Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure is a play written by William Shakespeare. Traditionally labeled as a comedy, it has been reclassified by modern critics as one of his “problem plays,” since it has characteristics of both comedy and tragedy. The play was written in 1603 or 1604, and was first performed in 1604. Many scholars believe that the surviving version of the play was heavily edited by Thomas Middleton after Shakespeare’s death. The sexual text of the play has often been controversial, both during the Restoration and Victorian eras.
The plot begins with Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, leaving on a diplomatic mission and leaving a strict judge, Angelo, in charge. Meanwhile, Claudio and Juliet want to get married but do not have the money to pay for wedding banns. Angelo condemns Claudio to death for fornication. Isabella, Claudio’s sister, pleads with Angelo, who consents to lift the decree if Isabella will sleep with him.
However, the Duke has not actually left the city, but remained in disguise to watch Angelo’s actions. Disguised as Friar Lodowick, he meets with Isabella and plots to trick Angelo. First they trick Angelo into sleeping with Mariana, whom he has refused to marry. Angelo then refuses to pardon Claudio, so another’s head is sent instead. The Duke returns, Angelo is revealed to be a liar, Claudio is released, and the Duke offers to marry Isabella.