Thursday, March 31, 2011

Measure for Measure

by William Shakespeare
New York: Signet Classics, 1964.

When the Duke leaves Vienna, he puts a deputy, Angelo, in charge. Angelo is a bit hard-nosed, and decides to revive some of the laws that have been largely ignored by both populace and ruler. Specifically, he imprisons a man who impregnated the woman. Despite the fact that Claudio is willing to marry this woman, Angelo orders that the law be carried out and Claudio must die. Can Claudio's sister, Isabella, convince Angelo to relent?

While not one of Shakepeare's most obscure plays, Measure for Measure is also not one I had ever read for school. It does not have oft-quoted lines like Hamlet or [Romeo and Juliet, though it does still have sentiments that have found its way into our popular culture (the idea of "hate the sin and love the sinner" shows up). The title is taken from Matthew 7:1-2: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." In this case, our judge Angelo is the least sympathetic character in the play. Instead, you really feel for people like Claudio, who makes a mistake but wants to make it right as well as he can, and Isabella who truly loves her brother but is given an awful choice to save his life. I'm not sure I fully agree with the sentiments of the play, and I was a little surprised by the frank discussion of sex and prostitution (I'm not sure why, it's not like I never read Shakespeare before...). If not one of my favorites, it was still a thought-provoking read.

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