Measure for Measure

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Claudio Character Analysis

Isabella's brother. He is good-hearted and insightful, but his inability to resist his sexual impulses causes him to receive a death sentence for impregnating his soon-to-be wife, Juliet, before the wedding. He escapes this punishment with the help of Isabella, the Duke, and others, who trick Angelo into believing his execution was completed.

Claudio Quotes in Measure for Measure

The Measure for Measure quotes below are all either spoken by Claudio or refer to Claudio. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Virtue Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Measure for Measure published in 2005.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Thus can the demigod, Authority,
Make us pay down for our offense by weight
The words of heaven: on whom it will, it will;
On whom it will not, so; yet still ’tis just.

Related Characters: Claudio (speaker)
Page Number: 1.2.116-117
Explanation and Analysis:

As Claudio enters the stage, he is being taken to prison slowly and publicly. This is supposedly happening under Angelo's specific commands, as the provost tells Claudio when Claudio begins to (perhaps rightly) complain about this. Therefore, Claudio is being thoroughly and publicly punished for having sexual intercourse with his betrothed Juliet because of Angelo's whim and decision.

Claudio protests the societal structures which bestow "Authority" on such individuals and allow capricious human actors to (try their best to) enforce the "the words of heaven" and heaven's infallible decrees. When human figures such as Angelo make the determinations, only some guilty individuals receive punishment; the decisions of heaven are only ever partially fulfilled. According to much of the world, though, "still 'tis just" -- this partial form of heavenly justice, which is mediated by the "demigod Authority" and lower human characters, largely seems to be a fair system, rooted in justice. Claudio can see its flaws, though, from his current position outside of the system. Claudio is being forced to "pay" for his sins, and here we again see this blending of justice and monetary circulation.

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall. I not deny
The jury, passing on the prisoner’s life,
May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try. What’s open made to justice,
That justice seizes. What knows the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? ’Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take’t,
Because we see it; but what we do not see
We tread upon, and never think of it.
You may not so extenuate his offense
For I have had such faults; but rather tell me,
When I, that censure him, do so offend,
Let mine own judgment pattern out my death,
And nothing come in partial.

Related Characters: Angelo (speaker), Claudio, Escalus
Page Number: 2.1.18-2.1.33
Explanation and Analysis:

Angelo's reply to Escalus's suggestion for greater mercy and forgiveness becomes a detailed unpacking of many tensions. We are introduced to the notion that temptation and sin are two separate phenomena; again the inconsistencies between the internal and the external figure prominently. Angelo also directly addresses the prevailing concern that justice can only be partial and humans cannot punish all sinners, in order to fully act out heaven's rulings. To Angelo, this is certainly reality. Yet, he suggests that individuals who enforce justice are duty-bound to punish all sins which are revealed. Although a human society cannot fully act out heaven's justice, it can fully act out its own to the best of its abilities. It can fully enforce all wrongdoings it sees, undiluted by merciful tendencies, so that it completely acts out its own justice and "nothing" will "come in partial."

Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Because authority, though it err like others,
Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself,
That skins the vice o’ th’ top. Go to your bosom,
Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know
That’s like my brother’s fault. If it confess
A natural guiltiness such as is his,
Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue
Against my brother’s life.

Related Characters: Isabella (speaker), Claudio, Angelo
Page Number: 2.2.164-171
Explanation and Analysis:

As Isabella pleads her brother's case to Angelo, she begs Angelo to be merciful, but not always using wholly religious words such as mercy and forgiveness. Fittingly, she is the figure which reminds Angelo of his heart; she will again unintentionally do this when she unwittingly inspires Angelo to fall in love (or at least lust) with her. Though she is the individual with the most virtue, Isabella claims that Angelo also has a kind of virtue, a "kind of medicine" within himself. He can choose to refrain from making harsh choices. 

Isabella asks Angelo to recall his own "natural guiltiness" and past transgressions. She introduces the notions of human experience and emotion -- passion, frailty, and reality -- as she virtuously pleads for mercy in her brother's case.

Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

Look, here comes one; a gentlewoman of mine,
Who, falling in the flaws of her own youth,
Hath blister’d her report. She is with child,
And he that got it, sentenc’d; a young man
More fit to do another such offense
Than die for this.

Related Characters: The Provost (speaker), Claudio, Juliet
Page Number: 2.3.10-15
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Duke comes to visit the prisoners in his friar disguise, the Provost introduces him to Juliet, revealing his personal sympathy for her plight. When he mentions how Juliet is pregnant, the Provost also shares the fate of her lover Claudio. These two lovers tend to be defined in relation to one another -- one of their crimes is easily explained by the other's crime -- and this suggests the way that one person's actions never exist in a vacuum, and thus one can never be completely culpable. It also suggests, however, that Claudio is more responsible than Juliet; he is to be killed immediately, and she is not.

Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

Might there not be a charity in sin
To save this brother's life?

Related Characters: Angelo (speaker), Isabella, Claudio
Page Number: 2.4.67-68
Explanation and Analysis:

As Angelo attempts to convince Isabella to commit herself to sexual intercourse with him, he suggests that he would spare her brother if Isabella offers herself to him in this way. Before, Angelo expressed in speech the new entanglements between good and evil, virtue and vice, and appearance and reality; now, his actions (in his attempts to convince Isabella to engage in sexual actions with him) attest to these as well. 

Angelo suggests that, as a virtuous woman, Isabella has much to offer. She could choose to selfishly preserve it, until she fully commits to the nunnery and offers it to God, or she could use it to save her brother. Isabella could condemn her own soul through intercourse outside of wedlock, or she could condemn herself in order to un-condemn her brother. This suggestion does not merely use female virginity as a bartering tool; it suggests that moral depravity and consequence is transferable between individuals more broadly. Virtue and vice is entrenched in social networks and exchanges, as well as custom and law. The significance of the title "Measure for Measure" begins to become clearer, even as the moral compass of the play grows more confused. 

Better it were a brother died at once,
Than that a sister, by redeeming him,
Should die forever.

Related Characters: Isabella (speaker), Claudio
Page Number: 2.4.114-116
Explanation and Analysis:

To Isabella, moral consequences are not easily transferred among individuals, as Angelo now suggests they are. She is not merely entrenched in systems of circulation and exchange; she is also dedicated to particular religious tenants. According to her Christian beliefs, the life of one's soul is far more important than the life of one's physical body. Thus it would be better for her brother to physically die than for her to spiritually die, thus condemning herself to an eternity in Hell.

Isabella is repulsed to the suggestion that saving her brother's life would justify losing her virginity. Her sexual purity is an intrinsic aspect of herself which, lost, would alter her beyond measure. 

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

O, were it but my life,
I’d throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.

Related Characters: Isabella (speaker), Claudio
Page Number: 3.1.117-119
Explanation and Analysis:

As Isabella speaks to Claudio in prison, she reveals that Angelo has offered to spare Claudio's life if Isabella will have sex with him. Claudio's immediate response is to state that Isabella will not "do't" -- she will not sacrifice her virginity for her brother's life. Isabella feelingly agrees, claiming that she would "throw it [life] down" "as frankly as a pin" in order to save her brother. Once again she values the soul far more than the body. Further, she only implies that she will not even consider saving her brother through having sex. This hesitancy to even speak directly about this topic suggests the layers of privacy and secrecy which surround female sexuality and religious chastity.

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison’d in the viewless winds
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling—’tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.

Related Characters: Claudio (speaker)
Page Number: 3.1.133-147
Explanation and Analysis:

As Claudio speaks with his sister in his jail, he seems somewhat more than willing to die, when he claims "If I must die, / I will encounter darkness as a bride, / And hug it in mine arms." Similarly, he initially does not oppose Isabella's desire to stay pure instead of sacrificing her virginity for his life. 

Yet his resolve then becomes plagued by fear. "Death is a fearful thing," he first says, briefly, before continuing in this more fervent speech. Although we might associate the tragedy Hamlet more with death, here we briefly escape the worldly nature of this play, which focuses on the competing interests of human passions and reasons, and dwell upon the landscape of death. There is no one analogy that Claudio can use to describe it; Claudio cannot know death, and this mystery leads to his fear. His fear projects through the words, making this speech a passionate plea for his life. Through these attempts to describe death, Claudio attempts to reach through his sister's convictions. 

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

Why, what a ruthless thing is this in him, for the rebellion of a codpiece to take away the life of a man!

Related Characters: Lucio (speaker), Claudio, Angelo
Page Number: 3.2.115-117
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucio asks the Duke (who is disguised as a friar) for news about the Duke, and the "friar" declines to provide any, claiming that he knows nothing of the Duke's recent affairs. Lucio then details how Angelo had been acting in the Duke's absence -- that is, ruthlessly-- and indulges in the common speculation that Angelo is not an ordinary mortal and thus not susceptible to the lusts common to flesh-and-blood humans. Lucio exclaims that there is a "ruthless thing" in Angelo ("in him") which inspires this lack of mercy, this hardness towards the baser impulses and actions that are spurred by female sexuality (or innocence, in the case of Isabella). The "rebellion of a codpiece" here jokingly refers to male genitalia and its tendency to lead men into trouble -- something usually knowingly winked at and pardoned in a patriarchal society, but here inexplicably punished. Thus Angelo's judgment against Claudio is not just seen as a harsh punishment, but as an attack upon the worldview that allows sexuality (particularly male sexuality) to exist in a vague no-man's-land, universally known to all but outside of society's direct acknowledgement and condemnation.

