To sum up what we read, here's another of those handy plot recaps from SparkNotes.com:
The Duke enters, disguised as a friar, and Escalus begins to question him. Escalus asks the Duke/Friar if he sent Isabella and Mariana to slander Angelo, claiming that they have already accused him of doing so. The Duke/Friar says this is untrue and asks to see the Duke. Escalus says that the Duke has given him (Eschalus) free reign. Escalus threatens to torture the Duke's friar alter ego, who says that he has seen a lot of corruption during his visit to Vienna.
Angelo asks Lucio to testify against the Duke/Friar, and he claims that he heard the Duke/Friar slander the Duke. The Duke argues that it was actually Lucio who insulted the Duke, saying that he loves the Duke as much as he loves himself. Escalus tries to send the Duke off to prison, but the Duke tells the provost not to obey. Lucio pulls the Duke's hood off, revealing his identity.
The Duke turns to Angelo and asks if there is anything he would like to say in his own defense. Angelo confesses to his crime and asks for a death sentence. The Duke sentences him to marry Mariana instead. The Duke asks Isabella to come to him, and she says that she is ashamed to have asked him for help. He supposes that she must be wondering why he did not disclose his identity earlier in order to save Claudio's life, and he tells her that the death occurred sooner than he expected, but that Claudio was now in a better place. On Isabella's behalf, the Duke orders Angelo to be executed to pay for Claudio's death.
Mariana says, "I hope you will not mock me with a husband!" She is worried that she will be a widow instead of a married woman, and so she asks for her husband to be pardoned. The Duke refuses, saying that at least her virtue will be preserved, and that she can find a better husband now. Mariana asks for Isabella's help in persuading the Duke, saying that everyone has their faults.
Isabella kneels and asks the Duke to pardon Angelo, saying that she believes he meant well in his original plans to clean up the city. The Duke asks the provost why Claudio was executed at such an unusual hour. He fires the provost for obeying private orders. The provost argues that he went against private orders by saving Barnadine, and the Duke asks to see him.
The provost brings Barnadine, along with a muffled Claudio. The Duke pardons Barnadine, telling the friar to take care of him. He then asks who the muffled man is. The provost says he is another prisoner meant to be executed, one that looks like Claudio. He unveils Claudio. The Duke tells Isabella that Claudio is pardoned and asks her to marry him. He then sentences Lucio to marry whatever woman claims to have been impregnated by him. The Duke concludes by saying that everyone should live happily ever after, including Isabella and himself.
Question of the Day:
Does Isabella accept the Duke's offer of marriage? (Official answer: Who knows? )
Takeaway Quote of the Day
They say, best men are molded out of faults;
And, for the most, become much more the better
For being a little bad:
—Mariana, speaking about Angelo, trying to convince Isabella to forgive him
Technical Literary Term of the Day:
Hapax legomenon – A Greek phrase meaning a word or form that occurs only once in the recorded corpus of a given language.
". . . We'll touse youTouse is an example of a hapax legomenon.
Joint by joint, but we will know his purpose. "
—Eschalus, speaking to the Duke (disguised as Friar Lodowick)
Handy Phrase to Use When Referring to the Lecherous:
salt imagination – salacious desire
Other tidbits we discussed and discovered:
Barber poles. From Robin's ever-helpful notes, we learned that barbers in Shakespeare's day performed minor surgery (including tooth extraction), cut hair, and did blood-letting using leeches. The barber pole consisted of a brass basin at the top to hold leeches for bloodletting; a basin at the bottom to catch blood; a pole to grip while being operated on. Red = bloody bandages; white stood for clean bandages hung on the pole to dry which sometimes wrapped themselves around the pole in the wind.
A couplet in the middle of a speech (i.e. not as exit line or at the end of a scene) grabs the audience's attention, as when the Duke says speaks these (can we say eponymous?) lines:
Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure;Also from Robin's notes: This play can be read as an extended memento mori ("remember your mortality") meditation.
Like doth quit like, and measure still for measure.
Lots of irony and humor in the Duke's lines. As the friar he states:
I protest, I love the Duke, as I love my self.And when Lucio pulls back the friar's cloak to reveal the Duke, the Duke says:
Thou art the first knave, that e'er mad'st a Duke.Jerry commented that there are similarities between the Duke (and his realizing that things were a mess in his dukedom by getting down amongst the people and observing, in particular, how one woman, Isabella, was affected) and Oberon in Midsummer Night's Dream (who realized the same thing about his world by observing what Helena was going through).
We also wondered about Barnardine, the murderer who was refused to be executed and then was pardoned by the Duke, saying:
Sirrah, thou art said to have a stubborn soul.Why was Barnardine pardoned? Was that just? What is justice? Or is this more about mercy. . .
That apprehends no further than this world,
And squarest thy life according. Thou'rt condemn'd:
But, for those earthly faults, I quit them all;
And pray thee take this mercy to provide
For better times to come.
So, why did the Duke continue to keep from Isabella the information that her brother was not dead? Was he testing her? It was pointed out that the rigorous testing he put her through was similar to that the convent had been putting her through—and that the Duke might have been giving Isabella a real-world test of her ability to live her faith.
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Join us next time, when we begin at the beginning again, reading M4M straight through. (We'll take the next two weeks to do this, then will begin The Merchant of Venice on March 11. That's the plan, anyway!)
Image: In 1976, Meryl Streep played the role of Isabella in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Measure for Measure.