Shakespeare Uncovered (2012–…): Season 3, Episode 3 - Measure for Measure With Romola Garai - full transcript

Shakespeare shows us the brutal implications of high moral principles on both sides in this dark and complex comedy. Romola Garai examines this truly relevant tale of harassment and the abuse of male power.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -

- The Oscar winning
Hollywood film Producer

Harvey Weinstein...

- The growing list of women

accusing him of sexual
harassment, a man who...

- He was all over me,
making sexual advances.

I told him no...

- powerful men
abusing their positions...

- Did the women feel
they could speak up?

Did they feel that anybody
would believe them?

- He did what he did because
he knew he'd get away with it.

- You can't open a paper
today without hearing about men

using their positions of power
to sexually assault women.

We know it's not a new story,

but you might be surprised
to learn that Shakespeare

wrote a play about
this very subject

over 400 years ago.

And I think it's the
best play he ever wrote.

That play is called
"Measure for Measure."

It's known as a problem play,

and it's certainly one
of the very last comedies

Shakespeare ever wrote.

- We talk about this
play as a problem play

because it gets very close to
some dark and awful things.

- It's a play about
when women speak up,

men in power don't believe them.

And Shakespeare knew that.

- Did I tell this who
would believe me?

- It's Shakespeare at
his most contemporary.

This is a play for 2018.

- Man, proud man.

Dressed in a little
brief authority.

- The challenge is to do all
of it from great seriousness

to really low, wild,
stupid, funny comedy.

- I will not consent
to die this day!

- I sometimes think
it's Shakespeare's

most underrated play,

and yet it is Shakespeare
at his most powerful.

- Justice, justice,
justice, justice.

- Funding for
"Shakespeare Uncovered"

was provided by...

The Joseph & Robert
Cornell Memorial Foundation...

The National Endowment
for the Humanities...

Exploring the human endeavor...

The Polonsky Foundation,

Dana and Virginia Randt,

Elaine & W. Weldon Wilson,

the Lillian Goldman
Programming Endowment,

the LuEsther T.
Mertz Charitable Trust,

Jody and John Arnhold,

and by contributions
to your PBS station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.

- Judge not that
he be not judged.

For with what judgment
ye judge, ye shall be judged,

and with what measure ye meet,

it shall be measured
to you again.

Measure for measure.

Those words are taken from
the Sermon on The Mount.

It's where Jesus
talks about hypocrisy,

and it's where
Shakespeare found the title

for his most explicit work
about power, morality,

sex, and religion.

"Measure for Measure"
was written around the time

Queen Elizabeth I died

and a new king
came to the throne.

It was a time of political
and social uncertainty.

At the beginning of the play,
Shakespeare gives us a world

on the brink of moral collapse.

There's a sense
that anything goes.

To ensure that the
new king, James I,

wouldn't think the
play was about him,

Shakespeare set
it in a foreign city.

- Ostensibly, this is
a play set in Vienna.

But, of course, it isn't at all.

It's a play set in
Shakespeare's London,

absolutely the sort of world

that Shakespeare's audience
would have recognized.

- Wherever it may be,

Shakespeare's city is ruled
by a Duke... Vincentio...

And he has allowed
Christian values

and moral standards to lapse.

- We have strict statutes
and most biting laws

which, for this 14
years, we have let slip.

- So the Duke decides
to leave the city,

and to re-establish
the rule of law

he appoints a deputy,
the puritanical Angelo.

- Angelo, there is a kind
of character in my life

that, to the observer,
doth by history fully unfold.

- Angelo's first
decree is a clampdown

on brothels and bawdy houses.

But has the Duke chosen
the right man to impose

strict, religious controls
on sexual behavior

that he himself hadn't
been able to enforce?

The Duke doesn't seem
entirely convinced of his decision

to appoint Angelo,

so he decides to stick around
in disguise to see what happens.

- And to behold his sway,

I will, as t'were a
brother of your order,

visit both prince and people.

Therefore, I prithee, supply
me with the habit and instruct me

how I may formally in
person bear like a true friar.

- As a friar, he can go anywhere.
He can access all areas.

- Hence shall we see if
power change purpose.

What our seemers be.

- The Duke will spend
most of the rest of the play

as the Friar,

on the streets
and in the prison,

observing the dramatic
fallout of his decision.

Dukes? Friars? Bawdy houses?

At first glance, it's surprising
that "Measure for Measure"

should seem so contemporary.

But three fundamental
elements in society

haven't changed so much
since Shakespeare's time...

Sex, power, and men.

- When I think of
"Measure for Measure,"

I always think of the fact

that Shakespeare's Globe
on the Southbank of London,

one side of it, you have

the Bishop of
Winchester's Palace.

You have a prison in the
grounds of that palace,

you're right next to a church,
what is now Southwark Cathedral,

and then
surrounding all of that,

you have endless
brothels and inns

and all sorts of dirty
and dodgy places

that you wouldn't
be seen dead in.

