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Measure for Measure Theme of Lies and Deceit

Deception is the name of the game in Measure for Measure, as it is in most of Shakespeare's comedies. In the play, the Duke disguises himself as a friar to spy on his deputy and his people, the corrupt Angelo passes himself off as a moral and upright judge. The play is also full of crafty substitutions – Mariana replaces Isabella in a bed trick and a dead pirate's head is substituted for Claudio's. The play also develops an elaborate metaphor that equates dishonesty and illegitimacy with counterfeit coins.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Explain how the bed trick works and describe its consequences.
  2. In what way is Angelo like a counterfeit coin?
  3. What's the play's attitude toward the Duke's decision to pass himself off as a friar?
  4. Discuss the implications of the Duke's plot to substitute another prisoner's head for Claudio's.

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In Measure for Measure, the bed trick is geared toward securing the kind of heterosexual marriage that is often associated with happy endings. At the same time, however, the play also asks whether or not a marriage grounded in deception can ever be successful.

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