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Measure for Measure Act 1, Scene 3 Summary

  • Meanwhile, the Duke has gone to visit a Friar in his cell in Vienna. We catch the two men in mid-conversation.
  • The Duke explains that he wants to hide out at the local monastery because he wants to spy on Angelo, who thinks the Duke has travelled to Poland.
  • The Duke is adamant that he's NOT seeking refuge at the monastery as a heartbroken lover because love is for wimps. (Hmm. It sounds like Shakespeare is telling us that this play isn't going to be anything like Romeo and Juliet, where the lovesick Romeo is always visiting Friar Laurence's cell to boo-hoo about his complicated love life.)
  • The Duke says something weird like "I order you to ask me why I want to spy on Angelo."
  • The Friar complies and says something like "OK, explain yourself."
  • Duke Vincentio admits that for the past fourteen years, he's been pretty lax about enforcing Vienna's laws. Naturally, the people are out of control, like "headstrong horses" that are never curbed.
  • "They're also like naughty children," says the Duke, who compares himself to a wimpy parent who only ever threatens to beat his kids with "twigs of birch" but never gives anyone a spanking.
  • The Friar points out that the Duke has the authority to start enforcing Vienna's laws and would probably be a lot better at it than Angelo.
  • But, the Duke doesn't want to be the bad guy – he'd rather let Angelo do the dirty work than look like a tyrant in the eyes of his people. Plus, reasons, the Duke, he would look like a total hypocrite if he started enforcing rules out of the clear blue sky.
  • Duke Vincentio admits that he's a little nervous about Angelo, who is pretty strict and also claims not to have any sexual desire, which makes the Duke suspicious enough to want to keep an eye on things.

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