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Introduction to Measure for Measure

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Emma Whipday


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What is a life worth? Can one life be measured against another? Can a woman’s identity be measured against a man’s death; a woman’s body against a man’s life; consensual sex against rape? Can one person be substituted for another? Measure for Measure explores these questions through a series of substitutions: Angelo for the disguised Duke as ruler; almost-nun Isabella’s body for her brother Claudio’s life; corrupt Angelo’s fiancé Mariana’s body for Isabella’s in the ‘bed trick’; Ragozine’s head for Claudio’s in the ‘head trick’; the deaths of Angelo, Claudio and Lucio for marriages in the final scene. As an early Jacobean play, revived, reimagined, and disseminated in print in the 1620s, Measure for Measure speaks to twenty-first-century concerns. Its interest in corrupt power, the evils of imprisonment and the death penalty, and state surveillance can still be uncomfortably pertinent to its modern audiences. And in the aftermath of #MeToo, Isabella’s threat to expose Angelo’s corruption, and Angelo’s chilling response—‘Who will believe thee, Isabel?’ (2.4.154)— continues to resonate today.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whipday Emma

Series Editor(s): Emma Smith

Publication type: Scholarly Edition

Publication status: In Press

Series Title: Oxford World's Classics

Year: 2024

Acceptance date: 07/11/2022

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Place Published: Oxford