Shakespeare is writing
that world into the play.

That is what "Measure
For Measure" is about.

- At the opposite end
of the social scale,

Angelo's moral crusade

will have a big impact upon
the play's comic characters.

The brothel keeper,
Mistress Overdone,

and her Bawd or Pimp,
called Pompey Bum.

- You've not heard the
proclamation, have you?

- What proclamation, man?

- All houses in the suburbs of
Vienna must be plugged out.

- Or what?

Here's a change indeed
in the Commonwealth.

What shall become of me?

- What do you feel about
Shakespeare's attitude

to the kind of sexual
morals of the time?

- Yeah, I mean,
he's... he's operating

in a time, as we've said,
where prostitutes are visible.

They're clearly trying to
crack down on prostitution,

but at the same
time, yeah, I mean,

Shakespeare's plays
themselves are pretty bawdy.

And actually here,
I've got something...

The luxurious sonnets
written by Aratino.

They were actually
banned by the Vatican.

They are fairly
outrageous sonnets

that accompany some
quite outrageous drawings,

and these were.

- We're now looking at
a pornographic drawing.

We are basically, yeah.

- So these are...
And we know that

a copy of this was published
in London at around the time

Shakespeare was writing
"Measure for Measure,"

and, in fact,
Shakespeare mentions

the artist of these drawings
in the "Winter's Tale."

I mean, it's like
any time, isn't it?

People are always going to
be looking at pornography,

sometimes when they're
not supposed to be,

and how are you going
to legislate for that?

And I suppose that's
partly what happens

at the beginning of the play.

That's partly what the
Duke is doing is saying,

"I can't... I can't
manage all this.

I can't cope with all this,
so I'm going to go away,

and I'm going to put
someone in my place

who is going to
sort all this out."

That's really what's
at the heart, I suppose,

of "Measure for
Measure," isn't it, really?

- How difficult it is

for the law to control
this kind of behavior

becomes very clear

when Pompey the Pimp is
interrogated by Angelo's men.

- How would you live,
Pompey, by being a bored?

What do you think
of the trade, Pompey?

Is it a lawful trade?

- If the law
would allow it, sir.

- But the law will
not allow it, Pompey,

nor it shall not be
allowed in Vienna.

- Does your worship
intend to geld and splay

all the youth of this city?

- No, Pompey.

- Truly, sir, in my poor
opinion, they will to't then.

- Although they are
comic, these characters

don't carry the main
dramatic plot of the play.

That is much more
serious and much darker.

- And this play also
has a chameleon quality.

It seems to relate to
and comment upon

any period in which
it is performed.

This production
from the BBC in 1994

clearly sets out to explore
the modern parallels.

But however you play it,
it will be the the decisions

of the Duke's deputy Angelo

and his moral crusade
on all levels of society

that will drive the
action of the play.

- Claudio!

- The first respectable victim

of Angelo's moral
rearmament campaign

is a young man called Claudio.

Claudio's arrested for
having sex before marriage

and for making his
fiancée pregnant.

And under the new regime,
that's now a capital offense,

and Claudio's
condemned to death.

The idea of the death penalty

for the crime of making
your girlfriend pregnant

seems excessive,

but the shame and
embarrassment of Claudio's situation

is mirrored by one aspect
of Shakespeare's own life.

This is the house in
Stratford upon Avon

where William
Shakespeare was born

and where he
lived with his family.

I am coming here
with Paul Edmondson

from the Shakespeare
Birthplace Trust.

- Right, so going upstairs

to see some of
the other bedrooms.

- In 1582, the teenage
William Shakespeare's life

changed out of all recognition

when he had to tell his
parents that, just like Claudio,

he had made his
girlfriend pregnant.

- He and Anne Hathaway
would have to get married,

and they would need to live
here with the rest of the family.

- Do you have a sense

of how Shakespeare's
marriage impact

on his family relationships,

how that marriage
effected his family?

- Shakespeare was only 18.
Anne was probably about 26.

It was a very odd setup

to have so young a bridegroom
in Stratford Upon Avon.

His father would have
been acutely aware of this,

John Shakespeare...
Very respectable...

And there is his
son, his pride and joy,

his eldest, carrying
the family name,

making a mess of things.

- How do you feel that
relating his work to his life,

particularly with this play,

how do you feel that
"Measure for Measure"

corresponds with
events from his own life?

- Obviously, Shakespeare's
using a source story,

so he's adapting it.

But every writer

can't keep themselves
out of the work, surely,

and there is a sense in
which Shakespeare is Claudio.

He's writing very closely
about a young man

who finds himself
in a predicament

which was not very
dissimilar to his own in 1582.

