Of Shakespeare’s problem plays—so-called for their ambiguous tone despite their designation as comedies—Measure for Measure is perhaps the most problematic. Isabella, an aspiring nun, is propositioned by the interim ruler of Vienna, Lord Angelo, in exchange for her brother’s life. “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall,” one character notes of the corrupt and contradictory atmosphere. Farcical elements—the Renaissance trope of the “bed trick,” for instance—abound, yet even these lighter moments have taken on significant gravity since the 1600s. Measure for Measure’s themes of sexual exploitation, power, and ethics are more of-the-moment, and more necessary to consider, than ever before. —C.J.F.
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