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Themes

The play dramatizes Christian doctrine in a prominent, in-your-face kind of way. In particular, Shakespeare invokes the concepts of sin, atonement, judgment, and mercy. The title, Measure for Measure, comes from the Gospel of Matthew and this biblical passage also informs the main plot, in which a hypocritical deputy sentences a man to death for having sex with his fiancé and then turns around and propositions a young woman. The play also features a Duke who spends most of his time disguised as a holy friar, a novice nun obsessed with virginity, and man whose harsh and judgmental attitude resembles that of the sixteenth-century English Puritans.

Questions About Religion

  1. What's the play's attitude toward Isabella's desire to become a nun?
  2. Discuss the relationship between sin and crime in the play.
  3. Why do you think the Duke disguises himself as a friar?
  4. To what biblical passage does Measure for Measure allude? Where in the play does this biblical allusion surface?

Chew on This

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

Measure for Measure's critique of Angelo's Puritanical rigidness is also a critique of religious extremism in general.

Although Duke Vincentio fashions himself as an all-knowing, justice delivering, god-like figure, when he disguises himself as a friar and takes confession, his behavior is more sacrilegious than anything else.

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