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Measure for Measure | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. "Measure for Measure Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Feb. 2018. Web. 2 June 2023. <>.

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Measure for Measure | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary



The Duke, still disguised as a friar, meets Mariana at a large farmhouse on the outskirts of Vienna. When he approaches, she is listening to a boy sing a sad song about unfaithfulness in love. The boy leaves, and the Duke asks Mariana whether anyone has come looking for him. She answers no.

Just then Isabella arrives to report her exchange with Angelo. She and Angelo have planned to meet at midnight in his garden, which is accessed with a pair of keys. He then introduces Isabella to Mariana, and the two women exit the stage to converse. By the time the Duke has finished his brief speech about the dangers of being a ruler, Isabella and Mariana have returned. Mariana has agreed to the plan—she will meet Angelo in Isabella's place at the appointed hour. The Duke confirms the legitimacy of the plan by assuring Mariana "He is your husband on a precontract. / To bring you thus together 'tis no sin."


This short scene introduces Mariana and elaborates her role in the plot to catch Angelo. The boy's song about a "forsworn" and "mislead[ing]" lover is a nice, compact piece of characterization. We never hear from the boy himself again—he collects his tip, packs up his lute, and heads offstage as soon as his song is done. He leaves readers, however, with a clear impression of Mariana, whose melancholy devotion is reflected in this song text better than in any dialogue.

This quick, musical character sketch is important because Mariana, although central to the plot, gets very little stage time in which to develop her personality. For her behavior at the end of the play to make sense, she must be understood as loving Angelo passionately despite his cruelty. In the final scene Mariana will get the opportunity to see Angelo executed, seize his assets, and live as a rich widow. She forgoes this chance and pleads for his life, an action that would seem ludicrous unless her improbably great and enduring love is established here.

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