| Quote #4
All houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be
Here we learn that all the brothels in Vienna's suburbs are scheduled to be torn down because prostitution is illegal and the spread of venereal disease is out of control. When we read this, we can't help but think of the suburbs outside of Shakespeare's London, where the sex industry thrived because it was hard for officials to regulate brothels outside the city limits.
FYI: In April of 1604 (the same year Shakespeare wrote Measure for Measure), King James I ordered all the tenements and houses in the suburbs be torn down to prevent the spread of the plague, which killed about 36,000 people in 1603.
| Quote #5
At this point in the play, we've already encountered the hyper-sexual Mistress Overdone, who runs a local brothel. Here, Shakespeare presents the other end of the spectrum in Isabella, who is about to become a nun who will take a vow of chastity, swearing off sex forever.
When Isabella says she wishes the sisterhood she's about to join was more "strict," we wonder why. Is she seeking refuge in the convent from the corruption of Vienna? Something else?
| Quote #6
but it is I
There are a couple of things to notice here, where Angelo admits to the audience that he's lusting after Isabella. First, Angelo sees his sexual desire as something "corrupt" and compares his body to carrion (road kill) rotting in the sun. (This is similar to how Hamlet compares a pregnant – and therefore inherently sexual – woman's body to a "dead dog" that "breeds maggots" while rotting in the sun [Hamlet, 2.2.5]. Gross.)
We also notice that Angelo is turned on by Isabella's virtue. Just a few lines later, he confesses that he would never get as excited about a woman who isn't a virgin and that this is the first time he's ever experienced sexual desire. What does this suggest about Angelo's character?