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A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 3

Andrea Lewis | Wednesday August 03, 2011



Guide Navigation

  1. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 1 + Scheme of Work
  2. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 2
  3. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 3
  4. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 4
  5. A Guide to Measure for Measure | Act 5

A problematic section of the play in some ways where the themes are much closer to tragedy than comedy.

Scene 1

Contrast between Isabella’s expectations about her brother’s attitudes and the reality of prison and the fear of death!

Duke as Friar presents Claudio with the traditional Christian ‘consolation’ about death (a literature genre of the Renaissance AO4) which Claudio initially accepts with fortitude. However, Isabella’s hint that there could be a way of escape prompts Claudio’s vivid and emotional expression of his fears in lines 117-131 in language which is much more powerful than the Friar’s words.

Lines 132-135

‘Sweet sister, let me live
What sin you do to save a brother’s life,
Nature dispenses with the deed so far
That it becomes a virtue.’

The words echo Isabella’s own earlier argument to Angelo but now that the theory represents a real physical terror for her, they provoke an outburst of anger and venom:

‘Die, perish! Might but my bending down
Reprieve thee from thy fate, it should proceed.
I’ll pray a thousand prayers for thy death
No word to save thee.’

The Duke intervenes, telling Claudio that Angelo is only testing Isabella and then sharing with Isabella a plot/trick which will (supposedly!) solve everything.

The plot:


  • Introduction of Mariana, once the fiancée of Angelo and previously rejected by him for lack of a sufficient dowry, but a woman who still loves him.


  • The bed-trick, the substitution of Mariana for Isabella at the assignation planned by Angelo. This is a common comic device in the drama of the time (AO4) but hard to take for 21st century audiences especially when the suggestion comes from a Friar!

At this point, students...

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