Measure for Measure
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Measure for Measure

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  12,369 ratings  ·  370 reviews
"I feel that I have spent half my career with one or another Pelican Shakespeare in my back pocket. Convenience, however, is the least important aspect of the new Pelican Shakespeare series. Here is an elegant and clear text for either the study or the rehearsal room, notes where you need them and the distinguished scholarship of the general editors, Stephen Orgel and A. R...more
Paperback, 109 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Penguin Classics (first published 1603)
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Trevor
This is a much more troubling play than a comedy really has a right to be. To be honest, it is very hard to call this play a ‘comedy’ – unlike Much Ado or Twelfth Night, the laughs don’t exactly come thick and fast. In general outline this could easily enough be considered a romantic comedy – girl in trouble, boy cleverly rescues girl, girl marries boy; a perfect description of the genre? But the central story to this one is a very strange idea for a comedy.

Here’s the main story-line with the in...more
Bill  Kerwin

Why is it that I love the universe of this "dark" comedy so much, and why does it strike me as not really being so "dark" after all? Could it be because it is presided over by a "god"--the young Duke--who is priggish, diffident and comically vain (when his reputation is attacked by Lucio), and yet is unfailingly just and honorably susceptible to the attractions of female goodness and beauty? Is it because the "villain"--Angelo--is so pathetic and small that one never seriously expects he will wi...more
Terence
Measure for Measure, as the title suggests, is all about weighing out appropriate portions – of love, of mercy, of justice. The plot is simple enough. The Duke of Vienna, concerned that his people have thrown off restraint and have sunk too far into liberty, leaves the city in the hands of Angelo, a man notorious for his strictness and inhuman discipline. As Lucio observes in two instances (once to Isabella and again to the Duke):

“…Upon his place,
Governs Lord Angelo; a man whose blood
Is very sno
...more
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard
Sep 13, 2009 Hannah Eiseman-Renyard rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Die-hard Shakespeare fans only
There's a Problem at the Heart of This

A romantic comedy built around saving someone from capital punishment is going to have to work double-time to be anything approaching funny. Okay, this isn't a 'comedy' in the traditional sense - but it's filed as one of Shakespeare's comedies. I think the problem here is that Shakespeare himself didn't know what he was aiming for when he wrote this, and it reads as a smattering of well-trodden plot devices shoved together in a bizarre and incohesive order....more
Ariel
So, this ended up being AWESOME! I'm kind of disappointed that I'd never heard of this play before, and that this isn't one of Shakespeare's giant plays!

I found the plot of this story a lot more exciting than other Shakespeare's I've read (Tempest I'm looking at you) and I thought that the moral dilemmas and questions where a lot more interesting than other Shakespeare's I've read (Twelfth Night you're a let down).

I think I know why it isn't so big though. For the same reasons I didn't give it 5...more
Stephen Cobb
I can't believe I made it 51 years on this earth without encountering Measure for Measure. Perhaps it's for the best: the mature theme of how to discern and judge justly is weighty with the cycles of human development .. it helps to have a few grey hairs to have lived through the many perspectives that Shakespeare offers through his characters.

Perhaps we shouldn't mark the beginning of modern psychology with Freud. Shakespeare has the best character analysis of any modern thinker I know.
Katherine
Bizarrely, I loved Measure for Measure, even though I'd never heard of it, it seems unpopular for a Shakespeare play, and for some reason what I glean of the criticial opinion surrounding it is something like "distasteful problem play, not a masterpiece."

If I could revive and bring back into popularity any of Shakespeare's works this would be it. I found it far better than the surprisingly terrible Twelvth Night, which everyone goes on and on about yet is so clearly slapped together muck for ch...more
Marija
This play truly reads like an 18th century Gothic romance! A lover’s to be executed for impregnating his ladylove outside of the sanctity of wedlock. To save said lover from the chopping block, the evil and covetous deputy of justice blackmails the man’s sister to surrender her “virtue” to him. Quite risqué! This is especially true since the events turn in a direction that you’d least expect. Suffice it to say that I was quite shocked, since this wasn’t something that I expected, given the other...more
Melissa (ladybug)
Measure for Measure (Oxford School Shakespeare) Measure for Measure is about Angelo, who is put temporarily in charge by the Duke of Vienna, and Claudio who has gotten his "wife" pregnant. Because the church banns were not published, Angelo has Claudio arrested and sentenced to Death for fornication. Claudio requests that his sister, who is a novice, come and plead for him. She does so and we see how much Angelo has let power go to his head. He seems to think that he is above the law.The play re...more
Hanley
Love everything but Isabella's silence at the end. Would love to see a production that somehow turns her silence into a denial of the Duke. She almost let her brother be killed for the sake of her virtue and his; why would she, a novice, so easily marry? Unless she's been completely changed by the course of events? Doesn't seem like Shake gives us any text to support that.

