The Homoeroticism of Duke Vincentio: Some Feeling of the Sport

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The Homoeroticism of Duke Vincentio: "Some Feeling of the Sport"

Carolyn E. Brown, University of San Francisco

Shakespeare's Measure for Measure has been a source of critical contention for centuries. Rosalind Miles, for example, claims that the play "holds today an unassailable position as chief 'problem'" among Shakespeare's plays that have been labeled as such.1 David Lloyd Stevenson argues that part of the complexity and the discomfort of the play derives from Shakespeare's "forcing us to adjust to a level of apprehension of motives for human actions which lie far deeper than we are usually willing to go."2 While all of the protagonists are psychologically intricate, it is the enigmatic Duke Vincentio whose motives require and yet seem to defy the deepest probing and who, consequently, has contributed to earning Measure for Measure the unenviable designation as the most outstanding problem play of Shakespeare. Don D. Moore claims that Duke Vincentio is "probably the most controversial Duke in all of Shakespeare."3 His governmental decisions and administration of justice evoke critical debate and consternation. But what is equally disturbing for critics is his sexual nature and the sexual nuances of his actions, which have resisted critical explanation.

Although critics have long seen Measure for Measure as focusing on the relationship between mercy and justice in effective rule, the play has also been shown to be about sexuality. In fact, some critics argue that it is the predominant concern of the play. Marilyn French, for example, argues that "it is not just authority (justice) which is tried in Measure for Measure: it is sexuality itself that is on trial."4 Eric Partridge calls Measure for Measure, along with Othello, "Shakespeare's most sexual, most bawdy plays."5 Derek Traversi notes that the play shows a "preoccupation with the flesh"; Robert Rogers concurs by claiming that the play is "well stoked with libidinal fire."6

To help us probe the sexual motives of his psychologically complex protagonists—Angelo, Isabella, and the Duke—Shakespeare parallels them, creating what critics have called a "triumvirate," who share striking similarities.7 They can be evaluated by "measuring" one against the other. Angelo and the Duke, in fact, betray so many similarities that they have been viewed as doubles.8 All three, for example, live religiously austere, almost reclusive lives, devoted to cerebral and meditative pursuits; they find sexual vices abhorrent and believe the perpetrators of such "sins" should be subjected to the "blow of justice" (II.ii.30); and they attempt to suppress or "rebate and blunt" (I.iv.60) their fleshly desires until they are defunct.9 Yet despite the protagonists' dedication to sexual abstinence, the play focuses on the passions, one of the main themes being the impossibility of eradicating the libido. The play illustrates that it is "impossible to extirp [carnality] quite" (III.ii.98) and that "blood, thou art blood" (II.iv.15). Shakespeare creates a subtext in his protagonists, one in which they harbor an undeniable sexual nature beneath the saintly surface. Their unsuccessful repression creates an erotic undercurrent in the characters and a battle between virtuous intentions and sometimes unconscious lurid desires: the "so learned and so wise" "slip so grossly, both in the heat of blood / And lack of temper'd judgement afterward" (V.i.468, 470-71). Marvin Rosenberg describes the phenomenon as a "saintlike, angelic seeming that covers healthy, passionate, sometimes frightening mortal impulses."10 Angelo himself describes the conflict as "heaven [being] in my mouth" and "in my heart the strong and swelling evil / Of my conception" (II.iv.4, 6-7). The play, then, studies the incongruity between ideal and reality, between virtuous seeming and flawed humanity, as Shakespeare...

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allows us to probe "what may man within him hide, / Though angel on the outward side" (III.ii.264-65).

The subtext of a disturbed sexuality that lies hidden under an angelic exterior comes to the surface in Angelo and to a lesser degree in Isabella, and it has received substantial critical analysis. Isabella "seems" a woman of high moral rectitude, devoted to becoming a "bride of Christ." But critics note that she betrays a submerged passionate nature that contorts her most virtuous actions into sexually charged acts—often tinged with erotic masochism.11 While she pleads for her brother's life, for example, her repressed sexual nature compels her to seduce Angelo with a sexual tenor to her words. By the play's end, she becomes partially cognizant of her latent eroticism when she acknowledges that she is responsible for some of Angelo's arousal: "I partly think / A due sincerity govern'd his deeds / Till he did look on me" (V.i.443-45). Angelo's sexuality, however, has received the most critical disapprobation because he is placed in a position that allows his covert libidinous nature to surface. While professing to be sexually pure and seeming to be a saint, Angelo harbors a latent sexuality that betrays signs of sadism and that compels him to warp his governmental power into a way of gratifying his physical needs.12 He tries to maneuver Isabella into a compromising situation, corrupting his power into a means of making Isabella repay his promise to reprieve her brother with her sexual favors. Angelo becomes guilty of "Bidding the law make curtsey to [his] will, / Hooking both right and wrong to th'appetite, / To follow as it draws" (II.iv. 174-76). By the play's end, Angelo proves himself to be a poor ruler, divested of self-respect and the regard of Vienna's subjects.

One of the major differences between the Duke and his doubles, though, is that while admitting to his perplexing and sometimes troubling nature, critics have not been as condemnatory toward the Duke as they have been toward Isabella and especially Angelo, nor have they detected such prurient motivations in him. In fact, while the Duke's similarities to Angelo and Isabella intimate comparable subterranean desires, the Duke has long been seen as a providential, benevolent figure, a tribute to monarchial rule. Yet even some of the Duke's supporters cannot always dismiss the sense of shadiness and illicit sexuality that lurks around the Duke's most sterling actions. Like Angelo and Isabella, the Duke reveals a sexual subtext to his language and actions, especially his planning of the bedtrick, for which he has been compared to a pander.13 One of the reasons, however, that the Duke has not received the critical censure that Isabella and Angelo have received is his latent sexuality is more submerged and more difficult to probe than that of his doubles and remains largely subtextual. His saintly surface, furthermore, is more difficult to puncture because he maintains it so expertly. Consequently, the analyses of the Duke always seem incomplete, for, as Janet Adelman contends, the Duke is linked with a "sexuality that is itself hidden and devious" and makes "us uncomfortably aware of the possibility of hidden sexual impulses in sacred guises."14

I propose to uncover a part of this hidden sexuality, exploring a facet of the doubling between Angelo and the Duke that has not been examined and illustrating how consummately the Duke conceals his desires and actually manages to enhance his ducal image in the process of fulfilling his libido. Angelo helps us to comprehend the perplexing Duke, since qualities only intimated in the Duke's character are more clearly delineated in Angelo. While the Duke appears to be a divine agent, God's representative on earth, Shakespeare presents him as merely human and a "seemer," more ruled by his desires than his wisdom. Like Angelo, he uses his political privilege to fulfill his desires and bid "the law make curtsey to [his] will," for I propose that the close associations between Angelo and the Duke consist of more than a similar nature. I contend that the Duke's "closeness" to Angelo indicates his veiled sexual attraction for the young deputy and that the Duke misuses his power to maneuver Angelo into a compromising situation, just as Angelo does to Isabella, in order to gain Angelo's gratitude and, ultimately, his affections.

One of the reasons that Shakespeare makes the Duke's homoerotic attraction to Angelo and his misuse of power more concealed than the latent desires of Angelo and Isabella is political. That is, Shakespeare is addressing topical concerns about sovereign mismanagement and favoritism that plagued the Jacobean court, for the play has been shown to have a historical context. Catharine F. Seigel states that there is "fairly general agreement that Shakespeare intended Duke Vincentio to suggest the reigning monarch himself," and Herbert Howarth concurs that the "court audience would have been alive to potential resemblances" between the governmental actions and character of the fictional Duke Vincentio and those of the real King James I.15 While some critics see the play as reflecting the more admirable qualities and political policies of James I and view Shakespeare as intending his play to flatter James and monarchial rule,16 James was a controversial and, for the most part, an unpopular king. In fact, in 1607 the Venetian ambassador to England, Nicolo Molin, suggested that James was "despised and almost hated," and scholars note that the "general delight with which James's accession had been attended" was so "shortlived" that it dissolved within the first two years of his reign.17 Contemporary writers, moreover, did not refrain from addressing some of the concerns and criticisms about Jacobean governmental rule. Sir Ralph Winwood, for example, describes the disrespect shown to James on the stage: "The players do not forbear to present upon their stage the whole course of this present time; not sparing either king, state, or religion."18 Arthur Wilson alludes to the "strange Monstrous Satyrs against the King's own Person, that haunted both Court and Country, which express'd, would be too bitter to leave a sweet Perfume behind him."19 Some scholars argue that Shakespeare in Measure for Measure is not serving solely as a proponent for Tudor rule but that he is, in fact, one of those players who offers "satyr" against his unpopular and controversial king and highlights various problems of the Jacobean court.20 One controversy of James's reign, however, has been overlooked as a concern that Shakespeare is addressing: a ruler's use of his power to fulfill his sexual desires and to reward and protect his favorites.

In addressing topical controversies, Shakespeare had to be cautious that he did not offend those in power, especially since it is recorded that the play was performed before James during the Christmas festivities of 1604. He accomplishes this by couching his depiction of a flawed monarch within an overall framework of praise. In spite of its problematical stature, Measure for Measure is a play with a comedic thrust that depicts a ruler's omniscient and omnipotent handling of his subjects. By having his duke offer honorable explanations for his actions, Shakespeare places the compliment in the Duke's professed motivations and in a plot line in which "all's well that ends well"—a source for some of the critical approval of the Duke as a providential figure. And, indeed, Shakespeare presents his duke as having many admirable governing qualities, especially in comparison to Angelo, who makes a disastrous attempt to "duke it." The play uses the comedic framework to celebrate an effective ruler, who ultimately proves himself severe but just and merciful and who benefits the state, overseeing the well-being of his subjects. On the other hand, Shakespeare lodges the censure in the subtext, which, unlike that in the doubles of Angelo and Isabella, does not as readily come to the surface. One of Shakespeare's subversive intentions, then, is to debunk the royal theory about the divinity of rulers (one of which James was markedly fond). He presents his duke as an adept ruler, but he also humanizes him, giving him peccadilloes, emotional needs, and a propensity to fulfill these needs through less than honorable means.

Shakespeare shows that, unlike Angelo, who makes one political blunder after another in salving over his indiscretions, the Duke proves himself a more accomplished, successful ruler, astute at the necessary art of image making. One of the reasons, therefore, for the perception of the Duke as a providential figure is that he skillfully fashions the image. And one of the reasons that Measure for Measure, despite its troubling aspects, maintains its comedic nature is that the Duke cultivates a festive surface. Shakespeare portrays his duke as human and, thus, as imperfect as any of his subjects, but he also makes him a shrewd leader, in many senses reminiscent of Niccolò Machiavelli's Prince: he rules not so much with virtues but with a great deal of ingenuity, being "so prudent as to know how to avoid the infamy of those vices that would take his state from him."21 Shakespeare offers not an idealized, but a pragmatic, at times cynical, view of leadership, showing that good governing skills need not be based on an impeccable character but on the appearance of such. Unlike James who showed political acumen in creating spectacles to glorify himself but whose early and irretrievable decline of his reputation illustrates he was not skillful enough, Shakespeare's ruler consummately disguises his flaws and projects an image of righteousness. One of the reasons that Measure for Measure has received the designation of the most problematical play of Shakespeare is that it tackles such politically sensitive and scandalous topical issues that they must be broached delicately and allusively, never fully articulated lest Shakespeare be accused of censure of his own ruler, monarchy in general, and the royal theory about the divinity of earthly rulers.

It was in large part King James's questionable behavior with male favorites—behavior that he publicly established first in Scotland and then in England—that contributed to his reputation as king plummeting so rapidly and to the production of offensive satires and dramatic productions. Robert Ashton states that in the opinion of many of his contemporaries "the king's passion for male favorites was the greatest and most disastrous of his vices" and was "widely satirised, ridiculed and attacked by a wide variety of contemporary observers."22 In a written declaration from the nobility, James was warned that his policies with his favorites were causing his "good fame" to fall into "decay, and his crown and authoritie to be putt in questioun."23 James's contemporaries, as well as modern day historians, conjecture that the relationships were sexual in nature, that his "relations with the handsome young male favourites whom he found so necessary to him were at least tinged with homosexuality."24 Thomas Birch clearly alludes to this tenor when he calls the young men James's "male hareem."25 The king's embarrassingly blatant displays of affection in public made it difficult for his subjects not to notice. Francis Osborne describes the disgraceful situation:

And these .. . his favourites or minions . . . like burning-glasses, were daily interposed between him and the subject, multiplying the heat of oppressions in the general opinion. . . . The love the king shewed was as amorously convayed, as if he had mistaken their sex, and thought them ladies. . . . Nor was his love, or what else posterity will please to call it. . . carried on with a discretion sufficient to cover a lesse scandalous behaviour; for the kings kissing them after so lascivious a mode in publick, and upon the theatre, as it were, of the world, prompted many to imagine some things done in the tyring-house, that exceed my expressions no lesse then they do my experience: And therefore left floting upon the waves of conjecture, which hath in my hearing tossed them from one side to another.26

M. de Fontenay, the envoy of Mary Stuart to James when he was king of Scotland, wrote that one of the king's "defects which may possibly be harmful to the conservation of his estate and government" is that "he loves indiscreetly and obstinately despite the disapprobation of his subjects"—an allusion to his public displays of affection for male companions.27 David Calderwood refers to anonymous "contumelious verses made in contempt of [James], calling him Davie's sonne, a bougerer, one that left his wife all the night intactum"28 James himself intimated his lack of interest in women by admitting that he married his wife not for reasons of love but for reasons of state and by proclaiming when he set sail to bring home a wife—Anne of Denmark—that he "could have abstained langer" from relations with women.29 Certainly, James was notorious for his "contempt for the female character."30

The scandal and public outcry became inflamed when James's sexual proclivities interfered with his governing decisions. James went off on unexplained absences, often revolving around leisurely hunting expeditions, and usually left his rule in the hands of incompetent favorites or "minions," as they were called. They were typically given the highest and most powerful positions at court, such as that of the Lord Chancellor, and were virtually omnipotent, exercising more power than the king himself, who was usually physically, if not mentally, disengaged. William Robertson claims the favorites had "devolved upon [them] the whole regal authority" and they exercised "the whole management of affairs."31 Sir Edward Peyton speaks in a much more exasperated tone: "What shall I say more? Did not King James his minions and favourites rule the kingdom in the person of the king?"32 His subjects objected to the "lightning advance to power" of these unqualified favorites, who had little to commend them except a "fair face and a graceful form," and hunting skills.33 These subjects saw learned men being overlooked. One contemporary, Gundamore, sardonically condemned the conferral of undeserved power and titles by claiming that James made "privy counsellors sage at the age of twenty-one," a position of knowledge that most men could not attain until the age of sixty.34 That these young men were unqualified and did not deserve the prestigious positions lavished on them was indicated by their abuse of the unlimited power. For example, the earl of Arran, James's second favorite in Scotland, was the most abusive. James left "all his affairs to be managed by the Earl of Arran," who introduced a "regime of fierce and brutal terrorism."35 Characterized as "of a prowd and arrogant mynd [who] thoght no man to be his equall," he "execute[d] his office with all spedie regour" and became hateful for his oppressions, while James "remained an unconcerned spectator of these enormities."36

James lavished the young men with power because he "was able to deny them nothing."37 The rumors spread that he gave these young men power and positions as a way to show his affection for them and to win their attentions. Contemporary Anthony Weldon claims it was distressing "what a slave King James was to his favourites," who "had that exorbitant power over the king."38 James showered the young men with generosity in order to buy their affections. He heaped on them "profuse guiftes"—"money, jewels, honours, titles, lands"—none of which they deserved.39 Francis Osborne complains that "the setting up of these golden calves cost England more then Queene Elizabth [sic] spent in all her wars."40 But the abuse of power continued when James protected his favorites for crimes they had committed—favoritism that provoked much contumely and dissension. James was most severely condemned for protecting his favorites, for treating their crimes with "impunitie and oversight," for allowing these "enemeis of the truthe [to be] favoured and overlooked."41 He excused his favorites, as well as the friends of his favorites, of all degrees of crimes, including murder. And he expected his efforts to be appreciated and reciprocated. For example, after James saved one of his favorites from prosecution for murder and treason and, as a result, incurred the anger of his subjects, he wrote to the favorite, informing him of how much he had endangered his life and reputation for him in order to make the young man feel obligated to him: "Bethink you how I have 'incurred skaith and hazarde for your cause, and presentile quhat estait I ame in for it."42 While many historians consider this as James's most well-known offense, and while many scholars argue that Measure for Measure contains a historical context, none explores the possibility that Shakespeare is addressing a similar situation. I contend that Shakespeare is exploring monarchial vices similar to, but less blatant than, those of King James and is examining the general issue of monarchial moral turpitude, an issue that was hotly debated during James's reign.

At the play's beginning, Shakespeare begins the subtext by making his duke's behavior potentially scandalous. Because Shakespeare has the Duke and Angelo appear together in only two scenes—the opening and closing scenes—we can easily be misled into thinking that their relationship is slight and unimportant. But the fact is that their relationship is central to the action. Almost everything the Duke does relates back to his elusive scheme that focuses on Angelo, and in the disguise of a friar he keeps himself well informed of Angelo's behavior by spying on Angelo's reign. Angelo is never far from his thoughts or his view. The Duke's first questionable act centers on his removing himself from his ducal position and naming Angelo as his replacement. Shakespeare makes his duke's actions deliberately unsettling by having the Duke seem irresponsible in mysteriously surrendering all of his power and lodging it in an inappropriate choice. And, certainly, scholars have been stymied in looking for convincing explanations for such behavior.

Shakespeare underscores the impropriety of his duke's actions by introducing the character Escalus, the undisputed choice as a replacement—sagacious and experienced. Shakespeare's having the Duke cavalierly overlook the appropriate choice in favor of the inappropriate Angelo—a young, harsh, inexperienced, and untested neophyte—only complicates the issue and impresses us with a possible case of favoritism. The Duke himself admits that he gives Angelo preferential treatment: "We have with special soul / Elected him our absence to supply" (I.i. 17-18). He has "elected" or personally preferred Angelo over Escalus. Angelo is "special" or the Duke's favored choice,43 and for this he receives extra recognition and privileges. Shakespeare continues to hit his audience with the Duke's improper choice by having even Angelo himself recognize that he is not qualified, that he needs more experience before such an extravagant boon is laid at his feet: "Let there be some more test made of my metal, / Before so noble and so great a figure / Be stamp'd upon it" (I.i.48-50). The Duke is profligate in his conferral of privileges on Angelo. He appoints him the most powerful man in the land with the prerogative to make life and death decisions: "In our remove, be thou at full ourself. / Mortality and mercy in Vienna / Live in thy tongue, and heart" (I.i.43-45). Shakespeare, furthermore, suggests that Angelo is an inappropriate choice by having this replacement subsequently misuse and abuse his power. Shakespeare makes us feel uncomfortable with a ruler who chooses a harsh, unqualified man to rule because he "favors" him and who merely watches once Angelo channels this harshness into a prohibitive rule.

Shakespeare, moreover, has the Duke treat and speak of Angelo in unusual, perplexing ways. The Duke is intensely interested, if not fixated, on Angelo, admitting to this young man that he has so closely "observe[d]" the "character in [his] life" that he could his "history / Fully unfold" (I.i.27-29). Later, the Duke proves the validity of this statement, for he informs Isabella about all of the intimate details of the engagement between Angelo and Mariana and about Angelo's ultimate betrayal (III.ii.212-43). He knows everything about Angelo's past. The Duke is particularly interested, though, in one aspect of Angelo's life—his sexual history—and whenever he speaks of him, he inevitably refers to Angelo's libido or his suppression of it. While Shakespeare allows the Duke's language to and about Angelo to be read in formal and appropriate terms, he also suffuses it with a subtext that strikes us as markedly familiar. Richard A. Levin claims that the "Duke's attitude to Angelo is intimate in an odd way in Act 1."44 The Duke refers to Angelo lovingly, as the choice of his heart: he claims he has "drest him with our love" (I.i. 19). He says he has chosen Angelo with "special soul" (I.i. 17), the "soul" designating an emotional involvement, and "special" suggesting an intimate relationship.45 In fact, the Duke appears with Angelo in only two scenes—Act I, Scene i and Act V—and in both he requests to take Angelo's hand, which can be simply a diplomatic formality and yet it can suggest a desire for physical closeness.

In Act V, Shakespeare has his duke continue to use language that seems unusually intimate, as the Duke alludes to how dearly he holds Angelo in his "soul" (V.i.6) or his heart. He addresses Angelo as "cousin," a term that can denote merely a political term of address or on a subtextual level can suggest closeness if it is used "as a term of intimacy, friendship, familiarity."46 He later speaks of Angelo being "so near us" (V.i.123) as though he always wants Angelo to be in close proximity to him and touching him, as when he holds his hand, a sign that he ultimately wants to be "near" him or emotionally and physically close with him.47 He alludes to Angelo's being "lock[ed]" in his "covert bosom" (V.i.11), to holding Angelo dearly in his heart and desires.48 When in Act V Angelo asks the Duke permission to question the witnesses, the Duke grants him permission "with [his] heart" (V.i.238), reinforcing an affection for Angelo and speaking almost as if he is giving him his heart. The Duke's loving references to the deputy suggest that Shakespeare is subtextually alluding to his duke having intimate feelings for the young man and that these feelings are related to his giving Angelo his ducal power.

But Shakespeare has his duke openly profess sanctioned motivations. In Act I, scene iii, the Duke gives a fuller accounting of his actions, a scene which begins in medias res and in which the Duke and Friar Thomas are having a conversation. The Duke is attempting to explain his absence in Vienna and his conferral of power on Angelo. He repeatedly attests to the worthiness of his motivations, helping to establish the comedic tone of the play. He goes on to offer no less than four reasons for making Angelo his replacement, all of which, while elusive, seem reputable and well-meaning: he wants to reinstate judicial order in Vienna, which out of benign neglect he has "let slip" (I.iii.21); he intends for Angelo to "unloose this tiedup justice" (I.iii.32) for him because Angelo is severe; he assigns Angelo the job in order to avoid appearing tyrannical and "too dreadful" "to strike and gall [his subjects]/For what [he] bid them do" (I.iii.34, 36-37); and he alludes to his suspicions about the authenticity of Angelo's extreme virtue and his intention to subject Angelo to some kind of test: "Hence shall we see / If power change purpose, what our seemers be" (I.iii.53-54). On a principal level of meaning, Shakespeare presents his duke as a wise leader and an astute judge of character, who dedicates himself to rectifying his mistakes and making Vienna a better state. Although his means may be questionable, he ultimately accomplishes his worthy governmental mission, which he also intends to bolster his political stature. He is presented as a shrewd ruler in that he lets Angelo do the unenviable job of reestablishing order in his kingdom so that his own "nature [will] never in the fight / To do in slander" (I.iii.42-43). The Duke's professed motivations, then, are obscure but benign and politically astute.

But the Duke is doing much more than he openly professes, for as Janet Adelman puts it, "We never quite have full confidence in his motives: from the start, they seem both contradictory and obscure."49 The Duke's giving Angelo his full power serves his private sexual needs as well. In Act I, scene iii, Shakespeare continues to weave the sexual subtext, having his duke intimate his feelings for Angelo and his illicit reasons for giving Angelo his position. The Duke is responding to a query that Friar Thomas has posed to him, an inquiry that Shakespeare does not allow us to hear:

No. Holy father, throw away that thought; Believe not that the dribbling dart of love Can pierce a complete bosom. Why I desire thee To give me secret harbour hath a purpose More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends Of burning youth.


Throughout the scene, the primary level of the Duke's words supports the comedic tenor, with the Duke asserting the purity of his character and motivations and projecting a godly image. By not permitting us, however, to be privy to the Friar's "thought[s]" about the Duke's motivations, Shakespeare continues to shroud his duke's actions in mystery and to make us piece together bits of information and make inferences in order to break through to the subtextual level. While we do not know the exact nature of the Friar's inquiry or the "thought" that the Duke tells him to "throw away," Shakespeare allows us to gather the essence of it from the Duke's response. Since the Duke is denying a sexual nature in himself and a sexual tenor to his scheme with regard to Angelo, we are allowed to conjecture that the Friar is suspicious of the Duke's motives, as Shakespeare has made his audience suspicious as well, and that the Friar suspects the Duke's actions are sexual in nature. It would seem the Friar has made the following insinuations: the Duke does not have such a "complete bosom" or the Duke is not as immune to sexual desires as he professes; and the Duke has been hit by Cupid's "dart of love" or has felt the "sexual sting of amorous passion"50 and found a love interest. The Duke's denial also suggests that the Friar has intimated his suspicions about the Duke's motivations being less "grave and wrinkled" or cerebral than the Duke alleges and being, instead, about "aims and ends / Of burning youth"—a sexually loaded phrase. Partridge clarifies that the word "end" "has, for centuries, been used in bawdy innuendo to mean 'penis'" and that "burn" can refer to being "inflame[d] with love."51 The Friar seems to have suggested that he suspects the Duke not only has an active libido (that his "end" is not "wrinkled" or defunct but "burning" or aroused) but also has an interest in the "ends" of "youth"—a reference to an erotic interest in young men. Partridge contends that "youth" is "often used in Shakespeare" with a sexual overtone, referring to "'youth with its sexual curiosity and amorous ardour.'"52 And while "youth" can be unspecified with regard to gender, it can be used to refer specifically to "a young man between boyhood and mature age,"53 and the Duke's terminology suggests this meaning.

These suspicions may be more than idle speculation. Although Shakespeare does not specify the exact nature of the relationship and does not develop the character of Friar Thomas, it seems that the Friar and the Duke are well acquainted: the Duke himself claims that "none better knows than" (I.iii.7) the Friar about his personal habits. The Friar speaks with some personal knowledge of the ruler. Shakespeare has the Duke inadvertently attest to homoeroticism when he later defends himself against Lucio's sexual imputations: he proclaims he is not guilty of "servicing" women, for he was not "much detected for women; he was not inclined that way" (III.ii.118-19). And the Duke does not woo any women during the play.

By throwing us into the middle of a conversation that draws our attention to the Duke's defensiveness about sexual allegations, Shakespeare, moreover, allows that there is some validity to them since the Duke is so intent on denial. We are confronted with overreaction on the Duke's part as he tries repeatedly to repudiate even a tinge of sexuality in himself and his plans—as if he fears the Friar has hit too close to home. Although he offers to give "more grave" reasons for his actions, he is unable to explain himself and unable to forget the Friar's ostensible imputations on his character, to which he keeps returning:

My holy sir, none better knows than you How I have ever lov'd the life remov'd, And held in idle price to haunt assemblies, Where youth, and cost, witless bravery keeps.


He continues to try to clear his character, claiming he is more saintly than sexual, denying that he "haunts" places where "witless[ness]" might take place, where people might lose rational control of their actions. Once again, he denies that he seeks out "youth." Shakespeare deliberately makes words such as "cost" and "bravery" ambiguous in order to conceal his subtext. But "bravery" can refer to "beaus, gallants, or grandees," and "cost" can refer to a price paid for something.54 Given the previous sexual innuendo in the Duke's defenses, the Duke may be denying the Friar's intimation that he frequents places of sexual excess where young men's attentions can be purchased for the right price.

Although the Duke professes to be explaining his actions, he goes on to cleanse not only his own character of sexual desire but also that of Angelo, whom he characterizes as chaste, "a man of stricture and firm abstinence" (I.iii.12):

Lord Angelo is precise; Stands at a guard with Envy; scarce confesses That his blood flows; or that his appetite Is more to bread than stone.


His delineation of Angelo does not emphasize the deputy's governing capabilities—qualities that seem pertinent for the circumstances—but only Angelo's sexlessness. The Duke's defensiveness suggests that the Friar has cast doubts upon not only the Duke's chastity but also Angelo's professions of abstinence and that he suspects that the Duke's intentions toward Angelo are sexual in nature—imputations that the Duke is intent on denying. The Duke denies that he and Angelo have sexual stirrings beneath the pure exterior—as if he fears the opposite is true. The Duke's defensiveness, evasiveness, and uneasiness suggest that his motives are not only too personal and improper for him to articulate but also perhaps not fully conscious.

While Shakespeare does not have his protagonist neatly delineate his secret reasons for leaving his kingdom in the hands of Angelo, he gives us hints in the Duke's language if we are willing to search into the subtext. Friar Thomas's apparent suspicions, the Duke's defensiveness, his favoritism toward Angelo, and his intimate references to Angelo—all of these suggest that the Duke's latent motives are sexual and that they relate to desires for "youth" and one "youth" in particular—Angelo—on whom the Duke's discussion pivots. While the Duke's repeated delineations of Angelo's sexual repression are meant to vindicate the deputy's character, they also reveal more about the ruler's motives than he is made to realize. They indicate the Duke's fixation on Angelo as a sexual being and his own inability to awaken Angelo's appetite. The Duke's description of Angelo as "scarce confess[ing] / That his blood flows; or that his appetite / Is more to bread than stone" (I.iii.51-52) suggests that the Duke has confronted Angelo and tried to get him to admit to his sexuality but that Angelo has denied the advances, has refused to "confess" that he is sexual. Shakespeare allows for the reading that the Duke's harping on Angelo's sexual frigidity denotes his frustration at not being able to get this man even to admit to his libidoone that Shakespeare suggests may excite the Duke.

When the Duke first addresses Angelo in Act I, scene i, Shakespeare makes his language cryptic and puzzling, as the Duke advises his replacement about his "virtue":

Thyself and thy belongings Are not thine own so proper as to waste Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee. Heaven doth with us as we with torches do, Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd But to fine issues; nor nature never lends The smallest scruple of her excellence But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines Herself the glory of a creditor, Both thanks and use.


By having his language evoke biblical images and contain sententious words of advice, Shakespeare allows on a primary level for his duke to be seen as a knowledgeable ruler of superior moral rectitude, lecturing a less experienced and flawed young man. Shakespeare, however, also allows for a less obvious and less noble meaning. Like a shrewd ruler, the Duke is skillful at cloaking his suspicious actions—especially the most inappropriate—in religious garb. He, in fact, seems to be trying to convince Angelo to drop his abstinence and become sexually active. What is so suspicious is that he does not give Angelo, who has no governing experience, any specific advice about the duties of a ruler, despite the fact that he is about to delegate all of his power to this neophyte. His advice is personal and is delivered in a personal manner with the familiar pronoun "thy." The Duke focuses on Angelo's private life and, specifically, the "uses" to which Angelo puts his "torch." His redundant reproofs bear striking resemblances to those in Venus and Adonis and in Sonnets 1, 4, 6, and 9, which advise a selfabsorbed, narcissistic young man to engage in sex. He exhorts Angelo to put his "torch" or penis to "use" in sexual intercourse. The Duke advises him to realize his "natural" desires and engage in "touching" or sexual contact. In telling Angelo "thyself and thy belongings / Are not thine own so proper as to waste / Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee," he advises this young man that he should not "waste" himself on himself—a possible reference to masturbation—but that he should go beyond his onanism and look for erotic gratification outside of himself. Enlisting a carpe diem theme, he urges Angelo to stop wasting himself by being reclusive. The imagery of coining often having sexual import in Shakespeare,55 the Duke advises Angelo to be like a good borrower, who does not hoard his coins but profits himself by putting them in circulation, by putting himself in circulation. Certainly, the language has a subtextual erotic tenor and seems like strange advice to a governmental replacement—advice that should be more about governing procedures than about personal proclivities. Shakespeare intimates that the Duke is frustrated because Angelo has made himself sexually inaccessible to him and that his duke is trying to convince a young man to light his "torch," become sexual, and stop denying him sexual favors.

The Duke later refers to his "plot" (IV.v.2), and he may very well have an elaborate scheme in mind to accomplish his "mission"—one that involves misusing his sovereign prerogative. In Act I, scene i, he places Angelo in a tempting position by giving him "full," limitless power and by instructing him to do whatever he wishes, to interpret the law as he sees fit, to punish or forgive whomever he wants: "Your scope is as mine own / So to enforce or qualify the laws / As to your soul seems good" (I.i.64-66). In speaking of Angelo's latent desires at lines 29-40 and in giving him political power at the same time, the Duke correlates Angelo's achieving sexual pleasure with his administration of power. The Duke, in other words, subtly links Angelo's power with putting his "torch" to "use." The Duke, in fact, goes so far as to intimate that Angelo can abuse his power, especially since the Duke will not be present to monitor his behavior and Escalus is only a "secondary," who must follow Angelo's orders: "Nor need you, on mine honour, have to do / With any scruple" (I.i.63-64). The Duke urges Angelo to be unscrupulous. Shakespeare implies that the Duke gives Angelo power for less public, sanctioned reasons and that he means to trap his replacement into confessing to his latent eroticism: "Hence shall we see / If power change purpose, what our seemers be" (I.iii.53-54). The word "purpose" is elusive, and given the sexual subtext of the play and of the Duke's language in particular, it can refer to genitals or sexual appetite.56 Shakespeare is suggesting that the Duke gives Angelo unconditional power and instructs him not to worry about being ethical as a way to prod Angelo into abusing his power for sexual satisfaction. His scheme is to trap Angelo into showing that his sexlessness is mere "seem[ing]." And Angelo does ultimately abuse his power for sexual advantage, forcing Isabella to submit to his desires or lose her brother. Since the Duke cannot get Angelo to loosen the restraints on his affections and respond to the Duke's attentions by directly appealing to him, he uses duplicity to wheedle Angelo into a tempting position and into admitting, in spite of himself, that "his appetite / Is more to bread than stone" (I.iii.52-53).

