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Measure for Measure

No ceremony that to great ones 'longs,
Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword,
The marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe,
Become them with one half so good a grace
As mercy does.
-Isabella, Lady of Vienna


Location and logistics

We'll meet at the Ballard Branch of Seattle Public Library at[masked]nd Ave NW, in the meeting room. (This event is not sponsored by the Seattle Public Library.)

See here for directions: http://www.spl.org/locations/ballard-branch/bal-getting-to-the-branch . Metro buses 17, 18, 44, 46, 75 serve this branch, and there is free parking in the underground garage below the library.

Synopsis (spoilers!)

Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, makes it known that he intends to leave the city on a diplomatic mission. He leaves the government in the hands of a strict judge, Angelo.

Claudio, a young nobleman, is betrothed/unofficially married to Juliet. Lacking money, Claudio and Juliet did not observe all the "technicalities". Technically, however, all the formalities for a civil marriage had not been followed. Angelo, as the personification of the law, decides to enforce the ruling that fornication is punishable by death, and since he does not accept the validity of the marriage, Claudio is sentenced to be executed. Claudio's friend, Lucio, visits Claudio's sister, Isabella, a novice nun, and asks her to intercede with Angelo on Claudio's behalf.

Isabella obtains an audience with Angelo, and pleads for mercy for Claudio. Angela lusts after Isabella, and he eventually offers her a deal: he will spare Claudio's life if Isabella yields him her virginity. Isabella refuses, but she also realises that (because of Angelo's austere reputation) she will not be believed if she makes a public accusation against him. Instead, she visits her brother in prison and counsels him to prepare himself for death. Claudio desperately begs Isabella to save his life, but Isabella refuses. As a novice nun, she feels that she cannot sacrifice her own immortal soul (and that of Claudio, if he causes her to lose her virtue) to save Claudio's transient earthly life.

The Duke has not in fact left the city, but remains there disguised as a friar in order to spy on the city's affairs, and especially on the actions of Angelo. In his guise as a friar, he befriends Isabella and arranges two tricks to thwart Angelo's evil intentions:

First, a "bed trick" is arranged. Angelo has previously refused to fulfill the betrothal binding him to Mariana, because her dowry had been lost at sea. Isabella sends word to Angelo that she has decided to submit to him, making it a condition of their meeting that it occurs in perfect darkness and in silence.

 Mariana agrees to take Isabella's place, and she has sex with Angelo, although he continues to believe he has enjoyed Isabella.

Second, after having sex with Mariana (whom he believes is Isabella), Angelo goes back on his word, sending a message to the prison that he wishes to see Claudio's head. The Duke first attempts to arrange the execution of another prisoner whose head can be sent instead of Claudio's. However, the villain Barnardine refuses to be executed in his drunken state. As luck would have it, a pirate named Ragozine, of similar appearance to Claudio, has recently died of a fever, so his head is sent to Angelo instead.

When the Duke officially and openly returns, Isabella and Mariana publicly petition him, and he hears their claims against Angelo, which Angelo smoothly denies, blaming the Friar (actually the Duke!). The Duke leaves Angelo to judge the cause against the Friar, but returns in disguise moments later when the Friar is summoned. Eventually, he reveals himself to be the Duke, thereby exposing Angelo as a liar and Isabella and Mariana as truthful. The Duke proposes that Angelo be executed but first compels him to marry Mariana— with his estate going to Mariana as her new dowry, "to buy you a better husband." Mariana pleads for Angelo's life, even enlisting the aid of Isabella (who is not yet aware her brother Claudio is still living). The Duke pretends not to heed the women's petition, and—only after revealing that Claudio has not, in fact, been executed—relents. The Duke then proposes marriage to Isabella. Isabella does not reply, and her reaction is interpreted differently in different productions: her silent acceptance of his proposal is the most common in performance. This is one of the "open silences" of the play.

A sub-plot concerns Claudio's friend Lucio, who frequently slanders the duke to the friar, and in the last act slanders the friar to the duke, landing Lucio in trouble when it is revealed that the duke and the friar are one and the same. His punishment, like Angelo's, is to be forced into an undesired marriage: in this case with the prostitute Kate Keepdown.

Major Characters:

• Vincentio, Duke of Vienna

• Escalus, Advisor to the Duke of Vienna

• Angelo, Lord Deputy of Vienna

• Claudio, a young gentleman

• Isabella, sister of Claudio

• Lucio, friend to Claudio

Join or login to comment.

  • James A. A.

    Thoroughly enjoyable, especially the discussion.

    March 31, 2014

  • Cole

    Thanks for hosting, Aiden. And Laurie, thanks for tea and snacks, I regret I was in too much of a hurry to stay and discuss the play. Which might well be the best part, or at least as fun as reading it. Excited to see what you all chose for the next play.

    March 30, 2014

  • Tony D.

    Sorry I missed Measure for Measure! I needed the day to recover my voice. I hope that it was a good read.

    March 29, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I have a thing this morning so I'll be a bit late. But should still get there by 1:30

    March 29, 2014

  • Brian G.

    Sorry about this but have a heavy cold. Great play good luck and have fun. Brian

    March 29, 2014

    • Aidan

      And then there were eighteen... I hope everyone feels better soon!