- Shakespeare did
marry Anne Hathaway,

and Claudio could have
married his girlfriend Juliet,

but under the harsh new
regime, he is facing execution.

But Claudio has
a sister, Isabella,

who is about to become a nun,

so he begs his friend
Lucio to go to her

and get her to plead
with Angelo for his life.

- This day, my sister
should the cloister enter

and there receive
her approbation.

Acquaint her with
the danger of my state,

implore her in my voice

that she make friends
to the strict deputy.

Bid her assay him.

I have great hope in
that, for in her youth...

- From the very first
time we hear of her,

Claudio's sister is clearly
an intelligent woman

who can play with reason.

- Beside, she hath
a prosperous art

when she will play with
reason and discourse,

and well she can persuade.

- It's a very
interesting decision

to make the heroine a nun.

She comes from a society
where people are promiscuous,

the world of the play
is very sexually active,

and there's a sense that
she is entering a nunnery

because she's
looking for something

that contemporary
society cannot give her.

And here, we've got someone
who is utterly principled,

maybe rather
extremist in her views.

She's looking for discipline,
she's looking for rules,

she's looking for boundaries.

- Fascinatingly, Shakespeare
may in fact never have seen a nun.

All the monasteries and convents
in England had been abolished

by Henry VIII 60 years
before this play was written.

These are the remains
of a priory just a few miles

from Shakespeare's
Stratford home.

But among the ruins, the
priory church is still standing.

And inside the church,
there's a possible clue

to the origin of Shakespeare's
character Isabella.

This, they say, is an image

of the woman who was
prioress here in 1507.

Her name was
Isabella Shakespeare.

They say that
Isabella Shakespeare

was Shakespeare's great aunt,

and whether this is true or
not, he must have heard of her.

And when he chose to
make his character a nun,

maybe that's where he got
the idea of her name from.

A few years ago,
I played Isabella

in a production at the
Young Vic in London.

I did lots of
research for the role

and met lots of nuns,

and I came to the conclusion

that even though it
seems to our eyes

that she makes an
extraordinary decision

to shut herself
away from the world,

actually, what
she's shutting off

are a lot of decisions
that appear to be choices,

but actually, for women at
the time, weren't choices.

Marriage was often not a choice.

It was something that
was imposed on you.

And then if you had children,

of course, your
life would become

one completely
limited to the domestic.

The life of a nun could be
one, yes, of relative isolation,

but also a connection

to the cerebral, to the
spiritual, to yourself.

Isabella is defiant,
she's intelligent,

but also, more than anything,
she's entirely her own woman.

In Shakespeare's
imagined Vienna,

Claudio's friend Lucio is
on his way to the nunnery

to find Isabella,

tell her of her
brother's plight,

and to beg her to appeal
to the Duke's deputy Angelo

on her brother's behalf.

- Peace and prosperity.
Who is't that calls?

- Hail, virgin, if you be.

Can you so stead me as
bring me to the sight of Isabella,

a novice of this place,

and the fair sister to her
unhappy brother Claudio?

- Why "her unhappy brother"?

Let me ask, the rather for
I now must make you know

I am that Isabella
and his sister.

- Gentle and fair, your
brother kindly greets you.

Not to be weary with
you, he's in prison.

- It seems an entirely
reasonable request...

Brother asks sister to help him,

he's got himself into
a bit of a predicament,

needs sister to bail him out.

That's what siblings do.

On the other hand,
it's the start of a pattern

that we will see
again in the play

in which male characters
use Isabella for their own ends.

- Isabella does agree to
leave the safety of the convent

and go to Angelo to
plead for her brother's life.

- When Isabella goes to
meet Angelo for the first time,

we've got two
strong characters...

We've got a woman
who has decided

to commit her life to God,

and we've got a man
who has committed himself

to upholding the laws of Vienna.

And what happens next is
really the heart of this play.

- What's your will?

- I'm a woeful
suitor to Your Honor.

Please but Your Honor hear me.

- Well, what's your suit?

- When I played
Isabella in 2015,

the puritanical Angelo
was played by Paul Ready.

- I think he hasn't really
got time for this meeting.

I think he would rather
not have the meeting at all.

And then I think he would
rather not be alone with a woman.

- It did feel like there's a
real fear of her in Angelo.

Is that something
that you recognize?

Does that feel right to you?

- There's so much that
Angelo has repressed,

and one of the big things
he's repressed is his sexuality.

And then he's faced
with this incredible woman

that opens up something in him
that he does not want opened up,

and I think that's
where the misogyny is.

As you say, it's like it's fear,

it's fear that something
will be opened up in you

and fear that you will be
powerless in the face of it.

- Isabella's brother
is the first major victim

of Angelo's clampdown,

so the confrontation
between these two characters,

Angelo and Isabella, is crucial.

Every production will depend

on how these intense
scenes are performed.

