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Measure for Measure

William Shakespeare

Act V, Scene i

Act IV, Scenes iii-vi

Questions for Study

Summary

The Duke greets Angelo and Escalus at the city gates. He thanks them. Friar Peter enters with Isabella and tells her to speak to the Duke. She begs him for justice. The Duke tells her to state her complaint briefly to Angelo. Isabella says that she cannot ask Angelo for help, because he is evil. She wants to speak to the Duke directly. Angelo interrupts, trying to tell the story himself, but Isabella continues, calling Angelo a murderer, hypocrite, "adulterous thief," and "virgin-violator." The Duke tries to send her away, calling her insane.

Isabella asks the Duke to reconsider, arguing that even someone who seems noble, like Angelo, can actually be bad. The Duke realizes that Isabella is far too logical to be insane. Isabella urges him to see reason. The Duke asks her to tell her story, and she begins by recounting how her brother was sentenced to death for fornication, and how she was asked by Lucio to ask Angelo for his pardon. Lucio verifies this, but the Duke tells him not to speak. Isabella goes on to say that Angelo asked her out of lust to have sexual intercourse with him in exchange for her brother's life. She says that she obeyed, but that Angelo sent the warrant for Claudio's execution anyway. The Duke does not believe her, saying it is illogical that Angelo should have acted in such a way. He asks Isabella to confess that she is lying, and to name the person who sent her.

Isabella prays to heaven to make the truth known. The Duke orders her sent to prison. He asks her who knew of her coming, and she names Friar Lodowick. The Duke asks if anyone knows this friar, and Lucio says that he knows him but does not like him. He also accuses the friar of slander against the Duke and claims to have silenced him. The Duke demands to see the friar. Friar Peter comes forth and says that he has heard everything, agreeing that Isabella is lying. The Duke asks him if he knows Friar Lodowick, and Peter says that he does know him, and that Lodowick is a good man who has never said anything bad against the Duke. He says that Lodowick is sick and has sent him in his place. He is meant to share Lodowick's knowledge, beginning with the fact that Isabella is lying. Isabella is led away by guards, and Mariana enters, veiled, as a witness.

The Duke asks Mariana to show her face before testifying, but she says she will not lift her veil until her husband instructs her to. He asks if she is married, and she says no. He asks if she is a maid or a widow, and she again says no. Confused, the Duke asks Mariana to explain. She tells him that she has had intercourse with her husband, though he does not know it, and therefore is not a maid. The Duke says that her testimony is irrelevant to Angelo's case, but she names Angelo as the husband she is speaking of. Angelo denies it and asks to see her face.

Mariana lifts her veil. The Duke asks if Angelo knows her, and Angelo confesses that he was engaged to her five years before. He swears that he has not seen her since. Mariana explains that they had sexual intercourse on Tuesday night. Angelo objects again, saying that both women are crazy and being exploited by some other person. The Duke sends for the other friar. Friar Peter tells him that the provost knows where he is, so the Duke sends the Friar to find him. He then leaves, telling Escalus to continue listening to testimony.

Escalus calls for Isabella, saying that he wants to question her himself. Lucio advises him to question her in private, suggesting that she might be ashamed to speak the truth in public. Escalus tells Isabella that someone has denied what she said, attempting to get the truth out of her.

The Duke enters, disguised as a friar, and Escalus begins to question him instead. Escalus asks him if he sent Isabella and Mariana to slander Angelo, claiming that they have already accused him of doing so. The Duke says this is untrue and asks to see the Duke. Escalus says that the Duke has given him free reign. Escalus threatens to torture the Duke's friar alter ego, who says that he has seen a lot of corruption during his visit to Vienna.

Angelo asks Lucio to testify against the Duke/Friar, and he claims that he heard the Duke/Friar slander the Duke. The Duke argues that it was actually Lucio who insulted the Duke, saying that he loves the Duke as much as he loves himself. Escalus tries to send the Duke off to prison, but the Duke tells the provost not to obey. Lucio pulls the Duke's hood off, revealing his identity.

The Duke turns to Angelo and asks if there is anything he would like to say in his own defense. Angelo confesses to his crime and asks for a death sentence. The Duke sentences him to marry Mariana instead. The Duke asks Isabella to come to him, and she says that she is ashamed to have asked him for help. He supposes that she must be wondering why he did not disclose his identity earlier in order to save Claudio's life, and he tells her that the death occurred sooner than he expected, but that Claudio was now in a better place. On Isabella's behalf, the Duke orders Angelo to be executed to pay for Claudio's death.

Mariana says, "I hope you will not mock me with a husband!" (V.i.420). She is worried that she will be a widow instead of a married woman, and so she asks for her husband to be pardoned. The Duke refuses, saying that at least her virtue will be preserved, and that she can find a better husband now. Mariana asks for Isabella's help in persuading the Duke, saying that everyone has their faults.

Isabella kneels and asks the Duke to pardon Angelo, saying that she believes he meant well in his original plans to clean up the city. The Duke is distracted by another question and asks the provost why Claudio was executed at such an unusual hour. He fires the provost for obeying private orders. The provost argues that he went against private orders by saving Barnadine, and the Duke asks to see him.

The provost brings Barnadine, along with a muffled Claudio. The Duke pardons Barnadine, telling the friar to take care of him. He then asks who the muffled man is. The provost says he is another prisoner meant to be executed, one that looks like Claudio. He unveils Claudio. The Duke tells Isabella that Claudio is pardoned and asks her to marry him. He then sentences Lucio to marry whatever woman claims to have been impregnated by him. The Duke concludes by saying that everyone should live happily ever after, including Isabella and himself.

Commentary

Shakespearean comedies traditionally end with marriage, and Measure for Measure is no exception. Isabella, originally on the verge of becoming a nun, finds herself about to marry the Duke. It is interesting that she is not given a chance to respond to the Duke's marriage proposal in the play. She is assumedly very happy to become the wife of the town's leader, particularly since he has saved her brother's life. But at the same time this situation reinforces her loss of sexual independence. The central conflict in the play revolves around Isabella's refusal to follow the ways of most of the women in Vienna. Her marriage to the Duke confirms her virtue while denying her independence.

There are no independent women in Measure for Measure. Of course, this is not strange, considering the setting and Shakespeare's own era. But Measure for Measure gives its women characters even less freedom than other Shakespearean plays. They are prostitutes, nuns, or jilted lovers, given no chance to control their own lives. Isabella is the one exception in that she refuses to respond to Angelo's advances. However, she is still obedient toward the Duke, following all of his instructions.

At the conclusion of the play, the Duke administers punishment to all of the wrongdoers and rewards the virtuous. Angelo is told to marry Mariana, and he escapes death at her request. The Duke probably does not intend to execute Angelo, but wants it made clear that his crime deserves such a punishment. Mariana's reward is Angelo, which she takes happily, although the Duke tells her that he is unworthy of her love. Claudio is allowed to marry Juliet, and Lucio is punished by being made to marry a prostitute. Marriage is not a clear-cut punishment or reward, therefore. Instead, its qualities revolve around the individual situations in which it occurs.

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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/

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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

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57 out of 60 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

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