Still, the scene between Isabella and Claudio will always be near and dear to my heart... no surprise there...
Ben
Alack, when once our grace we have forgot,
Nothing goes right; we would, and we would not


After each Shakespeare experience, I realize how much I have yet to learn The Bard we love so much. If the man wrote average works merely for the sake of his professional livelihood, one might count Measure For Measure among them even if only for its lack of notoriety. I did. Yet Shakespeare must have enjoyed envious blessing in his ability to transform mediocre intent into golden wonder.

I had no idea what t...more
Charles
It is true the famous saying, that next to God, Shakespeare probably created the most. There are so many concerns and issues which 'Measure for Measure' explores, without being a chore to read (let alone watching). Being a tragi-comedy, I did find it a rather strange and confusing read at first, although this is not why it is called a problem play.

It is a problem play, a term coined by FS Boas, because of all the moral, social and political issues that lie at its core. Surprisingly, most of them...more
Mia Cozad
Sep 16, 2009 Mia Cozad is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare
-This book so far is about a kingdom that is ruled by the Duke. Who suddenly has to mysteriously leave so he leaves Angelo in charge with all his powers. While in charge he becomes very strict on rules, which cause a young man Claudio to go to jail for impregnating his girlfriend before wedlock and he is to be executed the next morning. Word spreads around town fast and his sister, Isabella finds out, who happens to be coming a nun, but leaves soon afte...more
Megan Anderson
Measure for Measure (1603-4) is a dark comedy (it’s not funny, for the most part, but has a happy ending), and I found it much more entertaining (what does that say about me?). A duke appoints a deputy, who goes crazy with power and decides to enforce an old law that sex out of wedlock is punishable by death. He decides to make an example out of a dude who is for all intents and purposes married to a girl, but did not follow all of the legal technicalities for a marriage. And she’s pregnant. The...more
Cherylann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alan
Probably more than any other Shakespeare play, Measure for Measure gains immensely from the context in which it appeared. This Ivo Kamps brings to the play with myriad documents from 1604 or thereabouts, such as the Canons of 1604 which established modern marriage--none under age 21 without parental consent. This play about transition in rule appears during England's transition from Queen Elizabeth (I!) to King James (I).
MFM features a substitute ruler who uses his absolute power to pull a Stra...more
Michael Jones
I didn't actually read that edition but I chose for the cover art. I think the themes explored in this play are very important ones and Shakespeare gives a blessing to any society who would be shaped by this play.

We all know that fornication is morally wrong. (I'm starting with the assumption that Shakespeare's worldview was informed by the Bible. If you don't like that, go read another review.) But God's law does not always give the death penalty for fornication. What it does have is a series o...more
Michael Jones
I didn't actually read that edition but I chose for the cover art. I think the themes explored in this play are very important ones and Shakespeare gives a blessing to any society who would be shaped by this play.

We all know that fornication is morally wrong. (I'm starting with the assumption that Shakespeare's worldview was informed by the Bible. If you don't like that, go read another review.) But God's law does not always give the death penalty for fornication. What it does have is a series o...more
matt


I admit I'm copping out a little bit when I add this one. I've never really "read" it, in the sit-down-and-turn-pages sense, but I was on the tech crew of my school's production of it and ths watched it rehearsed and staged approximately 500 times.

I was a fool. The year before I'd tried out for Merchant of Venice on a whim, just to hang out with my friends and do some theatre games.
I had a great time. Came back with cowardice all over me to let the directors know I was just there for a lark, n...more
Helen (Helena/Nell)
It is a strange play. It all revolves around sex – well, not sex exactly, but sexual morality. The Duke of Vienna (the dodgy and amoral Lucio calls him “the old fantastical Duke of dark corners”) has become dissatisfied with the loose ways of his subjects. So he does the Shakespearean trick of officially disappearing and unofficially returning in disguise. He leaves his sidekick, the noble Lord Angelo, in charge, with a remit to get Vienna cleaned up, and even Angelo’s name tells us trouble is n...more
Dayna
A fascinating study of how authority corrupts, and I include the Duke here, not just Lord Angelo. I was appalled by how the Duke leaves Lord Angelo in charge and then proceeds to spy on him and pull the strings behind his back. Lord Angelo behaves despicably, it is true, but the Duke seems to have a kind of god complex which is almost equally disturbing.