At Shakespeare's Globe theater

on the banks of the
River Thames in London,

actors are working
on Act II Scene 2...

Their first meeting.

- So this is the first
time that they've met,

All that, really, you
need to think about

is that you need
to get this business

kind of sorted
and out of the way.

You don't want to see
this person more than once,

and you cannot leave without
having succeeded at your task.

- Isabella is as much of
an extremist as Angelo.

She believes in the
importance of chastity.

- There is a vice
that most I do abhor,

and most desire should
meet the blow of justice.

- So she's got a
difficult position

at the start of the argument

because she agrees with Angelo

that Claudio has
committed a crime.

- Must he needs die?

- Maiden, no remedy.

- Man, proud man, dressed
with a little brief authority.

Is that to him?
- Why do you ask is it to him?

- I wondered if she
was talking about him,

trying to work him
out with the audience.

- Yeah.
- Saying, "What a proud man."

- It's an interesting bit
because your instinct

is almost, "This
is really cheeky.

This is very forward

and out of how I am entitled
to speak," would you say?

- Oh, yeah. I sort of thought
maybe she'd argued a lot

with her family and
had always won.

- So I guess, yeah,
so this... By this point,

she's actually come
into her flow in a way,

kind of, "I'm gonna,
just gonna go."

- Yeah, "And I'm
gonna change his mind

'cause I'm good at this."
- ""Cause I know I can."

- Really, you need to look
at this almost line by line.

It's like a great
trial in many ways.

They are like two lawyers

arguing their case
with each other.

- Must he needs die?
- Maiden, no remedy.

- I do think that you
might pardon him,

and neither heaven nor
man grieve at the mercy.

- I will not do it.

- But can you? If you would.

- The extraordinary
thing about Isabella

is she's a young woman,
and yet, she challenges him.

"Could you pardon
him," she says.

"Do you have the
power to do it?"

It's as if she's daring him.

- Look, what I will
not, that I cannot do.

- But might you do it
and do the world no wrong

if so your heart were touched

with that remorse
as mine is to him?

- Angelo and Isabella
are each other's equals

in their power of
forensic rhetoric,

their power of argument.

- Be you content, fair maid.

Is it the law, not I,
condemn your brother.

Were he my kinsman,
brother, or my son,

it should be thus with him.

He must die tomorrow.

- There's a real sense in
which he has got an answer

to everything that she has,

and she just has to keep
finding these new arguments.

- Yet show some pity.

- I show it most of all
when I show justice,

for then I pity
those I do not know.

Your brother dies
tomorrow. Be content.

- So you must be the first
that gives this sentence

and he that suffers.

Oh, it is excellent to
have a giant's strength,

but it is tyrannous
to use it like a giant.

Man, proud man,

dressed in a little
brief authority,

most ignorant of what
he's most assured.

- I think the audience
looks at Isabella

and thinks "How
dazzling is this person,

her ability to argue?"

She is one of the great
arguers in Shakespeare's plays.

- It's at this point,

with Isabella's
provocative challenge,

that something starts
to change in Angelo.

- At that moment,

Angelo is beginning to realize

that the combination of
Isabella's youthful beauty,

her unattainability,

the fact that she's
going to be a nun,

and her great power of
speech and eloquence

has really attracted him.

- Go to your bosom, knock there,

and ask your heart
what it doth know

that's like my brothers fault.

If it confess a natural
guiltiness such as is his,

let it not sound a
thought upon your tongue

against my brother's life.

- All of a sudden,

there is a sexual
charge in the room.

- She speaks, and 'tis such
sense that my sense breeds with it.

Fare you well.

- Gentle my lord, turn back.

- I will bethink me.

Come again tomorrow.

- The scene will end
with Angelo's soliloquy

about how much
Isabella has disturbed him.

- What's this, what's this?
Is this her fault or mine?

- As a peace of writing,
it's a great speech

to play with the audience.

And then you ask yourself,

"Why is he speaking
to the audience?

What's he using them for?"

And he's trying
to justify himself.

- And do you think
that that moment,

he has a formation of a plan?

Do you think he...
You know, it's so hard...

- Well, I think there's
choices to be made.

I think it maybe
should be a surprise

how far he goes and how
much he lets himself down

and how disgusting he becomes.

- What's this, what's this?

Is this her fault or mine?

- It's an extraordinary

because he starts
by questioning,

"Is it her fault or mine?"

as though basically, he'd
like to make it her fault.

- The tempter or the
tempted, who sins most?

- Everything about the encounter

between Isabella and
Angelo is new to Angelo.

- What dost thou, or
what art thou, Angelo?

- He is knocked sideways,
and he's gasping for breath.

- Dost thou desire her foully

for those things
that make her good?

- He's aroused by her, and why?

Well, possibly because

he's never been
challenged before,

and certainly not by a woman,
but also, he can't have her.

- What, do I love her?

