Measure for Measure

Angelo Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Angelo is the clear antagonist of the play. As regent of Vienna, he imposes a draconian regime in the name of restoring morality. However, he ends up being as duplicitous and immoral as his discipline is uncompromising. While he plans to execute Claudio for having sex out of wedlock, he himself attempts to force Isabella to have sex with him—an action he later lies about in an attempt to conceal it. At the play's end, he is justly punished for his hypocrisy. The Duke initially offers him a death sentence, but decides simply to sentence him to marry the woman he had once scorned when her dowry fell through, Mariana. However, in spite of his reprehensible behavior, Angelo is one of the play's more complex characters. He is aware of, and deeply conflicted by, his wrongdoings. While his conduct may ultimately deserve condemnation, it is hard not to pity him at the beginning of the play, as he self-consciously struggles to reconcile his morals with his desires before succumbing to villainous hypocrisy.

Angelo Quotes in Measure for Measure

The Measure for Measure quotes below are all either spoken by Angelo or refer to Angelo. 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 1 Quotes

Now, good my lord,
Let there be some more test made of my metal,
Before so noble and so great a figure
Be stamp'd upon it.

Related Characters: Angelo (speaker), The Duke
Page Number: 1.1.51-53
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, Scene 4 Quotes

The Duke is very strangely gone from hence;
Bore many gentlemen (myself being one)
In hand, and hope of action; but we do learn
By those that know the very nerves of state,
His givings-out were of an infinite distance
From his true-meant design. Upon his place,
And with full line of his authority,
Governs Lord Angelo, a man whose blood
Is very snow-broth; one who never feels
The wanton stings and motions of the sense;
But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge
With profits of the mind: study and fast.
He (to give fear to use and liberty,
Which have for long run by the hideous law,
As mice by lions) hath pick’d out an act,
Under whose heavy sense your brother’s life
Falls into forfeit; he arrests him on it,
And follows close the rigor of the statute,
To make him an example.

Related Characters: Lucio (speaker), The Duke, Angelo
Page Number: 1.4.54-72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Their perch and not their terror.

Related Characters: Angelo (speaker)
Page Number: 2.1.1-4
Explanation and Analysis:

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'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:

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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:

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O cunning enemy, that to catch a saint,
With saints dost bait thy hook! Most dangerous
Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue. Never could the strumpet,
With all her double vigor, art and nature,
Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite.

Related Characters: Angelo (speaker), Isabella
Page Number: 2.2.217-223
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

Heaven hath my empty words,
Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue,
Anchors on Isabel; heaven in my mouth,
As if I did but only chew his name,
And in my heart the strong and swelling evil
Of my conception. The state, whereon I studied,
Is like a good thing, being often read,
Grown sere and tedious; yea, my gravity,
Wherein (let no man hear me) I take pride,
Could I, with boot, change for an idle plume,
Which the air beats for vain. O place, O form,
How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,
Wrench awe from fools, and tie the wiser souls
To thy false seeming!

Related Characters: Angelo (speaker), Isabella
Page Number: 2.4.2-15
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Say what you can, my false o'erweighs your true.

Related Characters: Angelo (speaker), Isabella
Page Number: 2.4.184
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Twice treble shame on Angelo,
To weed my vice, and let his grow!
O, what may man within him hide,
Though angel on the outward side!
How may likeness made in crimes,
Making practice on the times,
To draw with idle spiders’ strings
Most ponderous and substantial things!
Craft against vice I must apply.
With Angelo tonight shall lie
His old betrothed (but despised);
So disguise shall by th’ disguised
Pay with falsehood false exacting,
And perform an old contracting.

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker), Angelo, Mariana
Page Number: 3.2.269-282
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, Scene 4 Quotes

But that her tender shame
Will not proclaim against her maiden loss,
How might she tongue me! Yet reason dares her no,
For my authority bears of a credent bulk,
That no particular scandal once can touch
But it confounds the breather. He should have liv’d,
Save that his riotous youth with dangerous sense
Might in the times to come have ta’en revenge,
By so receiving a dishonor’d life
With ransom of such shame. Would yet he had liv’d!
Alack, when once our grace we have forgot,
Nothing goes right—we would, and we would not.

Related Characters: Angelo (speaker), Isabella
Page Number: 4.4.25-36
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Angelo Character Timeline in Measure for Measure

