Measure for Measure | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. "Measure for Measure Study Guide." February 13, 2018. Accessed July 22, 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 22, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Measure-for-Measure/.

Measure for Measure | Act 2, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

The Duke, disguised as a friar, visits the prison of Vienna. There he speaks with Juliet, who is unafraid to "confess" and "repent" her sin of fornication. The disguised Duke describes the sin as a "most offenseful act" and, under the guise of hearing Juliet's confession, learns of her love for Claudio. He informs her of Claudio's imminent execution, which comes as a terrible shock to Juliet. Then, praying for her, the Duke announces his intention to pay a visit to Claudio's cell.

Analysis

For the first, but not the last, time the disguised Duke engages one of his subjects in a game of psychological cat-and-mouse. Whether or not he has a concrete plan to save Claudio's life, his decision to tell Juliet of her fiancée's impending death reads as a bit of pointless cruelty. Almost as distasteful, though perhaps necessary to his ruse of being a friar, is his insistence on reprimanding Juliet for a sin she has already committed. Episodes like this dampen the audience's sense of the Duke's virtue and the justice of his actions, since he willingly withholds important information from characters merely to test their reactions.

Juliet herself is a minor character, despite the centrality of her pregnancy to the plot. After this scene, she will not appear again until the last hundred lines of the play, where she is amply upstaged by her future sister-in-law, Isabella. This Juliet is, incidentally, not at all related to her much more famous namesake in Romeo and Juliet.
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