That I desire to
hear her speak again.

- He is confronting
himself as a sexual being,

which perhaps he has repressed.

- This virtuous maid
subdues me quite.

- In a way, Isabella's
enjoyed a partial success.

She's been asked to come back.

And that means Claudio won't
be executed in the morning.

But she has no idea what
lies in store for her next.

- How now. Who's there?

- So far, Angelo has acted
as a man of devout principle.

- I am come to
know your pleasure.

- But in this next
dramatic and violent scene,

Shakespeare will
expose what happens

when lust corrupts power.

- Your brother cannot live.

- Even so. Heaven
keep your honor.

- Yet he may live awhile,

and it may be as
long as you or I.

- Angelo proposes a
theoretical hypothesis...

"Which would you rather?"

- Which had you rather,

that the most just law

now took your brother's life,

or to redeem him,
give up your body

to such sweet uncleanness
as she that he hath stained?

- He's playing with her,
asking her these questions -

"Well, which would you rather?

Which would you rather,
that your brother died,

or that you gave up your body?"

- Sir, believe this, I had rather
give my body than my soul.

- I talk not of your soul.

- How say you?

- Isabella seems to not pick
up on what Angelo is suggesting.

I think that's because she's so
focused on saving her brother.

But also, Angelo is so
consumed with shame

that he expresses himself
in a very convoluted way.

- The interesting
thing about the scene is

that Angelo's sort of evasion,

his quite long route round
to the point, of course,

and her ignorance of
quite what he means

and where he is going.

Absolute, I think, absolute
blind ignorance, would you say,

until it drops.

When the penny drops, it drops,

and until then, there's
no rattling of the penny.

- Yeah, we tried in rehearsals
lots of different points

at which she understands
what he means.

We tried one point where
she gets it very early on.

In the end, we ended up with
her not getting it till very late.

- From Angelo's point of view,

there is a terrible
inner turmoil.

His angel self,
his angelic self,

is fighting with
his sensual self,

his bodily desires.

- To be received plain
I'll speak more gross...

Your brother is to die.

- So...

- That you, his sister,

finding yourself
desired of such a person,

whose credit with the
judge or own great place

could fetch your brother

from the manacles
of the all-binding law,

and that there were no
other earthly mean to save him

but that either
you must lay down

the treasures of your
body to this supposed

or else to let him suffer.

What would you do?

- As much for my
poor brother as myself,

that is, what I, under
the terms of death,

the impression of keen
whips I'ld wear as rubies

and strip myself to death

as to a bed that longing
have been sick for,

ere I'll yield my
body up to shame.

- Then must your brother die.

- And 'twere the cheaper way.

Better it were a
brother died at once

than that a sister,
by redeeming him,

should die forever.

- Were not you then as cruel

as the sentence that
you have slandered so?

- I have no tongue but one.

Gentle, my lord, let me entreat
you speak the former language.

- Plainly conceive.

I love you.

- My brother did love Juliet,

and you tell me
that he shall die for it.

- This, for Isabella,

is the moment when
everything changes.

Angelo's admission that he
wants her sexually is shocking.

But Isabella quickly realizes

that this could give her
ammunition to fight back.

- I will proclaim thee,
Angelo, look to it!

Sign me a present
pardon for my brother,

or with an outstretched throat,

I'll tell the word aloud
what man thou art.

- Angelo responds with, I think,

the most chilling
line in the play...

"Who will believe thee, Isabel?"

- Who will believe thee, Isabel?

- "Who will believe thee, Isabel"
could have been written in 2018.

- Who will believe thee, Isabel?

- It's one of the most
chilling moments in the play

where he turns round and says,
"Who will believe thee, Isabel?"

Because suddenly, as
someone watching that scene,

you think, "Yeah,
actually, who will?"

- Who will believe thee, Isabel?

- It pops out of the page
when you read the text,

it rings in your ears
when you watch the play,

it goes like a dagger
through your heart

when you perform in it

because it's an eternal line.

You know, Shakespeare
was a great poet,

but sometimes, you
know, his greatest writing

is in its absolute simplicity.

- Who will believe thee, Isabel?

My unsoiled name, the
austereness of my life,

my vouch against you,
my place in the state

will so your
accusation overweigh

that you shall stifle
in your own report

and smell of calumny.

- After that, Angelo lets rip.

He says, "Now, I will give
my sensual race the rein."

He comes very, very close

to raping her in
many productions.

- And now I give my
sensual race the rein.

- Fit thy consent to
my sharp appetite.

Redeem thy brother by
yielding up thy body to my will...

or else he must not
only die the death,

but thy unkindness
shall his death draw out

to lingering sufferance!

- Ohh!

To whom should I complain?

Did I tell this, who
would believe me?

Then, Isabel, lived
chaste, and brother die.

More than our
brother is our chastity.

- "More than our
brother is our chastity."

