Measure for Measure

The Duke Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
The benevolent ruler of Vienna who has asked Angelo to govern in his stead to impose law and order. Though his subjects believe he has left town, the Duke disguises himself as a friar and observes the workings of his state while incognito. He uses this deception to counteract the injustices he discovers Angelo has committed.

The Duke Quotes in Measure for Measure

The Measure for Measure quotes below are all either spoken by The Duke or refer to The Duke. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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 3 Quotes

We have strict statutes and most biting laws
(The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds),
Which for this fourteen years we have let slip,
Even like an o’ergrown lion in a cave,
That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fathers,
Having bound up the threat’ning twigs of birch,
Only to stick it in their children’s sight
For terror, not to use, in time the rod
Becomes more mock’d than fear’d; so our decrees,
Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead,
And liberty plucks justice by the nose;
The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
Goes all decorum.

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.20-32
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 3, Scene 1 Quotes

What’s yet in this
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid more thousand deaths; yet death we fear
That makes these odds all even.

Related Characters: The Duke (speaker)
Page Number: 3.1.40-43
Explanation and Analysis:

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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 2 Quotes

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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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 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:

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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:

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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:

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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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Marrying a punk, my lord, is pressing to death, whipping, and hanging.

Related Characters: Lucio (speaker), The Duke
Page Number: 5.1.596-597
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Duke Character Timeline in Measure for Measure

The timeline below shows where the character The Duke 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
The Duke of Vienna speaks with a nobleman, Escalus, about his plan to leave another nobleman, Lord... (full context)
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Duke leaves, saying he does not enjoy the formal, public aspects of his authority. Afterwards, Escalus... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Virtue Theme Icon
Lucio, a flashy bachelor, and two other gentlemen discuss an international political development: the Duke appears to be in peace talks with the King of Hungary. The two gentlemen disapprove,... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
...who might have sex out of wedlock. Lucio agrees and recommends that Claudio seek the Duke's reprieve. However, Claudio responds that he has tried, but the Duke is nowhere to be... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Duke speaks with Friar Thomas at a monastery to request "secret harbour." He explains that he... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Virtue Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...Isabella asks why the couple does not marry, Lucio tells her that they would, however Duke has been temporarily replaced by cold, cerebral Angelo. Claudio is to be made into an... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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, disguised in his friar costume, goes to the jail. There, he asks the Provost for... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
At the prison, the Duke, still disguised as a friar, asks Claudio if he hopes for a pardon from 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
Isabella arrives to speak with Claudio. The Duke asks the Provost to take him to a spot where he can eavesdrop on the... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
As Claudio pleads with his sister, the Duke emerges from his hiding spot, still in disguise as a friar. He tells Isabella that... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Claudio leaves, and the disguised Duke asks the Provost to leave also so that he can speak with Isabella in private.... (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... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
Outside the prison, the Duke, still disguised, speaks with Elbow and other constables who have detained Pompey. He asks Elbow... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
When Pompey is escorted away by the officers, Lucio asks the Duke, whom he thinks is merely a friar, if there is any recent news of the... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...Angelo is so uncompromising that he would see Claudio executed merely for sexual deviance. The Duke, Lucio maintains, would not issue such a punishment, because he was said to be familiar... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
The Duke replies indignantly that Lucio is mistaken; he asks for Lucio’s name and says that he... (full context)
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Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Escalus and the disguised Duke exchange greetings. The Duke asks Escalus about what the Duke was like, and Escalus replies... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
Escalus and the Provost leave. Alone, the Duke delivers a soliloquy condemning Angelo’s shameful behavior. The Duke promises to use craftiness and disguise... (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... (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,... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
...warrant for his execution in the morning and tells the condemned man to prepare. The Duke, in disguise, enters the prison and asks if anyone has visited that evening. The Provost... (full context)
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
...sent to Angelo by five o’clock. The Provost promises to fulfill this charge, and the Duke privately laments Angelo’s duplicity. The Duke then asks who Barnadine is, and the Provost tells... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
The Duke tells the Provost that he looks like an honorable man, and asks him to do... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
The Provost reveals to the Duke that a “notorious pirate,” of similar age and appearance to Claudio, has died in the... (full context)
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Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
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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 Angelo. Isabella rages, and the Duke... (full context)
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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. The disguised Duke again protests Lucio’s mischaracterizations of... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Agency and Society Theme Icon
In Angelo’s house, Angelo and Escalus review the letter from the Duke. The Duke’s erratic correspondences make Angelo worry that the Duke may have lost his mind.... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
Outside town, the undisguised Duke meets with Friar Peter. He gives the friar letters to deliver and asks him to... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Liberty and Justice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...reluctant to speak her complaint against Angelo, but Mariana urges her to follow the disguised Duke’s instructions. Isabella says that the disguised Duke warned her that the Duke might initially side... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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The Role of Women Theme Icon
A 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... (full context)
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Isabella continues to protest. The Duke then remarks that Isabella’s madness seems strangely reasonable, and asks her to voice her accusation.... (full context)
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Isabella sticks to her story, and the Duke orders her sent to prison. Before she is sent away, the Duke asks her if... (full context)
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Friar Peter comes forward and agrees with the Duke that Isabella is lying. The Duke inquires if he is familiar with Friar Lodowick, and... (full context)
Virtue Theme Icon
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...by guards, and Mariana comes forward as a witness. She wears a veil, which the Duke asks her to remove. She replies that she will only show her face when bidden... (full context)
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Angelo, scandalized, asks Mariana to show her face, and she complies. The Duke asks Angelo if he recognizes her, and Angelo tells the story of their engagement, attesting... (full context)
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Escalus summons Isabella and, at Lucio’s suggestion, questions her in private. The Duke, back in his friar’s disguise, then reappears with the Provost. Escalus asks the disguised Duke... (full context)
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The Duke asks that Friar Peter, Mariana, and Isabella be released from custody and requests that Lucio... (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,... (full context)
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The Duke does not respond to the women’s requests, and instead asks the Provost why Claudio was... (full context)