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

The tongue of Isabel. She’s come to know
If yet her brother’s pardon be come hither.
But I will keep her ignorant of her good,
To make her heavenly comforts of despair,
When it is least expected.

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker), Isabella, Claudio
Page Number: 4.3.115-119
Explanation and Analysis:

The Duke makes this comment as his plan is rapidly developing. Although a fellow prisoner Barnadine is refusing to die in Claudio's stead, a pirate Ragozine, who has recently died, looked similar enough to Claudio that his head can be sent to Angelo instead of Claudio's. The Duke is relieved by this lucky event, but decides that he will allow Isabel to believe that her brother has truly died, keeping her "ignorant of her good," as God might keep an individual briefly unaware of a lucky turn of fate. This situation reveals the Duke's power; it emphasizes his omnipresence and ability to choose how he shares his knowledge with others.

Yet, his decision seems to derive more from a calculating will than from a beneficent spirit. He is intentionally allowing Isabella to suffer for the sake of his own whims. She might certainly draw closer to God from this situation, making "heavenly comforts of despair," but the Duke is also being duplicitous and manipulative. Yet again, his plan involves controlling a virtuous woman. It is left ambiguous whether the Duke is here acting more as a friar or as a friar-in-disguise -- he acts concerned with Isabella's spiritual life, but also seems to want to draw out the suspense of her ignorance in order to create more drama for his own enjoyment.

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

For this new-married man approaching here,
Whose salt imagination yet hath wrong’d
Your well-defended honor, you must pardon
For Mariana’s sake; but as he adjudg’d your brother—
Being criminal, in double violation
Of sacred chastity and of promise-breach,
Thereon dependant, for your brother’s life—
The very mercy of the law cries out
Most audible, even from his proper tongue,
“An Angelo for Claudio, death for death!”
Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure;
Like doth quit like, and Measure still for Measure.
Then, Angelo, thy fault’s thus manifested;
Which though thou wouldst deny, denies thee vantage.
We do condemn thee to the very block
Where Claudio stoop’d to death, and with like haste.
Away with him!

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker), Isabella, Claudio, Angelo, Mariana
Related Symbols: “Measure for Measure”
Page Number: 5.1.455-475
Explanation and Analysis:

The irony of the play is fully revealed on stage, by the city gates; the Duke openly states that Angelo has indeed committed the same crime for which he sentenced Claudio to death. And so, according to the "eye for an eye" (or, "Measure still for Measure") notion of retributive justice, Angelo should be condemned to death as well, receiving the same judgment that he doled out to others. It is no accident that the Duke, who has manufactured the play's entire plot, here reveals its fundamental irony. The Duke also seems to advocate for its "Measure for Measure" brand of justice. According to the Duke, it is "the very mercy of the law" which cries of "Measure for Measure"; he even curiously associates the term mercy with retributive justice. As we know well, however, the Duke's words are not always what they may seem to be. He is not actually planning to kill Angelo for this "fault," but he can exercise his power and momentarily pretend that he will carry out this threat. 

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Claudio Character Timeline in Measure for Measure

