"Beginning in 1603, James ushered in a much greater bureaucracy and apparatus of state spying than had been in place in the equally watchful but more entrepreneurial government of Elizabeth. Above all, James came to be associated with the idea of power in absence, the keystone and cornerstone of absolutist power."
"Measure for Measure is a play about representation and about substitution."
"There is in this play an inner world that is largely composed of enclosed spaces, spaces that confine and compress (like Hamlet's figure of the nutshell) rather than setting characters free. Claudio's dungeon is an enclosed space, as is Isabella's nunnery, and the Duke's monastery, and Mariana's “moated grange,” a farmhouse surrounded by a moat that serves in place of a wall, like the enclosed and walled garden, the hortus conclusus, of medieval and biblical tradition. Each is imaginatively a sign of a set of other enclosures: virginity and chastity; brotherhood and obedience; even death, as Claudio makes clear when he imagines death as a physical confinement:
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod… 3.1.118–121
As the play progresses all the enclosed spaces wait to be opened. Mariana waits to be freed from the isolation of the moated grange; Claudio, and even the drunken prisoner Barnardine, to be freed from prison; Isabella to be freed from the nunnery to a world of human sexuality, choice, and marriage; Angelo to be freed from the walled prison of the self."
"But to Angelo laws are not human-centered but
absolute, inhuman, unchangeable."
"What is natural? And how can we contend to know ourselves? A failure to understand this central question has led, in Vienna, to two different but related kinds of excess: excess of liberty and excess of restraint. The two instincts, which are really two sides of the same coin, are exemplified by a brother and a sister, Claudio and Isabella."
"There is a peculiar and disquieting, or titillating, side to Isabella's denial of desire, a denial that itself exhibits desire. Her protest of chastity against all assaults has a strong psychosexual tone, one that a modern world would classify as a kind of sadomasochism:
[W]ere I under the terms of death,
Th'impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies,
And strip myself to death as to a bed
That longing had been sick for, ere I'd yield
My body up to shame.
This sensual imagery of blood, jewels, and martyrdom is one that in the next generation of English writers will recur in the work of a Catholic lyric poet like Richard Crashaw."
"Of all Shakespeare's comedies, Measure for Measure, his last comedy, is the most evidently impatient or uncomfortable with its inherited generic form. It is a comedy that exposes the difficulties, perhaps the impossibilities, of its being a comedy—a comedy that, if it ends in marriage at all, ends only in the forced marriage of Lucio to the “punk,” or whore, Kate Keepdown; the precontracted marriage of Claudio and Juliet; the marriage under ducal arrangement of Angelo to Mariana; and the unanswered proposal of Duke Vincentio to Isabella. "
"Claudio is moved to ask for pardon: “I am so out of love with life that I will sue to be rid of it” (3.1.172–173). With this direct, visceral, and imaginative confrontation with his own death Claudio begins his ascent back to life. His appearance in the play's climactic final scene, muffled and unspeaking, will present him as a dramatic emblem: silent, shrouded, he is Death, a dead man, the dead Claudio, “another prisoner … like almost to Claudio,” and finally, as we will see, a kind of risen Lazarus."
What is the tipping point between impersonation and lying?