Measure for Measure

Isabella Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
One of the play's central characters, Isabella is a principled young woman in the process of becoming a nun. When her brother, Claudio, receives a death sentence from Angelo for engaging in premarital sex, she is forced to choose between her religious commitment and her familial love—she chooses religious commitment, a testament to her purity. Ultimately, she conspires with the Duke, while the latter is disguised as a friar, to rescue her brother from his unjust punishment by tricking Angelo.

Isabella Quotes in Measure for Measure

The Measure for Measure quotes below are all either spoken by Isabella or refer to Isabella. 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 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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Measure for Measure quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariat

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consLorem Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sLorem iLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit,Lorem iLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labLorLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adiLorLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. UtLorem ipsum dolor sLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur a

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt molli

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut ali

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

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

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteu

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

By mine honesty,
If she be mad, as I believe no other,
Her madness hath the oddest frame of sense,
Such a dependancy of thing on thing,
As e’er I heard in madness.

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker), Isabella
Page Number: 5.1.68-72
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehe

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Get the entire Measure for Measure LitChart as a printable PDF.
Measure for measure.pdf.medium

Isabella Character Timeline in Measure for Measure

The timeline below shows where the character Isabella 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
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
...the Duke is nowhere to be found. Claudio then asks Lucio to alert Claudio’s sister, Isabella, in the hopes she may help him. Isabella has just joined a nunnery, and Claudio... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
At the convent, Isabella learns the rules of her order and expresses her desire to live under "strict restraint."... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Initially, Isabella tells Lucio to stop making fun of her with false stories. Lucio responds that while... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...A servant brings word that Claudio's sister, a "virtuous maid," has come to see Angelo. Isabella then enters with Lucio. She pleads before Angelo to spare her brother, though she confesses... (full context)
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
...that every fault is condemned before it is committed. However, the actor must be punished. Isabella is distraught, but Lucio quietly counsels her to implore Angelo with more passion. Isabella and... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
Isabella tells Angelo that if Claudio were the one in the position of power, he would... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
This supplication seems to break through to Angelo, and he tells Isabella he will think about her request and bids her to come see him the next... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...desires: “Heaven hath my empty words; Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue, Anchors on Isabel.” He lusts after Isabella, but concludes that he must appear to uphold his own moral... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
A servant tells Angelo that Isabella has come to speak with him. Angelo summons her. Before she enters, he remarks to... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Isabella enters, and Angelo tells her that Claudio still must die. However, he sounds less adamant... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Frustrated that Isabella misinterprets his innuendos, Angelo remarks to her, “either you are ignorant, Or seem so craftily;... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Angelo then accuses Isabella, with her strict refusal to save her brother on religious grounds, of being just as... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Finally, Angelo tells Isabella outright that he loves her. She is indignant that Claudio is facing execution for the... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Now alone, Isabella wonders what she can do. She resolves to go to Claudio and explain her predicament.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Isabella arrives to speak with Claudio. The Duke asks the Provost to take him to a... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Claudio is scandalized to learn of Angelo’s designs, and tells Isabella that she should not sacrifice her virginity. She tells him that she would give up... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...the Duke emerges from his hiding spot, still in disguise as a friar. He tells Isabella that he would like to speak with her. First, the Duke confers with Claudio and... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...the disguised Duke asks the Provost to leave also so that he can speak with Isabella in private. When the two are alone, the Duke condemns Angelo’s misconduct and asks Isabella... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The Duke tells Isabella that she will not succeed by denouncing Angelo publicly; instead, he proposes a solution that... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The Duke finds Mariana at her home, and Isabella arrives there soon after. Isabella relays that Angelo has given her two keys that she... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The Duke introduces Mariana and Isabella and the two outline their plan off-stage. When the two return, Isabella tells the Duke... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
...if anyone has visited that evening. The Provost answers that nobody has come, not even Isabella. The Duke replies that a message to pardon Claudio may yet arrive. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
Isabella arrives and asks if Claudio’s pardon has been delivered. The Duke answers that Claudio’s head... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Lucio enters and tells Isabella he is grieving for her brother. The Duke, Lucio claims, would not have executed him.... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...speaks to himself with concern about what might happen at the meeting. He hopes that Isabella will be too ashamed of having given up her virginity to reveal his misdeeds publicly.... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Near the city gates, Isabella and Mariana wait. Isabella says she is reluctant to speak her complaint against Angelo, but... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...Duke enters, greets Angelo and Escalus, and thanks them for their service. Friar Peter brings Isabella forward, and she asks the Duke for justice. He tells her to deliver her complaint... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Isabella continues to protest. The Duke then remarks that Isabella’s madness seems strangely reasonable, and asks... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Isabella sticks to her story, and the Duke orders her sent to prison. Before she is... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
Friar Peter comes forward and agrees with the Duke that Isabella is lying. The Duke inquires if he is familiar with Friar Lodowick, and Friar Peter... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Isabella is taken away by guards, and Mariana comes forward as a witness. She wears a... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...he had sex with her that Tuesday night. Angelo tells the Duke that Mariana and Isabella must be lying at the will of some unknown third party. The Duke denounces Friar... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
Escalus summons Isabella and, at Lucio’s suggestion, questions her in private. The Duke, back in his friar’s disguise,... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The Duke asks that Friar Peter, Mariana, and Isabella be released from custody and requests that Lucio be restrained. He then asks whether Angelo... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...the Duke to reconsider and says she does not desire any other husband. Mariana enlists Isabella to help beg the Duke to pardon Angelo. Isabella asks the Duke to let Angelo... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...and Claudio is revealed. The Duke pardons Barnadine, Claudio, and Angelo; and then asks for Isabella’s hand in marriage. He then tells Lucio that, as punishment for slandering the Duke, he... (full context)