Measure for Measure

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“Measure for Measure” Symbol Analysis

“Measure for Measure” Symbol Icon
The play’s title derives from one of Jesus’s biblical sayings: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with that judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure you meet, it shall be measured unto you again.” (Matthew 7:1-2). The sense of this quote—and the moral of the play—boil down to a warning that everyone should, when judging others, be mindful of his or her own sins. After all, the fates of Lucio and Angelo illustrate that those who try to obscure personal faults by judging others harshly end up paying full “measure” for their misconduct.

“Measure for Measure” Quotes in Measure for Measure

The Measure for Measure quotes below all refer to the symbol of “Measure for Measure”. 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 4, Scene 1 Quotes

Nor, gentle daughter, fear you not at all.
He is your husband on a pre-contract:
To bring you thus together ’tis no sin,
Sith that the justice of your title to him
Doth flourish the deceit. Come, let us go,
Our corn’s to reap, for yet our tithe’s to sow.

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker), Mariana
Related Symbols: “Measure for Measure”
Page Number: 4.1.78-83
Explanation and Analysis:

As the Duke encourages Mariana to follow his plan, he uses the language of sin and virtue to appease any doubts or concern she might have. He tells Mariana to "fear ... not" because sexual intercourse with Angelo is supposedly not sinful; Angelo "is" Mariana's husband, at least "on a pre-contrast." This social relationship is, however, remarkably similar to that between Isabella and Claudio, who were also betrothed to marry. This underscores the ways that laws, and rules become altered and rewritten in the changeable social sphere of Measure for Measure. The Duke appeals to the "justice" of this social relationship and social contract as a reason that Mariana could have intercourse with Angelo without being sinful. Then, he closes the scene with a typical rhyming couplet, again alluding to the idea of "measure for measure," and seemingly unconcerned by the moral ambiguity his comment is creating. 


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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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