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Part II Roman 24 Measure For Measure

In this play, written in 1604, Shakespeare takes the opportunity to study the relationship of justice and mercy He had done so in The Merchant of Venice, but there he had not been consistent Portia had demanded mercy of Shylock, but when the tables were turned she did not show it (see page I-539)

We all favor mercy for those e syht for those we hate In this play Shakespeare carries through the notion ofan unpleasant situation so that the offering of mercy becomes hard indeed, more critics are reat play of mercy is usually considered one of his unpleasant comedies, like All's Well That Ends Well

any in Vienna

The setting of the play is in Austria This setting Shakespeare takes over from a tale by Cynthius; a tale from the same collection, in fact, from which he had a year earlier or less taken the plot for Othello (see page I-609)

Cynthius' tale begins with the Ee over the city of Innsbruck There was a real E with Diocletian, from 286 to 305, but there is no indication that the play takes place in Roman tunes

The name may have been inspired to Cynthius by the fact that two Holy Roman emperors named Maximilian ruled in the sixteenth century The first, Maximilian I, ruled from 1493 to 1519, and the second, Maximilian II, became Emperor in 1564 He was on the throne when Cynthius' collection was published in 1565

The two Maximilians, like all the e, who ruled, specifically, as archdukes of Austria

Shakespeare shifts the scene from Innsbruck, a provincial town in western Austria, to Vienna, the capital, but he is writing a Renaissance romance, and all the characters have Italian names Thus, the Archduke of Austria and presumably Holy Roman Emperor (but referred to only as "Duke" in the play) is Vincentio

The Duke is planning to retire for a while froovernment and intends to appoint a deputy to wield his powers He suggests his candidate to an aged lord, Escalus, who approves and says:

// any in Vienna be of worth

To undergo such arace and honor

It is Lord Angela

- Act I, scene i, lines 22-24

Angela is given the post, though he is reluctant, and the Duke then leaves in great haste

the King of Hungary

The scene then shifts to a Viennese street, where we are introduced to Lucio, who is listed in the cast of characters as "a fantastic" He is fantastic in costuarde, ahead of the fashion, a gay man about town

He is talking to two unnamed Gentlemen and says:

// the Duke, with the other dukes,


why then all the dukes fall upon the King

- Act I, scene ii, lines 1-3

Nothing further is ary; nor is there any hint as to who "the other dukes" ht be

Hungary is Austria's eastern neighbor Through the Middle Ages it was an extensive and often powerful kingdom which was, however, weakened by the existence of a turbulent aristocracy whose quarrels a themselves worked to the ruin of all

Hungary had reached its height a little over a century before Measure for Measure ritten, when, from 1458 to 1490, Mathias Corvinus ruled He tearian nobility, spread his power northward over Slovakia and Silesia, and in 1485 even conquered Vienna He made Vienna his capital and ruled over Austria

Corvinus died in 1490 and his weak successor gave up the earlier conquests and let the nobility gradually regain their power The real disaster, however, cae I-520) invaded Hungary and destroyed the Hungarian arary had been e was taken over by the Austrian Duke, Ferdinand I

nineteen zodiacs

The talk shifts almost at once to internal affairs It see over Vienna and a ainst sexual i drawn noose-tight and houses of prostitution in the suburbs are being closed down

What'shaled off to prison for e had been delayed while the otiated and nant

The Duke's deputy, Angelo, a el"), is applying the law against unmarried intercourse to the extreme and Claudio will be slated for execution

Claudio, in this deep trouble, stops to talk to his friend Lucio and co thus struck down by penalties:

Which have, like unscoured ar by th'wall

So long, that nineteen zodiacs have gone round

And none of them been worn

- Act I, scene ii, lines 168-74

The sun travels once around the zodiac in one year Nineteen zodiacs are therefore nineteen years

Lucio advises Claudio to appeal to the Duke, but the Duke is not to be found Claudio therefore asks Lucio to hasten to a nunnery where his (Claudio's) sister is about to take her vows Perhaps she will plead with Angelo on his behalf and win him over

to Poland

But the Duke has not really left after all He wishes to observe affairs while re unobserved, see how the moral reform ork out, and so on The Duke explains this to a elo, his deputy, doesn't know the truth:

he supposes me traveled to Poland;

For so I have strewed it in the common ear,

- Act I, scene iii, lines 13-15

In Shakespeare's tier than it is today It bordered on Austria (and what had once been Hungary) to the northeast, and included large sections of what is now the Soviet Union It extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea and was almost at the peak of its territorial expansion But the aristocracy in Poland, as in Hungary, was uncontrollable and kept the central government weak


