Measure for Measure

I’ve had an itch to get back on the Shakes horse this year. For some reason, I picked M4M to start with. I’d forgotten how readable the plays are, once you get used to the language. It’s not quite “awesome first sentence” material (“Escalus.” “My lord.”) but once you get into the swing of the playful wording, it’s a fun read.
The Duke gives the keys to the kingdom to Angelo so that Angelo can crack down more forcefully on morality laws and the Duke won’t get blamed. The Duke dresses as a Friar, then comes back into the city (Venice) to see how things unfold. Angelo condemns Claudio to death for getting his girlfriend pregnant. Before they can get married, Claudio is clapped into jail and scheduled to be hung the next morning. Lucio is a friend of Claudio’s who goes to Claudio’s sister Isabella (just joining the convent as a nun) to alert her to the situation. Isabella pleads with Angelo for Claudio’s freedom, and Angelo agrees to free Claudio if Isabella sleeps with Angelo. Learning of this wretched bargain, the Duke proposes to send a whore in Isabella’s place. That accomplished, the Duke waits at the prison for the commuting of Claudio’s sentence. Instead, a bizarre note from Angelo appears that says “no matter what you hear to the contrary, Claudio must die at 4am, send me his head as proof before the afternoon.”
The Duke arranges for an already dead prisoner to be beheaded, and sends that head to Angelo, saving Claudio. He does not tell Isabella, but instead lets her think Claudio is dead, the better to petition against Angelo. The Duke resumes his Duke-ness, shedding the friar costume, and pretends to return to the city. Isabella petitions him, laying out all the facts. Lucio (who has trash talked the Duke to the “friar/duke” and trash talked the friar to the Duke) is constantly shushed by the Duke in this sequence. To wrap everything up, Angelo is sentenced to marry the whore, then die. Claudio is pardoned. The Duke then commutes Angelo’s death sentence, and proposes marriage to Isabella, the soon to be nun.