Measure for Measure
How we cite our quotes:
I hold you as a thing enskied and sainted (1.4.2)
Lucio, a self-professed ladies' man, places Isabella on a pedestal and separates Isabella from other women because she's a virgin. Angelo, on the other hand, is turned on by Isabella's chastity, but seeks to destroy it by blackmailing our girl into having sex with him. What's up with that?
Go you to Angelo; answer his
requiring with a plausible obedience; agree with
his demands to the point; only refer yourself to
this advantage, first, that your stay with him may
not be long; that the time may have all shadow and
silence in it; and the place answer to convenience.
This being granted in course,--and now follows
all,--we shall advise this wronged maid to stead up
your appointment, go in your place; if the encounter
acknowledge itself hereafter, it may compel him to
her recompense: and here, by this, is your brother
saved, your honour untainted, the poor Mariana
advantaged, and the corrupt deputy scaled. (3.1.12)
When the Duke comes up with a "bed trick" to fool Angelo into sleeping with his jilted, ex-fiancé, Isabella and Mariana both go along with it. Why? We thought Isabella was anti-sex. Also, why would Mariana want Angelo back after what he did to her? For feminist scholars like Eileen Cohen, this kind of bed trick, which is a popular plot device in Shakespearean drama, is an expedient way for women to subvert patriarchal authority.
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity. (2.4.23)
Isabella is then placed in a terrible position by a corrupt deputy – if she sleeps with Angelo to save her brother's life, she will compromise her values. If she doesn't sleep with Angelo, her brother will die. Here, she decides that that her chastity is more valuable than anything else, which all but invites the audience to judge whether or not Isabella makes the right decision.