and therefore dispensable but later changes his mind.
Juliet -  Claudio's lover, she is pregnant with his baby.

More Help

Previous Next
Shakespeare Blog

by DanMitchell23, March 21, 2013

A view on Measure for Measure...

http://inbetweenthelines1.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/shakespeare-play-measure-for-measure/

0 Comments

1 out of 1 people found this helpful

A few things to note...

by Hayley1818, April 23, 2013

It's a good idea to note that Lucio is the one who finds outs that Claudio is being arrested, and Lucio is the one who goes to Isabella, for Claudio, to ask for her help. Lucio's main appearance is basically for comic relief, but he also has a place in the plot line.

It's also a good idea to note that Lucio accompanies Isabella to appeal the release of her brother to Angelo. While Isabella pleads for Claudio's life out of sisterly love, she also can't help but to agree with Angelo that what Claudio did was wrong. Therefore, Isabelle f... Read more

0 Comments

58 out of 61 people found this helpful

IMPORTANT CORRECTION Concerning Isabella

by Toulgoat, May 05, 2013

Correction: Isabella is not unfailingly virtuous.

Claudio asks Lucio to acquaint Isabella with his fate that she might persuade Angelo for, "in her youth/There is a prone and speechless dialect/Such as move men; beside, she hath prosperous art/When she will play with reason and discourse,/And well she can persuade" [1.2.179-83]. Though Claudio's last remark makes allusion of her astute ability to bend words, it is also used in juxtaposition with her "speechless dialect/Such as move men," referring to sex; Claudio is inferring that Is... Read more

1 Comments

34 out of 38 people found this helpful

Follow Us