      March 29, 2014

    • Margaret

      Take care of yourself, Brian! We'll miss you! Margaret

      March 29, 2014

  • Aidan

    A request: if you have more than one copy and it's convenient to do so, can you bring it? I have a few Kindles (there are a few advantages to working at Amazon) but nothing beats real paper for play readings.

    March 29, 2014

  • Toni

    Given the crush of readers and the shorter length of this work, I think I'll withdraw.

    March 28, 2014

  • Laurie

    We have missed you, Cassie, so it is good to see you here. Do please change your RSVP if Kimmie cannot come, which is indeed a misfortune if you were counting on a ride. We can only reserve each branch once during a calendar month, and it has been especially competitive for rooms these coming weeks. (SAT study sessions and such.) On April 26 we have to deal with Capitol Hill, which has no parking for those, who drive! We have a number of new folks joining us for this readthrough, so all I can suggest is that you note your local library branch or a nearby cross-street. If anyone lives nearby, he/she can contact you by clicking on your icon. Otherwise the frustration of the bus commute may be compounded by 2838 lines divided by 24 readers, although it will be fun. Hope it works out for you tomorrow!

    March 28, 2014

    • Nancy E.

      Actually, the Capitol Hill branch does have some library parking - it's just that if their garage is full, street parking is hard to come by and costs unless you're farther away.

      March 28, 2014

  • Cassie P.

    Say all, I've not made my mind up yet to actually go to this.. I'd love to but factors may prevent me from coming. (I've even been watching the BBC presentation to prepare)
    I hesitate to come because, being in Ballard is a pain to get to by bus. First time in almost a year I've been member we meet in Ballard? Why all of a sudden there? It's. Not like I never go to Ballard on bus, but having to rely on it going and coming back, especially when now I'm practically broke till Tuesday, it doesn't seem worthwhile. (Seeing all you would be great, if I weren't so strapped at the moment. :)
    The friend I said was coming.. Kimmie, can't make it as well.
    I look forward to the next one.

    March 28, 2014

  • Nancy E.

    Sorry to miss this one (conference out of town) - such an interesting play.

    March 23, 2014

    • Laurie

      As we welcome Aidan to the organization team, this would be a good time to thank Nancy once again for all of her time and attention to our group. Organization includes paying the bills on meetup (~$12/mo), calling libraries to schedule a room, and posting a readthrough note for so many activities. However it need not include writing a detailed synopsis; checking on traffic issues for our chosen date; bringing snacks for those, who may have missed lunch; bringing chairs to the park for people who need them, and coming early to get tables; checking out extra copies of scripts from the library; obtaining and making character charts with line counts, printing and distributing them; etc., etc. Thank-you, Nancy! We will definitely miss you on Saturday. Thank-you, Aidan! Love the photograph! A sneak peek to help attendees consider, which sections they might like to read considering the number of readers and lines available: http://tinyurl.com/ms...­.

      March 27, 2014

  • Toni

    You will be missed, Nancy. As I'm reading the play I keep hearing your voice as Lucio. Who would you have wanted to read?

    March 24, 2014

    • Laurie

      Nancy is at a national conference all week. Interesting how we intuit by voice and character the more we read together. I believe that it was Lucio, whose part Nancy read in 2012. That readthrough of Measure in Volunteer Park is a special memory. I had just returned from another of those visits to Mt. Angel Abbey, which is Benedictine. There I met a young Domincan, who was taking his solemn vows (poverty, chastity, and obedience) within days. There is no question in my mind that the chastity at issue here is Isabela's loving Gift to god - the greatest Gift she has to give. A pox on those commentators!

      1 · March 27, 2014

  • Laurie

    Lots of editors and critics writing negative opinions (esp. regarding Isabela) through the centuries since this “very thrillingly good” (Ricks) and “extraordinary” (Garber) play was written, that it is difficult to find helpful commentary. The following are links to really helpful material to guide discussion, if time allows. Ricks: http://tinyurl.com/mhcne4w. Garber: http://tinyurl.com/kslpxbj. Yoshino: Merchant versus Measure (justice versus mercy)(skip ad): http://tinyurl.com/o6d4yxc. Just discovered his interesting book, A Thousand Times More Fair (check out the reviews): http://tinyurl.com/n35uec5). Available as an ebook at SPL for immediate access. (He is right on regarding Lear)

    March 27, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I know I am new in the group and don't want to usurp anyone's position, but if the role of Isabella is not yet filled, I'd love to read her. I've always identified with her most strongly of the characters.

    March 26, 2014

    • James A. A.

      Aidan, how about a short break after the reading and then a discussion of it if theres interest and time?

      March 26, 2014

    • Aidan

      Sounds fun to me. We have the room until 5:45, so if people have time we can definitely discuss after we're done reading.

      March 26, 2014

  • Roberta M.

    I am definitely a "Beckett Person." I have seen many many productions of his work and am very glad to learn about this. COOL Robert!

    March 25, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    It's not Shakespeare, but this is particularly exciting news to me, and I thought it might be for some of you:
    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/seattle-beckett-festival

    March 25, 2014

  • James A. A.

    Go to...

    March 23, 2014

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