Measure for Measure
How we cite our quotes:
Supply me with the habit and instruct me
How I may formally in person bear me
Like a true friar. More reasons for this action
At our more leisure shall I render you; (1.3.4)
When the Duke disguises himself as a holy friar and spies on his subjects, he acts like an all-seeing, all-knowing, god figure. At the same time, however, Duke Vincentio's behavior seems pretty sacrilegious, especially when he goes around taking peoples' confessions.
Hark how I'll bribe you: good my lord, turn back.
[...] Not with fond shekels of the tested gold,
Or stones whose rates are either rich or poor
As fancy values them; but with true prayers
That shall be up at heaven and enter there
Ere sun-rise, prayers from preserved souls,
From fasting maids whose minds are dedicate
To nothing temporal. (2.2.20)
When Isabella offers to "bribe" Angelo, the corrupt judge is likely hoping she'll offer to sleep with him. Yet Isabella does no such thing. Instead, she promises to pray for Angelo and declares there's nothing more powerful than a virgin's prayers. What are we to make of this? Should we read Isabella's naivety with cynicism? Or, are we meant to think that Isabella's sincerity and virtue are honorable?
When I would pray and think, I think and pray
To several subjects. 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. (2.4.1)
Angelo sees his sexual desire for Isabella as sinful and corrupting. Here, Angelo confesses to the audience that, when he tries to pray, he can't stop thinking naughty thoughts about the wannabe nun. Earlier in the play, we heard Angelo say that his lust makes him like a piece of road kill rotting in the sun (2.2.27). Yuck.