Lucio reaches Isabella (Claudio's sister) at the nunnery She has not yet made her final vows and she may speak to him He tells her of Claudio's situation Claudio cannot nant because Angelo is intent on setting an exaelo can be swerved froelo as

a man whose blood

Is very snow-broth

- Act I, scene iv, lines 57-59

The is of passion and cannot sympathize with those who do Under the lash of virtue he would insist upon a rigid justice that would be as cruel as anything vice would demand

Yet, as a last resort, Lucio urges Isabella to go to Angelo and plead with hiirl's request

The chances of success are suelo is shown in conversation with Escalus and he insists on the letter of the law fir but justice is what he deives orders that Claudio be executed the nextat 9 am

at Hallowmas

The gravity of the developing situation with respect to Claudio is lightened by a scene in which a comic constable, Elbow, has arrested Pompey, orks as servant in a brothel, and Froth, who has been a customent

When Po-windedness that weaves round and round the point without ever cos in even the exact time of the death of Froth's father Pompey says:

Was't not at Hallowmas, Master Froth?

- Act II, scene i, lines 123-24

Froth ansith grave precision:

All-hallond Eve

- Act II, scene i, line 125

"Hallowmas," which is also "All Hallows' Day," is a day set aside for the celebration of all the saints generally, known and unknown, and it is also known as "All Saints' Day" The celebration is on Novereat coincidence, to be an important pastoral holiday of the ancient Celts Many of the ancient custoured by Christian disapproval, and have given us a oblins

The night, naturally, is the best time for the spirits of darkness, and since in ancient ti the Jews, for instance) the twenty-four-hour day included the sunlit period plus the night before, rather than the night after, it was the night of October 31 that itch time This is the "All-hallond Eve" that Froth refers to, or "All Hallows' Eve" or "All Saints' Eve," or, as it is best known today, Halloween

a night in Russia

Angelo, whose virtue leaves hi Escalus to render judg:

This will last out a night in Russia,

When nights are longest there

- Act II, scene i, lines 133-34

In Shakespeare's ti on west European consciousness (see page I-154) At that time Russian territory had already reached the Arctic Ocean, and in 1553 an English trade h the one port that was open to the sea powers of the West-Archangel, on the Arctic shore

It was this which gave England the notion of Russia as an essentially Arctic nation; a notion that was never quite wiped out of European consciousness There were parts of Russia that were farther south than any part of England, even in the sixteenth century, before still further expansion southward had taken place What counted, though, was the latitude of Archangel, which is only a hundred est there" (in Deceh much of that time is twilit

a shrewd Caesar

The o but warns theain, for he does not wish to see them before him once more He says to Pompey:

// / do, Pompey,

I shall beat you to your tent,

and prove a shrewd Caesar to you;

- Act II, scene i, lines 247-49

The reference is, of course, to the Roe I-257)

As mercy does

Claudio's , and now his sister, Isabella, comes to plead for his life Yet she is as strictly virtuous as Angelo and has no great syelo-like):

There is a vice that most I do abhor,

And most desire should meet the blow of justice,

- Act II, scene ii, lines 29-30

Naturally, her cold plea doesn't touch Angelo and she is at once ready to give up Lucio, however (who is the pattern of goodhearted vice throughout the play and ood contrast to the two exaes her to plead more passionately

Fired at last, Isabella turns to the only legitimate pleas that can turn aside justice:

No ceres,

Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword,

The e's robe,


As mercy does

- Act II, scene ii, lines 59-63

Thus is the conflict of the play set forth clearly: justice versus mercy

And as Isabella grows ins to thaw-but not out ofas by the reasoner He asks Isabella to return the next , and when he is left alone, he discovers to his surprise that he too has finally felt the stirrings of passion

but to die

At the second elo is ready to offer the ed, but only at the price of Isabella herself It is now Isabella's turn to be unbendingly virtuous She refuses the price even if thatso without hesitation, and marches off to inform her brother of that fact

Claudio is horrified at the news Isabella brings hirees that it is better for himself to die than for his sister to lose her virtue But then he begins to think about death and he quails, saying:

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where,

To lie in cold obstruction and to rot,

This sensible warm motion to become

A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit

To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside

In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;

To be imprisoned in the viewless winds,

And bloith restless violence round about

The pendant world; or to be worse than worst