***Spoiler Warning***

Charlie and I saw this play about a year ago, and I love the way that particular troupe performed the ending. Instead of r...more
Nick Smith
A second reading of this ensured its fourth star. The fascinating murkiness of issues of mercy and justice, and the complexity of the major characters, really help this "comedy" shine and yet escape our ability to fully comprehend it. From the Duke's clever yet manipulative stage managing of his subjects, to Angelo's guilty lust, to Isabel's rather stunning silence at the play's end, Measure for Measure really defies our attempts to contain it and explain it away; it is the very definition of a...more
Simon
The book was generally entertaining and I was understanding of the basics of the plot and character structure. What I don't get is that in all of the comedies I've read so far, a figure who is high in society leaves the town or city or country and whatever, then they come back disguised as someone else so they can spy. They play around and manipulate situations for the improvement of the situations in the play but as the truth bubbles up, as it always has, they figure of higher standing likes to...more
Hilary
No one I know has read this version of Shakespeare before, and I'm talking Johnnies and High-school English teachers as the people I know. The fact that I don't know anyone who's read this speaks to the plain and simple fact that it sucks. This was an awful Shakespeare play. The characters did not interest me, their dilemmas didn't even get me slightly interested, and when it ended I was filled with a strange feeling comprised of "What the hell was that?" and "This is NOT a good ending." Overall...more
James
One of Shakespeare's most unusual, dense, and politically interesting plays. I cannot help but think of it as a kind of secular theodicy; save that, in this case, the god-figure, the Duke of Vienna, allows for the 'Fall' as a consequence of his own laxity in enforcing the law. The ensuing turmoil caused when Angelo assumes authority clarifies how sin permeates the human condition, and thus creates a redemptive desire among the characters which only the Duke himself can satisfy. It's an ingenious...more
Milly
This is probably my favorite Shakespeare work. Granted, I could do without Launcelot and the plot line isn't always logical, but by and large Measure is a superb mix of the satirical and poetic. A true "problem play", the give-and-take between comedy and tragedy makes the work rich and complex in a way that you don't find with more easily categorized works. Imperfect authority passing judgment on the imperfections of others, secular flaws and desires shielded behind the authority of spirituality...more
Kevin
An excellent play where one accused of getting his girlfriend pregnant prior to marriage is to be executed. He has been judged guilty by one who is far and away worse. The judge tries to use his power to get the same thing he accuses the other of committing.

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."

"Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know. "

"It is excellent / To have a giant's strenght / But it is tyrannous / To use...more
Maurinejt
3.5

Measure for Measure is one of the lesser-known Shakespearean plays, even dubbed a "problem play", and there are good reasons for that. But, there are high points too: the usual deft characterization and one truly incredible scene. It is a play that deals with individuals against the government, about hypocrisy and the power exerted on the many by the few; it explores how implacable and capricious this power can be.

The play opens when the Duke of Vienna (which is weird because all the names a...more
Carol
We love justice and loathe hypocrisy. The satisfaction of this play is that the viewer learns early on that the evil, wicked guy is going to be brought down.

The awkward ending left me hollow. Why Shakespeare felt compelled to pair up all the personae at the end is beyond me. Oh, I wish the last five lines had been discarded!

One of the joys of reading Shakespeare (I read and listen simultaneously)is recognizing phrases in modern works. Who knew the title of Colin Thubron's travel memoir about Ru...more
Pietro Coen
The moral of this play is ‘do not do unto others what you don’t want others do to unto yourself’. The story is bizarre: the Duke of Vienna pretends he’s gone travelling the world but in truth disguises himself as a monk, so he can see how his cousin Angelo behaves as leader and supreme judge of his subjects. Many characters have Italian names (Lucio, Angelo, Claudio), the local policeman is known as Elbow and the executioner is Abhorson. The story goes that the Duke-in-disguise takes a tour of t...more
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William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr...more
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“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
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“The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?” 82 likes
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