All of Shakespeare Before the 450th: “What’s Mine is Yours….”

I finished Measure for Measure, the fifth play read and the first so far that I don’t remember having previously seen or read, although it did seem oddly familiar, and I do have a bad memory. But before I get into the play, Shakespeare-Online features an article, How to Study Shakespeare: Five Steps to Success Reading a Shakespeare Play, which I thought offered good suggestions for tackling the Bard for the first time. One of its suggestions—using an annotated version—would really help with archaic language and culture. I’ve been stuck using the poor-quality 1975 Gramercy version without annotations, but I admit I’m now cheating and reading much of it on a Kindle with it’s pop-up Oxford dictionary and there’s always the internet for the details. (The other suggestions are “read a good synopsis”; read play once; see performance–they recommended the BBC versions that are often available at libraries; read play again.)

Now to the play. I liked it—I think I liked it a lot. It’s a he said, she said story with a twist about hypocrisy among the rulers/government (not a theme, of course, that we have to worry about in the “post-modern” world), hypocrisy in judging others (again, how universal can this theme be?) and a reminder that power has the tendency to corrupt. There’s once again the easy forgiveness of the comedy, but the Duke tempers them with reforming punishments that fit the crimes (measure for measure). The play ends abruptly, and I would like to have known what everyone finds out at the Duke’s palace.

New Rating System: As everyone uses a rating system for everything, I’ve decided to add ratings to my simple comments on the plays. The system is based on how much I personally enjoyed the play compared to other Shakespeare plays. So don’t expect profound reasoning for the ratings. By definition it’s an extremely bad system, if for no other reason than I’m rating all but one of them before I finish them all. But it’s just for my own entertainment, so it doesn’t really matter. The ratings are officially “the Bard Ratings”: one to five Bards, five being the most enjoyable for me. So if the system works, you can expect me to give five Bards to six plays and one Bard to six plays. We’ll see. (Credit for the idea goes to the Washington Post and their Pinocchio rating system for presidential candidates.)

Measure for Measure earns:  




Quotes (long list) that appealed to me (for various reasons) and a brief note on some of them:

Duke: “…if our virtues did not go forth of us, ’twere all alike as if we had them not.” (appreciating our individual gifts and using them for others)

Angelo: “Let there be some more test made of my metal, before so noble and so great a figure be stamp’d upon it.” (Good advice for all of us.)

Duke: “Our haste from hence is of so quick condition that it prefers itself, and leaves unquestion’d matters of needful value.” (Weighing the tradeoff between “needful value” vs. hurry)

Escalus: “A power I have, but of what strength and nature I am not yet instructed.” (It takes our entire lives to figure this out.)

Lucio: “Why, how now, Claudio? whence comes this restraint?” Claudio: “From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty: As surfeit is the father of much fast, so every scope (i.e., liberty) by the immoderate use turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue, like rats that ravin down their proper bane, a thirsty evil; and when we drink we die.” (We seemingly desire and pursue those very things that destroy us.)

Duke: “For terror, not to use, in time the rod becomes more mock’d than fear’d; so our decrees, dead to infliction, to themselves are dead; and liberty plucks justice by the nose; the baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart goes all decorum.”

Lucio: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” (We can’t take counsel of our fears.)

Angelo: “The jewel that we find, we stoop and take’t, Because we see it; but what we do not see we tread upon, and never think of it.” (How much in life do we miss because we aren’t looking?)

Angelo: “This will last out a night in Russia, when nights are longest there….”

Provost: “I have seen, when, after execution, judgment hath repented o’er his doom.”

Isabella: “I have a brother is condemn’d to die; I do beseech you, let it be his fault, and not my brother. (That’s what I want: my faults to die, not me for or because of them.)

Isabella: “How would you be, if He, which is the top of judgment, should but judge you as you are? O, think on that; and mercy then will breathe within your lips, like man new made.” (A good argument for mercy. Reminds me of a great bumper-sticker quote someone recently used in a speech: “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”)

Isabella: “O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant!”

Isabella: “but man, proud man! dress’d in a little brief authority,—most ignorant of what he’s most assured, his glassy essence—like an angry ape, plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep…” (It’s that power and authority thing again.)

Isabel: “Ignomy in ransom and free pardon are of two houses; lawful mercy is nothing kin to foul redemption.” (“Ignomy” is archaic spelling of “ignominy.”)

Isabella: “Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die: More than our brother is our chastity.” (A concept temporarily lost in our time.)

Isabella: “perpetual durance” and later “I quake, lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain, and six or seven winters more respect than a perpetual honour.” (Choosing honor and integrity over extended life without it.)

Duke (speaking to Isabel): “The hand that hath made you fair hath made you good: the goodness that is cheap in beauty makes beauty brief in goodness: but grace, being the soul of your complexion, should keep the body of it ever fair.” (I like the Duke am very fond and respectful of Isabella.)

Duke: “Virtue is boldness, and goodness never fearful.” (The base of courage.)

Duke: “Love talks with better knowledge, and knowledge with dearer love.”

Duke: “No might nor greatness in mortality can censure ‘scape; back-wounding calumny the whitest virtue strikes. What king so strong can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue?”(Not everyone’s going to say nice things about us, even if we don’t deserve them.)

Duke:None, but that there is so great a fever on goodness, that the dissolution of it must cure it: novelty is only in request; and it is as dangerous to be aged in any kind of course as it is virtuous to be constant in any undertaking. There is scarce truth enough alive to make societies secure; but security enough to make fellowships accurst: much upon this riddle runs the wisdom of the world. This news is old enough, yet it is every day’s news.” (I’m still thinking about this one.)

Escalus: “…Rejoicing to see another merry, than merry at anything which professed to make him rejoice…” (Taking joy in others’ joy.)

Duke: “Twice treble shame on Angelo, to weed my vice and let his grow! O, what man man within him hide, though angel on the outward side!” (Necessity to overcome weakness or become something worse inside. I think of Judas or Benedict Arnold when I read this—letting weakness grow till it consumes and destroys the man or woman.)

Duke: “…Music oft hath such a charm to make bad good and good provoke to harm.” (The power of music to do and promote good and also evil.)

Duke: “The vaporous night approaches.”

Isabella: “…It is ten times true; for truth is truth to the end of reckoning.”

Duke: “…Life is better life, past fearing death…”

Duke: “What’s mine is yours, and what is yours is mine…”

Next Up (if you’re reading along): Much Ado About Nothing

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