I think that's one
of the trickiest lines

for an actor playing Isabella.

- More than our
brother is our chastity.

- And as a modern
audience member,

it's something that many of
us find quite difficult to grasp,

that actually, her devotion
to God and her chastity

is more important
than her brother's life.

- More than our
brother is our chastity.

- And yet, the moment you
think, "Go on, come on, come on.

You know, stop being
so self-centered,"

you realize that what
you're actually saying is,

"Oh, go on. Go on.

Allow yourself to be
raped by this corrupt man."

Which, of course, is an
incredibly disturbing thought.

- Isabella is determined
to save her soul.

But in doing so, she will be
condemning Claudio to death.

And now she must tell him that.

So, Isabella has to go to
the prison to visit her brother.

Coming from one
horrible experience

to another horrible experience.

When the provost escorts
Isabella through the prison,

she discovers that Claudio
already has a visitor.

- Look, signior,
here's your sister.

- The duke, in his
disguise as a friar,

is in her brother's cell,

offering comfort to
the condemned man.

- Provost, a word with you.

- This is the first time

the duke has set
eyes on Isabella.

- Bring me to hear them speak
where I may be concealed.

- So the Duke will
actually be listening in

to the private and
painful conversation

between Isabella and Claudio,

and it affects him.

- This woman of
virtue and of innocence

comes through the door.

I think the duke
sees in that moment

that there is a
potential in Isabella

that somehow has to
influence the world he's in

and somehow has to
transform the world he's in.

- But at this stage of the
play, Isabella is only concerned

with her own impossible dilemma.

- If I would yield
him my virginity,

thou mightst be freed.


It cannot be.
- Yes.

He would give it thee
from this rank offense,

so to offend him still.

This night's the time

that I should do the
thing I abhor to name,

or else thou diest tomorrow.

- Thou shalt not do it.

- O, were it but my
life, I'ld throw it down

for your deliverance
as frankly as a pin.

- Thanks, dear Isabel.

- Be ready, Claudio,
for your death tomorrow.

- Yes.

- First, Claudio is
horrified with this idea...

You know, the idea of
his sister selling her body,

basically, to save
him appalls him.

"Why would you do that?"

And then he starts to think,

"Well, wait a sec.
I'm about to die.

I'm about to be executed

for something that I
don't even think is a crime.

And is it so bad,
one night only?"

And he says that to her.

- Oh, Isabel!

- What says my brother?

- Death is a fearful thing.

- And shamed life, a hateful.

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

To lie in cold
obstruction and to rot.

- Alas, alas!

- 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.

- O, you beast.

O, faceless coward,
o, dishonest retch.

Wilt thou be made a
man out of my vice?

Is't not a kind of incest

to take life from thine
own sister's shame?

- After her terrible
confrontation with her brother,

Isabella doesn't
know what to do.

And it's now that
she meets the duke.

Having been eavesdropping
on their conversation,

the duke as friar now knows
what his deputy has done

and the awful situation
that Isabella is in.

He proposes a plan.

- Fasten your ear
on my advising.

A remedy presents itself.

Have you not heard of Mariana?

She should this
Angelo have married.

- As it happens,

Angelo has an
ex-fiancée, Mariana,

and so the ex-fiancée
could sleep with Angelo,

but Angelo could think
he's sleeping with Isabella,

so we'll just switch
the female body.

- Go you to Angelo,

answer his requiring with
a plausible obedience...

Agree with his demands.

We shall advise
this wronged maid

to go in your place.

If the encounter
acknowledge itself hereafter,

it may compel him
to your recompense.

And here, by this, is
your brother saved,

your honor untainted,

the poor Mariana advantaged,

and the corrupt deputy scaled.

- It might work,

but the plan would still be
a huge moral compromise

for Isabella.

She will have to
persuade another woman

to commit the sin of
fornication on her behalf.

But the Duke is sure
Isabella will agree to the plan.

She is a novice
nun, and she believes

he has the power and
authority of the church.

When Act IV begins,

the whole tone of the
play starts to change.

It's going to become
a knockabout comedy,

albeit a rather dark one.

It begins with the duke,
still in disguise as the friar,

taking Isabella to
Mariana's house.

They are there to recruit
Mariana to take part

in the duke's cunning plan.

- I have not yet made known
to Mariana a word of this.

- If she agrees, the play
can become, almost literally,

a classic bedroom farce.

- With "Measure for Measure,"

sometimes people
steamroll the comedy

or blank out the comedy

or say that it's, you know,

"We've got to rediscover
a new seriousness in this."

The challenge
is to do all of it,

and that means violent
switchbacks of mood and tone.

- Isabella succeeds
in persuading Mariana,

who agrees to go to bed
with Angelo in Isabella's place.

- Welcome. How agreed?

- She'll take the
enterprise upon her, Father,

if you advise it.

