“Measure for Measure” Overview (02:13)
Actor Romala Garai introduces William Shakespeare’s "problem play." Headlines related to today’s sexual harassment and abuse scandals are reminders of how relevant this comedy about males abusing their power remains.
Context and Opening Scenes (03:11)
The title of “Measure for Measure” is a Biblical reference, borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a story about power, morality, sex and religion, written at a time of political and social uncertainty. Garai describes the opening scenes during which we meet Duke Vincentio who goes undercover to investigate his pious deputy, Angelo.
"Measure for Measure": Seedy Side of Town (03:24)
Angelo’s moral crusade has a big impact upon the play’s comic characters: brothel keeper Mistress Overdone and Pompey Bum the pimp. Garai and Shakespeare Institute’s Abigail Rokison-Woodall explore the bawdier side of London, which Shakespeare wrote into the play.
Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway (02:57)
Garai views BBC’s 1994 production of “Measure for Measure,” which spells out modern parallels to Antonio’s moral crusade. Its first victim is Claudio, who is arrested and condemned to death for having premarital sex. Garai visits Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, to revisit an experience that influenced Shakespeare’s writing.
"Measure for Measure": Enter Isabella (05:27)
Claudio decides to recruit his sister, Isabella, who is about to become a nun, to persuade Antonio to spare his life. Garai visits a church near Shakespeare’s in search of Shakespeare’s source material for Isabella, and she recalls playing the character.
"Measure for Measure": Angelo vs. Isabella (07:59)
Garai chats with actor Paul Ready who played Angelo opposite her Isabella in 2015. They discuss Angelo’s repressed desires. Garai also visits Shakespeare’s Globe to deconstruct a pivotal confrontation in the story.
"Measure for Measure": Lust Corrupts Power (08:04)
Angelo suggests that Isabella sleep with him to save her brother, and the nun threatens to reveal this proposal. Maguire, Rokison-Woodall, and others discuss the deputy’s chilling response: “Who will believe thee, Isabel?” They relate it and the subsequent assault to high-profile sex scandals of 2018.
"Measure for Measure": Plan (05:29)
Isabella visits Claudio to deliver the bad news, that she won’t sleep with the deputy and that he will die. Duke Vincentio, dressed in his friar disguise, eavesdrops on the painful conversation. Then he proposes a plan that involves another woman having sex with Angelo on Isabella’s behalf.
"Measure for Measure": Claudio Saved (02:55)
The tone of the play starts to change in the fourth act. Vincentio and Isabella convince Mariana to take part in their plan, but Angelo reneges on his promise of a pardon. Claudio is saved by the execution of another prisoner.
"Measure for Measure": Angelo Outed (04:02)
Vincentio inexplicably lies; telling Isabella her brother is dead. Having shed his disguise, he also pretends not to know the truth when Isabella confronts Angelo publicly. Garai and others discuss the duke’s dubious motives.
"Measure for Measure": Multiple Marriages (06:11)
Isabella’s name is cleared. Angelo is condemned to die, but Isabella joins Mariana in pleading for his life. Claudio is revealed to be alive, and there is a stunning proposal (by today’s standards, at least.)
Shakespeare's Best Play? (01:04)
“Measure for Measure” is known as the first of the problem comedies. Garai says Shakespeare’s play is about how people’s individual rights conflict with one another. “I think it’s the best play he ever wrote,” she says.
Credits: Measure for Measure with Romola Garai (01:02)
Credits: Measure for Measure with Romola Garai
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