Measure for Measure | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. "Measure for Measure Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Feb. 2018. Web. 16 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Measure-for-Measure/>.

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Course Hero. (2018, February 13). Measure for Measure Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Measure-for-Measure/

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Course Hero. "Measure for Measure Study Guide." February 13, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Measure-for-Measure/.

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Course Hero, "Measure for Measure Study Guide," February 13, 2018, accessed July 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Measure-for-Measure/.

Measure for Measure | Act 1, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

At his palace in Vienna, the Duke holds court with a group of noblemen and high-ranking officials, including his right-hand man Angelo and the judge Escalus. Announcing his plan to depart the city for a time, he hands Angelo and Escalus papers containing their "commissions" (duties) during his absence. Angelo, the Duke decrees, will rule Vienna in his place, and Escalus will be his second-in-command. Escalus agrees "if any in Vienna be of worth / To undergo such ample grace and honor, / It is Lord Angelo." At first Angelo declines the honor, but the Duke won't take no for an answer. Moreover he insists on leaving the city at once without a big sending-off party. As he exits the stage, Angelo and Escalus mull over the Duke's instructions.

Analysis

The Duke's sudden departure clearly ruffles some feathers among his courtiers. Both Angelo and Escalus seem taken aback by his decision to leave, although neither likely suspects the purpose of his absence. Escalus's humility in endorsing the Duke's decision is consistent with later scenes, where he will plead with Angelo but never quarrel with him or attempt to overrule him. In giving Angelo the final say, Escalus is complying exactly with the Duke's instructions.

Angelo, on the other hand, is harder to read, leaving more room for the actor's interpretation. Traditionally critics have seen Angelo's protestations of unworthiness, or at least "some more test made of my mettle," as false modesty. He may say he is not ready for so "great" a job as that of interim Duke, and he may even in part believe this. Yet he settles into the role very comfortably and by the next scene has begun a thorough overhaul of the Viennese criminal justice system.

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