- The friar believes
that this ruse will result

in Claudio getting a
pardon from Angelo.

- My lord hath
sent you this note.

- This is his pardon.

- But despite having
slept with Mariana

thinking she was Isabella,

Angelo reneges on the
deal to pardon Claudio.

- "Let Claudio be executed
by four of the clock.

For my better satisfaction,
let me have Claudio's head

sent me by five."

- Angelo's action means
the friar has to think fast.

- Come, let's away!

It is almost close dawn! Aah!

- Fortunately, there
is another prisoner

under sentence of
death... Barnardine.

- Let this Barnardine
be this morning executed

and his head born to Angelo.

- Angelo has seen them
both and will discover the favor.

- Oh!

Death's a great disguiser?

- Pompey the Pimp
has been promoted

to the position of
assistant executioner,

and it's his job...

Master Barnardine.

- to get the prisoner.

- You must rise up

and be hanged.

- Unfortunately,
Barnardine refuses

to be executed
in Claudio's place.

- I will not consent
to die this day!

- Then the jailer reports

the very convenient death of
another prisoner... Ragozine.

- What if we do
omit this reprobate

till he were well inclined

and satisfy the deputy
with the visage of Ragozine,

more like to Claudio?

- Oh!

- Here is the head.
I'll carry it myself.

- So Ragozine's severed
head can be sent to Angelo

instead of Claudio's.

Isabella's brother
has been saved.

And then once all this humor
has reached its absolute peak,

there's another
amazing change of tone.

The duke disguised a friar

returns with a strange
power play of his own.

For when he sees Isabella,
rather than telling her

that he saved
her brother's life,

he tells her that
her brother is dead.

- Hath yet the deputy
sent my brother's pardon?

He hath released him,
Isabel, from the world...

His head is off
and sent to Angelo.

- The duke doesn't
have any rationale,

doesn't give us any
good explanation

for why he is doing this.

It's not something that I
can easily forgive and forget.

- One gets the
sense that the duke

is making the whole
thing up as he goes along,

that he hasn't
actually got a plan.

- Wretched Isabel!

Injurious world!

O, most damned Angelo!

- Mark what I say
and you shall find

by every syllable
a faithful verity...

The duke comes home tomorrow.

Nay, dry your eyes.

- It seems the duke as
friar has learned enough

about the conduct of his deputy.

He will soon be able
to abandon his disguise

and will apparently
return to Vienna.

And so Shakespeare
has set the stage

for the final act of
"Measure for Measure."

- The duke is an
arch improviser.

It's not all completely
arranged in his head.

As I say, he's not some
wicked mastermind.

But it's very
important to the Duke

that everyone
gathers at the end,

that there is a crowd, that
they're in a public space,

that everyone's there
and everyone can play out

their end of the game.

- And the first to make a
move, in this final scene,

is Isabella herself.

- Justice, o royal Duke!

Vail your regard upon a wronged.

Justice, justice,
justice justice.

Relate your wrongs in
what, by whom. Be brief.

Here is Lord Angelo
shall give you justice.

Reveal yourself to him.

- O, worthy prince, you bid
me seek redemption of the devil.

- My lord, her wits, I
fear me, are not firm.

She hath been a suitor
to me for her brother,

cut off by course of justice.
- "By course of justice"?

- And she will speak
most bitterly and strange.

- Angelo makes a calculation

that Isabella has so
much to lose by outing him,

by telling the world
what he's done,

that she will never risk it.

But what he doesn't
account for, of course,

is that Isabella is prepared

to burn herself to
the ground to out him.

- And she will speak
most bitterly and strange.

- Most strange, but yet,
most truly will I speak.

That Angelo's foresworn,
is it not strange?

That Angelo's a
murderer, is it not strange?

That Angelo is an
adulterous thief, a hypocrite,

a virgin violator, is it
not strange and strange?

- Nay, it is 10 times strange.

- The Duke knows full well

that what Isabella
is saying is true.

But he pretends
not to believe her.

- Away with her. Poor soul.

She speaks this in
the infirmity of sense.

- O, worthy prince, I
conjure thee as thou believest

there is another
comfort than this world.

- The duke is a cruel
figure in the play.

There's something extremely
elusive about his motivations.

- An officer! To
prison with her!

- There's a
horrible cruelty to it,

but there is a sense in which
the duke is testing Isabella,

but he's testing everything

and he's testing
all the boundaries

and he's testing himself

and he's running
on his instincts.

And his instincts are that
she can demonstrate to people

a better way of being
and a better way of living,

which is what she
eventually achieves.

- To resolve all
these plot twists,

Shakespeare now brings
more characters into the scene

to give evidence.

- First, let her show her
face and, after, speak.

- So now we get a
kaleidoscope of truths

emerging thick and fast,

all of which show that Isabella
had been speaking the truth.

