Measure for Measure is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays.
It has been since I read it and saw 5 years ago.
I feel Isabella. I feel her whole being. I feel her struggle. I feel her rage. I feel her anger. I feel her love. I feel her devotion. I feel her doubt. I feel her confusion.
There are MANY personal ways I feel her. So intricately and so precisely. I feel her in each and every on of her relationships. Especially that with Claudio. Their relationship is the main reason I connect with her and with this play.
It leapt out at me off the page and off the stage and into the deepest places of familial (or any) hurt I have. It not only spoke to me…rather, IT SPOKE ME! It spoke pain that I hid even from myself. It spoke pain I was not ready to acknowledge. It spoke pain I felt guilty for even having. It spoke shame and rage and anger I felt I didn’t deserve to have–just like Isabella.
I’ve never played her, but I would love to. I chose her speech in Act III, sc 1 as my big final project in my first Shakespeare class in college.
“O faithless coward! O dishonest wretch!
Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice?
Is’t not a kind of incest, to take life
From thine own sister’s shame? What should I think?
Heaven shield my mother play’d my father fair!
For such a warped slip of wilderness
Ne’er issued from his blood. Take my defiance!
Die, perish! Might but my bending down
Reprieve thee from thy fate, it should proceed:
I’ll pray a thousand prayers for thy death,
No word to save thee”
…because when I read it, I wept. I wept from such a place of truth…of being “found out.” A place hidden from everyone including me, but not hidden from the beauty of the art I love. My art found my pain.
This project allowed me to deal with something I had never allowed myself to deal with.
…and it still hurts like a fresh wound. The scab is still exposed.
That pain still comes back just as strong.
My Claudio is just as ignorant as ever. I have never had Isabella’s courage, though, to put the pain his choices have caused me. My “chastity” is not worth his life…
But, I feel her frustration and pain. I AM her. Oh, Isabella…you can cry on my shoulder. I feel you. I get you.
I love Claudio. I love him with all of my being…just as Isabella does. And that is why he causes me so much pain.
But, I cannot act against him.
Will he ever come to his senses? What must I sacrifice of myself? What does he want from me? Is my love not enough? Must he have my life…my SOUL too?
These are the questions I feel facing Isabella. It may seem very overly dramatized, but I so feel them too…with or without justification.
I feel betrayed by my Claudio, again.
…and I forgive him, again.
But, i walk away with another scar/scab/wound.
Also with my head high. Still concerned with his welfare over mine…with his suffering and pain before mine…with his life being worth more than mine. Never ever ever wishing that my life should EVER shame him or cause him to suffer.
I love him. And it causes me so much pain to resonate with the threatening 1000 prayers for his death…because in that line, my anger is released and my pain eased like the release of a noose and loosening of a vice.
I am prepared for Claudio’s foolishness in the future. He cannot help it. And I love him through it all. Forgetting myselft for his sake…