A-Z Shakespeare: Measure for Measure

“The poor beetle that we tread upon
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies.”

William Shakespeare

Awesomeness: 6/10

Because…it’s not bad, but it’s not particularly interesting either.

Colour: Purple

Date: 1604

Events: Duke Vincentio of Vienna leaves the city suddenly on an unspecified errand, appointing Angelo as his deputy. He disguises himself as a friar in order to spy upon Angelo in his supposed absence. Angelo condemns gentleman Claudio to death for sleeping with his fiance, Juliet, before they are married. Claudio’s sister Isabella pleads with Angelo for her brother’s life, and Angelo tells her that if she sleeps with him he will spare Claudio. Isabella, on the advice of the disguised Duke, pretends to agree, but has Mariana, Angelo’s spurned fiance, sleep with him instead; despite their bargain, however, Angelo refuses to free Claudio. The Duke returns as himself in pomp and glory, shouts at Angelo and has him marry Mariana, marries Isabella himself, produces a miraculously living Claudio, everyone lives Happily Ever After, The End.

First line: “Escalus.”

Genre: Comedy

High point: The end, when the Duke returns and does some machination-ing to engineer the requisite happy ending in a display of Machiavellian virtuosity.

Interesting fact: The play features an executioner named Abhorson. Is there a connection with Garth Nix’s Abhorsen? I think so…

Joke: Angelo commenting on a criminal’s long-winded accusation of another criminal: “This will last out a night in Russia,
when nights are longest there.”

Killed: Claudio is fake-killed, but that’s the closest we get to any actual violence.

Laughed at: Elbow, a constable along the lines of Much Ado About Nothing‘s Dogberry.

Musical: Yes: Mariana indulges her melancholy in a song.

Number of scenes: 16 spread over five acts.

Obscurity: 6/10

Place: Vienna

Quote: “Our doubts are traitors, and makes us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”

Role I’d play: I don’t exactly have much choice, but Isabella is the best of a bad lot.

Stolen from: George Whetstone’s tragicomedy Promos and Cassandra.

Time: Shakespeare’s, roughly.


Voiced in my head by: Kenneth Branagh as the Duke.

Would I see it in a theatre? Not really bothered.

X: The Tenth Line: “Our city’s institutions and the terms”

“Yes? Hello? What?” (The Snappy Quip): “Thou art not thyself, for thou exist’st on many a thousand grains that issue out of dust.”

Z: The Last Line: “What’s yet behind that’s meet you all should know.”


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