- And finally, the
duke is revealed

to have been
the friar all along,

and it's suddenly
clear to everyone

that he has seen
and heard everything.

He then delivers
his verdict on Angelo

in the speech which
contains the title of the play.

- The very mercy of the
law cries out most audible,

even in his proper tongue,

"An Angelo for Claudio,
death for death!"

- Haste still pays haste,
leisure answers leisure.

- Like doth quit like,

and measure still for measure.

- Angelo then gets
condemned to death,

and Mariana, his
girlfriend, fiancée,

now technically his wife
because she had sex with him,

says, "Well, actually,
please don't kill him."

- Gentle, my liege.

- You do but lose your
labor. Away with him to death.

And now, sir, to you.

- O, my dear lord.

Sweet Isabel, take my part.

- She then turns
to Isabella for help

just as Isabella had previously
turned to Mariana for help.

- Isabel, sweet Isabel,
do yet but kneel by me.

- This is one of the most
astonishing moments in the play.

- Most bounteous sir.

Look, if it please you
on this man condemned

as if my brother lived...

- Of course, Isabella has
already had the opportunity

to show her
intellectual dexterity

and wit and verbal prowess
at pleading for someone's life.

But now, she has
to put those skills,

that talent, to use

to plead for the life of the
man who tried to rape her.

- I partly think a due
sincerity governed his deeds

till he did look on me.

Since it is so, let him not die.

- It's like Shakespeare
says, you know,

if you truly believe in mercy,

if you truly believe
all the things you said

at the beginning of the play,

then you have to employ them

to the service of this
man that you despise.

And she does.

In her preparedness
to plead for Angelo's life,

Isabella is revealed
to be almost saintly.

Her reward, finally,

is to discover that her
brother Claudio is, in fact, alive.

But the reward has a price.

Because just as Angelo
had abused his authority

to manipulate Isabella
for his own ends,

so, too, it seems, has the Duke.

- For his sake is he pardoned,

and for your lovely sake,

give me your hand and
say you will be mine.


It's just astonishing.

Shakespeare must have
been so happy with this play

'cause it's so brilliant.

I love that it takes you

all the way back
in a perfect loop

to her introduction
as a character

when she knows that to
become a human woman

is dangerous for her.

And once again,
you see that happen

in the duke wanting
to marry her,

which can only... I mean,
it's done in different ways,

but I think can only really be
done with any truth or honesty

with Isabella being
utterly horrified

by that prospect.

- Shakespeare does not
give her any lines in response,

and that silence speaks volumes.

It leaves everything open.

- Fitter time for that.

- She can do absolutely
nothing so that we have no idea

whether she's
going to accept or not

or she can make it quite clear

that there is no way
she's going to marry

a man who's just
behaved like that.

- In the awkward moments

that follow the duke's
stunning proposal to Isabella,

Shakespeare does fulfill
the obligations of a comedy

by lining up other marriages,

but none of them are
entirely comfortable.

Claudio can marry Juliet.

- Go take her hence,
and marry her instantly.

- Angelo must formalize
his marriage to Mariana.

- Do not marry me to a whore.

- And Claudio's friend Lucio
is forced to marry a prostitute.

- It is a comedy.
That's what we're told.

And what's a comedy in
Shakespearean terms?

It means that nobody dies,

and probably there's
a wedding at the end.

- I mean, in a sense,
this is Shakespeare

kissing comedy goodbye.

This has got to
be a kind of parody

of the happy, multiple
marriages of comedy.

- And the duke and Isabella...

- Dear Isabel.

- well, in the very
last lines of the play...

- I have a motion
much imports your good.

- he does propose again.

- Whereto if you'll
a willing ear incline,

what's mine is yours,
and what is yours is mine.

- But again,
Shakespeare's Isabella

does not reply.

That's what makes the play
seem so true in the modern world.

No reply is probably
the only possible reply.

- It's a play that deals

with very big social
and sexual problems,

problems about authority,

and it locates the
problems in this play in men.

- "Measure for Measure" is known

as the first of the
problem comedies,

which seems very apt

because the play is a
problem as life is a problem.

For me, it's a play
about how people's

individual rights
conflict with each other.

It's naughty, it's difficult,
there are no easy answers,

but it's a masterpiece,
and it is unbelievable

that it was written
400 years ago

when it's as true
today as it was then.

I think it's the best
play he ever wrote.

- Funding for
"Shakespeare Uncovered"

was provided by...

The Joseph & Robert
Cornell Memorial Foundation...

The National Endowment
for the Humanities...

Exploring the human endeavor...

The Polonsky Foundation,

Dana and Virginia Randt,

Elaine & W. Weldon Wilson,

the Lillian Goldman
Programming Endowment,

the LuEsther T.
Mertz Charitable Trust,

Jody and John Arnhold,

and by contributions
to your PBS station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.