The timeline below shows where the character Claudio appears in Measure for Measure. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Virtue Theme Icon
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The Role of Women Theme Icon
Mistress Overdone tells the men that Claudio, a young man who is friends with Lucio, has been arrested and is condemned to... (full context)
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...a clown and an assistant to Mistress Overdone, arrives. He speaks briefly and comically about Claudio's arrest. Pompey then relays to Mistress Overdone that a municipal proclamation has been issued, calling... (full context)
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Claudio is escorted on stage by the Provost, who is in charge of the prison. Claudio... (full context)
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Lucio and the two gentlemen reappear; Lucio asks Claudio the reason for his arrest. Claudio explains that "too much liberty" and immoderation has led... (full context)
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Lucio guesses first that Claudio has committed murder, and is surprised when Claudio reveals that he is, rather, being so... (full context)
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According to Claudio, Angelo is likely handing down a steep and rarely-used punishment in this case so that... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Virtue Theme Icon
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...with men. Lucio reveals that he is seeking Isabella on behalf of her "unhappy brother," Claudio. When Isabella asks him what the problem is, Lucio tells her forthrightly that her brother... (full context)
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...he would to a saint. He then reveals that Juliet, Isabella's friend, is the woman Claudio has impregnated. When Isabella asks why the couple does not marry, Lucio tells her that... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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.Escalus then laments Claudio's fate, as Escalus knew Claudio's father to be very noble. While he emphasizes that he... (full context)
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...as a whole. Furthermore, even if Angelo is a sinful man, it does not exonerate Claudio of his misdeeds. Last of all, Angelo says that if he ever transgresses in this... (full context)
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...capable of enforcing the law. Elbow then leaves, and Escalus commiserates with a Justice about Claudio's tragic fate. However, Escalus remarks that Angelo's severity is warranted, as oftentimes what seems like... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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In another room of Angelo’s house, the Provost appeals to Angelo that he might stay Claudio's execution. Angelo is unmoved, even when the Provost mentions that Juliet is soon due to... (full context)
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Isabella tells Angelo that if Claudio were the one in the position of power, he would take mercy upon an imprisoned... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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...unlawful sex act was mutually consensual, and expresses deep repentance. Juliet explains that she loves Claudio as much as she loves herself. The Duke then tells her that her sin is... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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Isabella enters, and Angelo tells her that Claudio still must die. However, he sounds less adamant than before. He reflects that it is... (full context)
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...“either you are ignorant, Or seem so craftily; and that's not good.” He speaks bluntly: Claudio will die unless Isabella will “lay down the treasures of [her] body” to someone with... (full context)
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Finally, Angelo tells Isabella outright that he loves her. She is indignant that Claudio is facing execution for the exact same crime Angelo proposes she indulge in with him.... (full context)
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Now alone, Isabella wonders what she can do. She resolves to go to Claudio and explain her predicament. She holds conviction that Claudio will respect her decision to preserve... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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At the prison, the Duke, still disguised as a friar, asks Claudio if he hopes for a pardon from Angelo. Claudio replies that hope is all he... (full context)
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Isabella arrives to speak with Claudio. The Duke asks the Provost to take him to a spot where he can eavesdrop... (full context)
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Claudio is scandalized to learn of Angelo’s designs, and tells Isabella that she should not sacrifice... (full context)
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Claudio then begins to consider how Angelo could manage to act so hypocritically by possessing desires... (full context)
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As Claudio pleads with his sister, the Duke emerges from his hiding spot, still in disguise as... (full context)
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Claudio leaves, and the disguised Duke asks the Provost to leave also so that he can... (full context)
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...will not succeed by denouncing Angelo publicly; instead, he proposes a solution that will save Claudio, please the absent Duke, preserve her purity, and help out another woman who has been... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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...legends about the man, and laments that Angelo is so uncompromising that he would see Claudio executed merely for sexual deviance. The Duke, Lucio maintains, would not issue such a punishment,... (full context)
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...to report Lucio to the Duke, but Lucio counters that he is unafraid. He laments Claudio’s fate, offers some colorful disparagements of the Duke, and bids the disguised Duke farewell. (full context)
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...upstanding ruler. Escalus then asks how the Duke (whom he thinks is a friar) found Claudio to be when he visited the prison. The Duke replies that he has prepared Claudio... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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...because she will be escorted by a servant who believes she has come to discuss Claudio. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...Provost asks Pompey if he would be willing to help cut off a man’s head. Claudio and another prisoner named Barnadine are scheduled to be executed the next day, and if... (full context)
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The Provost summons Claudio, whom he pities, and Barnadine, a murderer he reviles. Claudio appears, but Barnadine remains fast... (full context)
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...the jail carrying word from Angelo. Instead of a pardon, he carries the command that Claudio’s execution should proceed as planned, as should Barnadine’s; Claudio’s head should be sent to Angelo... (full context)
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...he looks like an honorable man, and asks him to do the favor of delaying Claudio’s death. The Provost asks how he could do so while still delivering Claudio’s head to... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
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...Provost reveals to the Duke that a “notorious pirate,” of similar age and appearance to Claudio, has died in the prison that very morning. He suggests postponing Barnadine’s execution and instead... (full context)
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Isabella arrives and asks if Claudio’s pardon has been delivered. The Duke answers that Claudio’s head has already been sent to... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
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...up her virginity to reveal his misdeeds publicly. Angelo reflects that he should have let Claudio live, but had him executed in the fear that he would later seek vengeance. Still,... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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...and asks her to voice her accusation. Isabella announces that she is the sister of Claudio, who has been executed for fornication. Lucio interrupts to corroborate the story, and the Duke... (full context)
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Angelo, newly-married, returns, and the Duke proclaims that he shall be executed in Claudio’s place, as “measure still for measure.” Mariana, not wanting to be widowed, begs the Duke... (full context)
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The Duke does not respond to the women’s requests, and instead asks the Provost why Claudio was beheaded at an unusual time of day. The Provost answers that the act was... (full context)