Measure for Measure Essay

“Give me your hand and say you will be mine,” proposes the Duke to Isabella (5.1.564).  As a director in a production of Measure for Measure, it would be my duty to assess the dialogue of the Duke and Isabella to choose the best facial expressions and body language for my actors in order to give the audience a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the play.  Without a written response from Isabella, it would be up to me, the director, to use unspoken communication to answer the Duke’s proposal.  The audience has formed a bond with these characters throughout their plight and Isabella’s response needs to feel plausible.  In my direction of the play, I would not have Isabella eagerly accept the Duke’s hand in marriage because it is not plausible for her to vehemently abhor sexual intercourse then quickly turn around and readily accept a man’s hand in marriage.

Isabella is vehement in her opposition to sex.  When Lucio arrives to tell Isabella of her brother’s arrest, she is asking Francisca if there were any more restrictions as a nun, “I speak not of desiring more / But rather wishing more restraint / Upon the sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare,” (1.4.3-5).  She further solidifies her abhorrence for sex when she first meets Angelo to plead for her brother’s life.  “There is a vice that most I do abhor / And most desire should meet the blow of justice,” (2.2.42-43).  Whether she speaks of fornication or sex in general, when coupled with the fact she wishes stricter restrictions for herself, it must be concluded that Isabella is opposed to sexual intercourse for herself.

Isabella refuses to exchange her virginity for her brother’s life.  “Then I shall pose you quickly / Which had you rather, that the most just law / Now took your brother’s life, or, to redeem him, / Give up your body to such sweet uncleanliness / As she that he hath stained?” (2.4.53-57). She tells Angelo that by giving up her body, her soul will be forever shamed.  And so she answers him, “Better it were that a brother die at once / Than that a sister, by redeeming him / Should die forever,” (2.4.114-116).  A rather painful choice for a person about to take her vow as a nun – either yield her virginity or her brother’s life.  She soon tells Claudio her choice, “That I shall do what I abhor to name / Or else thou diest tomorrow…Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow,” (3.1.114-115, 121).  She further reinforces her decision when she tells Friar Lodowick (the Duke), “I had rather my brother die by the law than my son should be unlawfully born,” (3.1.212-214).

There is no indication in the play’s dialogue of Isabella’s romantic interest in Friar Lodowick, who, unbeknownst to her is the Duke.  With her mind focused on her attempt to pardon her brother, she has no time to flirt with any man, especially someone who appears to be a friar.  As she previously stated her wish of become a nun with stricter restrictions upon herself and her detest of sex, it would not be plausible for her to think romantically of Friar Lodowick.  As a director, I would contemplate the emotions Isabella would feel after realizing that the friar she confided in was not a friar at all, but rather the Duke.  Would her appreciation of him saving Claudio from execution and protecting her virginity be enough to reject the votarists of Saint Clare, marry the Duke, and yield her virginity to him?  Her vehemence was rather strong and she repeatedly chose her virginity over her brother’s life.  As a director, I am not entire convinced the Duke’s actions are enough to overturn her convictions.

In my production of the play, I would not have Isabella passionately accept or refuse the Duke’s proposal.  Although not prepared to accept his hand at the end of the play, Isabella has softened in her convictions through the actions of the Duke.  This leaves a potential for marriage at a later point, thus I would have the Duke and Isabella not embrace at the play’s end, but have the Duke and Isabella smile at each other as the Duke prepares to leave.  With this conclusion decided, I am able to decide on their facial expressions and body language for the rest of the play.  The Duke falls in love with Isabella so he would smile more often than she as well as have a longing in his eye anytime they part.  Isabella is unaware of any potential romance so she would not have any facial expressions or body language to suggest anything to the contrary.

Throughout the entire play, Isabella was vehemently against sex, which is required to consummate a marriage.  As a director, given the strength of Isabella’s determination to save herself from yielding her virginity, and her quick response to Angelo’s proposition of her virginity or her brother’s life, the actions of Friar Lodowick/the Duke, are not enough for Isabella to enthusiastically accept the Duke’s hand in marriage at the end of the play.


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