Measure For Measure

Content Group

Measure for Measure, Lily Brayton as Isabella, 1907

This play has traditionally been regarded as distasteful because of its preoccupation with sexuality and the harsh reactions to it by the play's leading roles: the novice nun Isabella 2.2.29-42; 3.1.135-46) and her harasser the magistrate Angelo (2.2.161-86). The voyeurism of the manipulative Duke disguised as a Friar also arouses distaste (3.1.180-279). However, in the increasingly open society of the second half of the twentieth century, the play's exploitation of the stress and humor of aberrant sexuality became more customary and the play is now more frequently performed and appreciated, often reset in a modern political environment (see Stratford Festival 1975, RSC 1987, and RSC 1998). Its title (taken from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel) stresses that the script approximates to the genre of the morality play, and many of the characters verge on allegorical roles, particularly in the series of intense debates between Isabella and Angelo over the execution of her brother for fornication, which presents them as advocates of Mercy and Justice respectively (see this video clip). The play has several other comparable moments of intense, even tragic feeling (as in Claudio's discussion of his death sentence with the Duke, 3.1.1-43), and many critics regret the resolution of this tension by the Duke's trickery, even though this happy outcome approximates to the Christian theme of universal forgiveness, and matches the Renaissance concept of tragicomedy favored by other popular dramatists such as Lope de Vega. Such issues seem appropriate to Shakespeare's fresh choice of setting, compared to his sources; Reformation Vienna saw confrontations between Lutheranism and the Holy Roman Emperors.

Measure for Measure, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1984
Measure for Measure, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1987
Measure for Measure, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1998
Vienna: Maximilian II as a Young Archduke: Measure for Measure.
Measure for Measure, BBC / Time-Life, 1979
John Philip Kemble as Duke Vicentio, 1794 (Anon.)
Measure for Measure, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1970
Isabella Andreini: a famous Italian actress in the Italian commedia dell'arte company i Gelosi
Isabella Andreini as principal actress in a commedia dell'arte scene.
Measure for Measure, 1907
Measure For Measure, William Poel Production, 1893
Measure for Measure, Lily Brayton as Isabella, 1907
Measure for Measure, Stratford Festival, 1975
Measure for Measure: Isabella Glyn (1823-1889) as Isabella, William Hoskins (d.1886) as Lucio
Isabella in Measure for Measure at the Bruns Theatre of the California Shakespeare Theatre, 2003.
Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario, Canada, Measure for Measure,1975

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Andrews, John F. "Measure for Measure." In Shakespeare Hour, edited by Edward Quinn, 103-24. Signet/Penguin,1985.

Bloom , Harold, ed. William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Cairns, Edward A., ed. Charles Gildon's Measure for Measure, or Beauty, the Best Advocate: A Critical Edition. New York; London: Garland, 1987.

Chedgzoy, Kate. William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure. Tavistock, England: Northcote House & British Council, 2000.

Davenant, Sir William. The Law Against Lovers in Measure for Measure: the Bankside Restoration Shakespeare, edited by Appleton Morgan. New York: Shakespeare Press, 1908.

Dodd, William. "Power and Performance: Measure for Measure in the Public Theater of 1604-1605." Shakespeare Studies 24 (1996): 211-40.

Douglas, D. B. "The Beginnings of Die Rundkopfe und die Spitzkopfe: Bertolt Brecht's Fragmentary Adaptation of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure." AUMLA: Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association 64 (Nov. 1985): 198-219.

Eccles, Mark, ed. Measure for Measure. New Variorum Shakespeare. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1980.

Evans, G. Blakemore, ed. Shakespearean Prompt-Books of the Seventeenth Century. Volume 2, Parts 1-2: The Padua Measure for Measure; Winter's Tale. Charlottesville, VA: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1963. [Electronic edition]

Fisher, Philip. Review of Measure for Measure, Steam Industry, Riverside Studios, 2002. British Theatre Guide.

Friedman, Michael D. "'Wishing a More Strict Restraint': Feminist Performance and the Silence of Isabella." West Virginia Shakespeare and Renaissance Association Selected Papers (SRASP) 19 (1996): 1-11.

Gibbons, Brian, ed. Measure for Measure. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Gildon, Charles. Measure for Measure, or Beauty the Best Advocate, edited by Edward A. Cairns. New York: Garland, 1987.

Ioppolo, Grace. Measure for Measure. New York; London: Applause, 2001.

Kemble, John Philip, adapter. Measure for Measure. [Facsimile reprint of the 1796 edition], London: Cornmarket Press, 1970.

Maxwell-Mahon, W. D. "The Duke of the Dark Corners: A Study of Measure for Measure." Communiqu (Pietersburg) 6, no. 1 (1981): 30-34.

Moore, Don D. "Three Stage Versions of Measure for Measure Duke: the Providential, the Pathetic, the Personable." Explorations in Renaissance Culture 12 (1986): 58-67.

Perret, Marion D. "'To stage me to their eyes': Visual Imagery in the BBC Production of Measure for Measure." Literature in Performance 2 (April 1982): 12-22.

Richmond, Hugh Macrae. "Measure for Measure." Review of Measure for Measure, California Shakespeare Theater. Shakespeare Bulletin 22, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 95-7.

Rocklin, Edward L. and Sarah Innerst-Peterson. "Examining Measure for Measure through Performance." Shakespeare Yearbook 12 (2001): 356-70.

Rocklin, Edward L. "Measured Endings: How Productions from 1720 to 1929 Close Shakespeare's Open Silences in Measure for Measure." Shakespeare Survey 53 (2000): 213-32.

Scott, Michael. Renaissance Drama and a Modern Audience. London: Macmillan, 1982. [See pp. 61-75]

Spencer, Charles. "Disconcerting, Vile, Superb: Measure For Measure at the National Theatre." Daily Telegraph, February 17, 2006.

Measure for Measure at Talkin' Broadway.

Tucker, Patrick and Michael Holden, eds. Measure for Measure. Shakespeare's Globe Acting Edition. London: MH Publications, 1993.

Wasson, John. "Measure for Measure: A Text for Court Performance?" Shakespeare Quarterly 21 (1970): 17-24.

Weil, Herbert S. "The Options of the Audience: Theory and Practice in Peter Brook's Measure for Measure." Shakespeare Survey 25 (1972): 25-35.

Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond