Formal, Verse, Prose
About 65% of Measure for Measure is written in verse (poetry) and the rest in prose (how we talk every day).
We break all of this down in the paragraphs that follow, but here's what you should remember about Shakespeare's plays: generally speaking, the nobility (Angelo, the Duke, Isabella, and Claudio) tend to speak in "blank verse," which is a pretty formal way to talk. The commoners, or "Everyday Joes" (like Elbow, Pompey, and Mistress Overdone), tend to speak just like we do, in regular old prose.
(Note: The play Richard II is the one exception to this rule – it's the only Shakespeare play written entirely in verse – even the gardeners speak poetry.)
Here are some specific examples from Measure for Measure:
Blank Verse, or Unrhymed Iambic Pentameter (The Nobles)
In Measure for Measure, the noble characters mostly speak in unrhymed iambic pentameter (also called "blank verse"). Don't let the fancy names intimidate you – it's really pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Let's start with a definition of iambic pentameter:
An "iamb" is an unaccented syllable followed by an accented one. "Penta" means "five," and "meter" refers to a regular rhythmic pattern. So "iambic pentameter" is a kind of rhythmic pattern that consist of five iambs per line. It's the most common rhythm in English poetry and sounds like five heartbeats:
da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM.
Here's an example, where Isabella says she won't compromise her virtue to save Claudio:
we CANnot WEIGH our BROther WITH ourSELF.
great MEN may JEST with SAINTS; 'tis WIT in THEM. (2.2.156-157)
Every second syllable is accented (stressed) so this is classic iambic pentameter. Since the lines have no regular rhyme scheme we call it "unrhymed iambic pentameter," a.k.a. "blank verse."
Isabella's impassioned speeches are delivered in verse, which is befitting her social status and also her integrity.
Not everyone in the play speaks in verse. Ordinary folks, as we've said, don't talk in a special rhythm – they just talk. Check out the way Mistress Overdone communicates:
Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat,
what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am
Mistress Overdone is a bawdy and unruly figure, so it's fitting that she talks in plain old prose (especially given that she always seems to be going on about the sex industry).
Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “Measure for Measure” by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Measure for Measure” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Measure for Measure” by Shakespeare in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot of “Measure for Measure” or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Shakespeare's “Measure for Measure” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Trickery in Measure for Measure
There are many instances of trickery throughout William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. For instance, Vincentio tells Angelo that he will be leaving him in charge in order to rein the country in, since Vincentio believes he has been too lenient throughout his rule. However, instead, Vincentio dresses in the guise of a monk and spies on everything that is occurring in his absence. He also tells Isabella (full character analysis here) that her brother has died when he has not, and he passes off a pirate’s head as Claudio’s. Although none of his tricks are designed to hurt, rather they are implemented to resolve problematic issues, but Vincentio is lying nonetheless. Is Shakespeare portraying these lies as a positive thing? Do you think that Vincentio’s disguise was necessaryThesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Lust in Measure for Measure
It appears that many of the problems in Measure for Measure arise because the men in the play have little control over their lust. Claudio is imprisoned because he impregnates his fiancé, and while no one today would find that act particularly immoral, in the sixteenth century, it would have been quite scandalous, despite the fact that Juliet was Claudio’s fiancée. Angelo finds himself in similar trouble when Isabella comes to plead for her brother’s life. Instead of dealing with her in a manner consistent with his station, he offers to exchange Claudio’s life for a sexual encounter with Isabella, who desires to be a nun. What do you think this is indicative of? If the men in this play could control their lustful feelings, would any of this be happening to begin with?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Hypocrisy in Measure for Measure
Throughout Measure for Measure, Angelo acts as a self-righteous and dignified man who is the epitome of excellence and lawfulness. When he declares that Claudio should be executed for his indiscretion with his fiancé, he falls back on his respect for the law and adherence as his reasoning behind the harsh punishment. However, Angelo’s hypocrisy is exposed when Isabella comes to him and begs that her brother be released. Angelo agrees that he will free Claudio, if and only if Isabella sleeps with him. In essence, he is offering to free her brother by committing the same crime that Claudio is about to be executed for. What does this say about Angelo’s self-respect and honor? Does he have real respect for the law, or only an over-inflated sense of self?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Law in Measure for Measure
Vincentio leaves Venice to the hands of Angelo because he believes that he has been too lenient on his fellow countrymen and allowed for chaos to ensue. Vincentio believes that Angelo will rule with his stringent morals and will help to bring the country back under control. Instead, Angelo rules with an iron fist that chafes both Vincentio’s idea of fairness and his people’s sense of trust as well. When Vincentio returns, he takes back over ruling Venice, and instead of falling back to his leniency, or allowing Angelo’s stringency to continue, he discovers that a temperate rule is best for all. Do you think that this is true? Furthermore, what kind of political statement do you suppose Shakespeare was making, given the religious and political contention in England at that time.
For more ideas about possible essay topics or thesis statements, be sure to read the article : Character Analysis of Isabella in “Measure for Measure” by Shakespeare
This list of important quotations from “Measure for Measure” by William Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Measure for Measure” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “Measure for Measure” above, these quotes alone with page numbers or line and scene numbers can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way.
“Our doubts are traitors And make us lose the good we oft might win By fearing to attempt. Go to Lord Angelo, And let him learn to know, when maidens sue, Men give like gods." (I.iv.87-91)
“It is excellent To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant. (II.ii.133-134)
“You must lay down the treasures of your body" (II.iv.108)
“Better it were a brother died at once, Than that a sister, by redeeming him, Should die for ever. (II.iv.119-121)
“She, Claudio, that you wrong’d, look you restore. Joy to you, Mariana! love her, Angelo: I have confess’d her and I know her virtue." (V.i.539-541)
“Well heaven forgive him and forgive us all Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall. (II.i.41-42)
“He who the sword of heaven will bear Should be as holy as severe, Pattern in himself to know Grace to stand, and virtue go; More nor less to others paying Than by self-offenses weighing. Shame to him whose cruel striking Kills for faults of his own liking." (III.ii.261-267)
“This is his pardon, purchased by such sin For which the pardoner himself is in. Hence hath offense his quick celerity When it is born in high authority. When vice makes mercy, mercy's so extended That for the fault's love is the offender friended" (IV.ii.120-125).
“Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure; Like doth quit like, and measure still for measure." (V.i.466-468)
Source : Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.