William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure in the complete original text.
William Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and poems at AbsoluteShakespeare.com
Home Plays Sonnets Poems Quotes Summaries Essays Glossary Links Help

HOME > Plays > Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure

Study Guides
Julius Caesar
King Henry IV
King Lear
Merchant of Venice
Romeo and Juliet
The Tempest
Twelfth Night

Bard Facts
Globe Theatre

Measure for Measure Play

Measure for Measure begins with Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, entrusting his deputy Angelo to rule for him whilst he is on leave. Vincentio gives Angelo the power to enforce Vienna's many rules that Vincentio has increasingly been lax enforcing. Seeing Angelo as strict and uncompromising, Vincentio believes Angelo to be the perfect man to do what he will not; enforce the law without exception. However, Vincentio is not totally trusting of Angelo; instead of leaving town, he instead disguises himself as a friar to see check up on Angelo... Angelo is as uncompromising as Vincentio hoped; almost everyone is shocked by Angelo's zealous pursuit of the law; Angelo handing out a death sentence to Claudio for making his fiance Julietta pregnant before marriage... Fearing for Claudio's life, Isabella, Claudio's sister petitions for Angelo to spare her brother.

Though Angelo wants to ignore Isabella's pleas, her beauty and pleading win Angelo over but there is a catch... Angelo will spare Claudio's life if Isabella, a virgin preparing to become a nun, gives herself to Angelo... Disgusted, Isabella refuses. The Friar (Vincentio) who has been trying to comfort Angelo in the prison, overhears Isabella and Claudio's predicament, resolving to save them both from Angelo. Hilariously, Vincentio still disguised, learns first hand just how lenient the people believe him to be from Lucio.

The Friar's plan is simple. Isabella will agree to Angelo's offer but when the moment comes for Isabella to surrender herself to him, she will switch places with Mariana, a woman Vincentio knows was once engaged to Angelo and still loves him. All goes according to plan until Angelo, satisfied, decides to execute Claudio as planned. Vincentio decides to thwart Angelo by convincing Claudio's jailer to switch another man in Claudio's place. The Friar uses a letter from the real Duke (himself) to convince the Provost into doing this. Vincentio does not tell Isabella what he has planned, only that she should seek out the Duke of Vienna who will be returning soon to ensure Angelo is brought to justice for what he has done to Claudio and her.

Angelo, learning of the Duke's return, starts to regret executing Claudio... Throwing away his Friar's disguise, Vincentio enters Vienna as the Duke, Isabella telling him all that has happenned. The Duke pretends not to believe Isabella, ordering her imprisoned... Friar Peter now confirms Isabella's story as does Mariana who tells the whole town that she made love to Angelo. The Duke, disguised again as the Friar also backs Isabella's story... Angelo, knowing he is in very deep trouble, attempts to save himself by discrediting Isabella and placing the rest of the blame on the Friar. The Duke then reveals himself to be the Friar, Angelo now begging for mercy from Isabella and Vincentio. We quickly learn Claudio is alive not dead, Mariana still in love with Angelo, begging with Isabella for Angelo's life to be spared. This the Duke grants, commanding Angelo to wed Mariana and that Claudio wed Julietta. Vincentio decides to marry the beautiful Isabella... As for Lucio, the Duke remembering all to well Lucio's words about the Duke being lax with the law, orders Friar Peter to marry him to the prostitute Mistress Keepdown to whom Lucio has given a child, then orders Lucio whipped then hanged. In doing this, Vincentio takes the ultimate revenge by ensuring that a prostitute will inherit Lucio's wealth.


Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

Act II
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

Scene I, Scene II

Act IV
Scene I,
Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V, Scene VI

Act V
Scene I

Copyright 2000-2005 AbsoluteShakespeare.com. All rights reserved.  Contact Us  Privacy  Awards