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VINCENTIO, the Duke.
ESCALUS, an ancient Lord.
LUCIO, a fantastic.
Two other gentlemen.
ELBOW, a simple constable.
FROTH, a foolish gentleman.
POMPEY, servant to Mistress Overdone.
ABHORSON, an executioner.
Day I. I. I.
DURATION OF TIME
The time (according to Mr. Daniel's Analysis, New Shakespeare Society, 1877-79) consists of four days:
ISABELLA, sister to Claudio.
MISTRESS OVERDONE, a bawd.
Lords, Officers, Citizens, Boy, and Attendants.
A brief interval must be supposed to intervene.
2. II. 2.-IV. 2.
3. IV. 2.-4.
4. IV. 5.-6., V.
Dramatis Persona. This list is appended to the text in the First Folio, under the title, 'The
names of all the Actors'; a Justice and Varrius being, however, omitted.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE was first published in the Folio of 1623, as the fourth in order of the Comedies. It was doubtless printed from the theatre-copy, and abounds in perplexed and corrupt passages, many of which no emendation has yet completely restored.
External evidence of the date of Measure for Measure is confined to a palpable reminiscence of certain lines of act ii. sc. 4, found in a poem of 1607. This was the Myrrha of W. Barksted, where these lines occur:
And like as when some sudden extasie
Seizeth the nature of a sicklie man;
When he's discerned to swoon, straight by and by
And seeking with their art to fetch him back,
So many throng, that he the ayre doth lacke.
An entry often quoted in the accounts of the Court Revels, mentioning a performance on 26th December 1604, is now known to be a forgery. But the date was well invented, for all indications point to 1603-4 as the year of its composition. Not to dwell upon possible allusions to the accession of James, noticed at i. 1. 68 and ii. 4. 27, the play is linked very closely both with All's Well That Ends Well and with Hamlet. And Hamlet was undoubtedly completed in 1602-3. The grave strenuousness of character which dis
tinguishes Helena from the Rosalinds and Beatrices of the preceding group of Comedies is carried a step further in the passionate intensity of Isabel. In both, an immense inner force is normally concealed by a reserve not at all characteristic of Shakespearean womanhood; in both it breaks out at moments in splendours of poetry such as Portia alone among the women of the Comedies approaches. The device of Mariana is clearly adapted from the story of Helena. The affinities with Hamlet lie less in the characters than in the moral atmosphere.1 Both plays are pervaded by an oppressive consciousness, new in Shakespeare, of the might of evil; the state of the world is something rotten, and those who would better it are paralysed by inner flaws of mind or will. Denmark is out of joint, and Vienna a sink of vice; the duke and Hamlet alike recognise, and alike seek to evade, the reformer's task. Hamlet groans and procrastinates; the duke quietly appoints a deputy, and the deputy, a saint among sinners, is made a sinner by a saint. In both Hamlet and the duke, it may be added, different critics have discovered resemblances to the bustling Solomon who had, perhaps, just taken his seat upon the English throne.
Measure for Measure closely follows in outline the plot of George Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra, published in 1578. The title of this performance is as follows: The right excellent and famous Historye | of Promos and Cassandra: | divided into two commical Discourses. In the first Part is shewn, | The unsufferable Abuse of a lewd MAGISTRATE; The