The timeline below shows where the character Angelo appears in Measure for Measure. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
...of Vienna speaks with a nobleman, Escalus, about his plan to leave another nobleman, Lord Angelo, in charge of the city while the Duke travels. Angelo is summoned and informed of... (full context)
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...he does not enjoy the formal, public aspects of his authority. Afterwards, Escalus requests that Angelo listen to his input while he oversees the city. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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...and the Provost informs him that he acts not in "evil disposition," but rather on Angelo's special orders. Claudio ruminates somewhat cynically that earthly authority is a sort of “demigod:” it... (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 he... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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...request "secret harbour." He explains that he has pretended to leave for Poland and granted Angelo absolute governing power under these pretenses. The goal of this ruse, the Duke elaborates, is... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
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...Lucio tells her that they would, however Duke has been temporarily replaced by cold, cerebral Angelo. Claudio is to be made into an example and executed, and Lucio asks Isabella to... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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In a room of Angelo’s house, Angelo confers with Escalus while the Provost, a Justice, and other officers of the... (full context)
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...as Escalus knew Claudio's father to be very noble. While he emphasizes that he respects Angelo's judgment, Escalus also suggests that the regent consider whether he might at some point transgress... (full context)
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Angelo replies that being tempted to sin is completely different from actually sinning. The law is... (full context)
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In an aside, Escalus laments Angelo’s decision to execute Claudio. "Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all!” he says; “Some... (full context)
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...advantage of Elbow's dull wits and confuses the constable to steer the interrogation off course. Angelo remarks that this interrogation will take a long time, and exits, leaving Escalus in charge.... (full context)
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...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 mercy can in fact be a crueler... (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,... (full context)
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Angelo replies that every fault is condemned before it is committed. However, the actor must be... (full context)
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Isabella tells Angelo that if Claudio were the one in the position of power, he would take mercy... (full context)
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This supplication seems to break through to Angelo, and he tells Isabella he will think about her request and bids her to come... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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Angelo reflects on the discrepancies between his words and his desires: “Heaven hath my empty words;... (full context)
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A servant tells Angelo that Isabella has come to speak with him. Angelo summons her. Before she enters, he... (full context)
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Isabella enters, and Angelo tells her that Claudio still must die. However, he sounds less adamant than before. He... (full context)
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Frustrated that Isabella misinterprets his innuendos, Angelo remarks to her, “either you are ignorant, Or seem so craftily; and that's not good.”... (full context)
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Angelo then accuses Isabella, with her strict refusal to save her brother on religious grounds, of... (full context)
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Finally, Angelo tells Isabella outright that he loves her. She is indignant that Claudio is facing execution... (full context)
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...is convinced he would rather die twenty times over than let her be polluted by Angelo’s lust. Isabella promises to care for him to help him prepare his mind for impending... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Virtue Theme Icon
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...Duke, still disguised as a friar, asks Claudio if he hopes for a pardon from Angelo. Claudio replies that hope is all he has left, though he is prepared to die.... (full context)
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Claudio is scandalized to learn of Angelo’s designs, and tells Isabella that she should not sacrifice her virginity. She tells him that... (full context)
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Claudio then begins to consider how Angelo could manage to act so hypocritically by possessing desires counter to the law he enforces... (full context)
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...with Isabella. He advises that Claudio should prepare for death instead of clinging to hope; Angelo, he says, only tried to seduce Isabella to test her virtue. Claudio simply responds by... (full context)
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...he can speak with Isabella in private. When the two are alone, the Duke condemns Angelo’s misconduct and asks Isabella what she plans to do. She answers that she would sooner... (full context)
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The Duke tells Isabella that she will not succeed by denouncing Angelo publicly; instead, he proposes a solution that will save Claudio, please the absent Duke, preserve... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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...Rome. The disguised Duke offers no response other than good wishes. Continuing, Lucio observes that Angelo is a stern ruler, and perhaps punishes lechery too harshly. The Duke responds by saying... (full context)
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Lucio continues, saying that rumor has it that Angelo was not conceived through sex. He describes other fantastical legends about the man, and laments... (full context)
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Escalus and the Provost leave. Alone, the Duke delivers a soliloquy condemning Angelo’s shameful behavior. The Duke promises to use craftiness and disguise to counter Angelo’s duplicity and... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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...Duke finds Mariana at her home, and Isabella arrives there soon after. Isabella relays that Angelo has given her two keys that she can use to access the garden of his... (full context)
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...scheme. Isabella then gives Mariana one final instruction: when she leaves, she must whisper to Angelo the phrase “Remember now my brother.” Once Mariana assents, the Duke reassures her that sleeping... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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A messenger appears at the jail carrying word from Angelo. Instead of a pardon, he carries the command that Claudio’s execution should proceed as planned,... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
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...postponing Barnadine’s execution and instead presenting the pirate’s head as Claudio’s in order to fool Angelo. The Duke enthusiastically accepts this plan and tells the Provost to send the pirate’s head... (full context)
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...pardon has been delivered. The Duke answers that Claudio’s head has already been sent to Angelo. Isabella rages, and the Duke (whom she thinks is the friar) tells her that the... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
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In Angelo’s house, Angelo and Escalus review the letter from the Duke. The Duke’s erratic correspondences make... (full context)
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Escalus leaves, and Angelo speaks to himself with concern about what might happen at the meeting. He hopes that... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
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...gates, Isabella and Mariana wait. Isabella says she is reluctant to speak her complaint against Angelo, but Mariana urges her to follow the disguised Duke’s instructions. Isabella says that the disguised... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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...group of lords and townspeople is assembled at the city gates. The Duke enters, greets Angelo and Escalus, and thanks them for their service. Friar Peter brings Isabella forward, and she... (full context)
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...and the Duke curtly tells him to be silent. Isabella continues and says she begged Angelo to free her brother, but he said he would do so only if she had... (full context)
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...sent away, the Duke asks her if anyone knew of her plan to testify against Angelo. Isabella answers that Friar Lodowick did. The Duke asks if anyone knows this friar; Lucio... (full context)
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...saying that she has slept with her husband, though her husband does not know it. Angelo, she says, is this husband, though he believed her to be Isabella when they had... (full context)
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Angelo, scandalized, asks Mariana to show her face, and she complies. The Duke asks Angelo if... (full context)
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...Provost. Escalus asks the disguised Duke if he conspired to have the women testify against Angelo. Indignant, the disguised Duke asks to see the Duke, but Escalus responds that the Duke... (full context)
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...Isabella be released from custody and requests that Lucio be restrained. He then asks whether Angelo can say anything to defend himself. Angelo admits his guilt and requests a death sentence,... (full context)
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Angelo, newly-married, returns, and the Duke proclaims that he shall be executed in Claudio’s place, as... (full context)