The Duke sets Angelo up for failure: Angelo is inexperienced, yet the Duke gives him "full" power; he refuses to provide Angelo even an iota of advice, yet he leaves him to decide "matters of needful value" (I.i.55). Angelo's inevitable failure serves several illicit purposes. It allows the Duke to puncture Angelo's pride in his virtue and infallibility and, thus, forces the deputy to drop his "precise[ness]" and "stricture" and admit to his flawed nature. It also makes Angelo obligated and vulnerable to the Duke for not living up to the Duke's belief in him and for not successfully executing the duty the Duke gave him. The Duke does not test the strength of Angelo's virtue, as he states, but induces Angelo to drop his virtue. His "purpose" involves proving that Angelo is no angel, that he is a flawed human and a "motion generative," and that he is, thus, capable of sexually responding to the Duke.

Shakespeare also has his duke in Act I, scene i lavish Angelo with power as a way to impress Angelo with his regard for him and to make Angelo grateful to him. The Duke lets Angelo know he is doing a special favor for his deputy because Angelo is his "choice" (I.i.51): "Old Escalus, / Though first in question, is thy secondary" (I.i.45-46). He informs Angelo that he does not really deserve the "honor," as the Duke calls it, that Escalus should have received it, but that he has broken some protocol because of a preference for Angelo. He, furthermore, impresses Angelo with the greatness of his gift to him. The Duke repeatedly tells him that he gives him free reign to do whatever he wants and that he gives him his greatest gift of his kingdom. Certainly, such an extravagant boon makes the recipient beholden to the giver. The Duke has "drest [Angelo] with our love" or dressed him in his ducal robes as a way to win Angelo's "love." And yet Shakespeare and the Duke disguise this sexual scheme behind a professed honorable plan to rectify the judicial chaos of the kingdom and to test a "seemer"—to which the Duke is also dedicated and at which he succeeds. He preserves his image as a "fond father" of his people and dedicates himself to protecting his reputation, concealing his illicit motivations and misuse of power, and maintaining a comedic surface.

The other character who has suspicions about the Duke's profession of sexual sterility and his "plot" is Lucio, who claims that he knows "the very nerves of state" (I.iv.53), or that he is an insider, privy to the most intimate details of state and of the Duke in particular. Lucio voices some of the suspicions that the more reputable Friar Thomas seems to entertain, a similarity that gives more credence to Lucio's words. In fact, Act I, scene iii and Act III, scene ii are similar in that the Duke is defensively reacting to imputations on his character, the major difference being that Shakespeare allows us to hear Lucio's words whereas he does not allow us to be privy to Friar Thomas's. Lucio suggests that he knows what the Duke is up to and that the Duke and his plan are not as "wise" (III.ii.134) as he publicly proclaims. Rather than believing that the Duke has purely governmental concerns in mind, Lucio claims his ruler is engaging in "a mad, fantastical trick" (III.ii.89) or an elaborate, personal scheme of his own. Although Lucio's language is incorrigibly laced with bawdy innuendoes, he, nonetheless, echoes the Friar's apparent suspicions about the Duke—that his "withdrawing" and his intentions toward Angelo are sexually oriented. He repeatedly describes the Duke, Angelo, and the scheme in sexual terms as though the three are interrelated. His words surfeited with sexual innuendo, he openly proclaims what Friar Thomas only intimated—that the Duke is sexual: "He had some feeling of the sport; he knew the service" (III.ii. 115-16). The Duke's defensiveness and overreaction to Lucio's depiction, like the Duke's overreaction to Friar Thomas's words, indicate that Lucio has come too close to some hidden, delicate truth that the Duke would rather suppress.

Lucio claims that he speaks knowingly and that his portrayals of the Duke are not idle gossip but based on close acquaintanceship and observation of his ruler: he repeatedly maintains that he was an "inward" (III.ii.127) of the Duke and "knows" (III.ii.129, 145, 148, 155) and "loves" him (III.ii.145). Undoubtedly Lucio shows signs of being a braggart and of taking creative license with the truth. But Shakespeare allows for some personal basis from which Lucio speaks. Lucio's numerous references to the Duke's sexual proclivities and the confident manner in which he asserts them suggest that he has intimate knowledge of the Duke himself, that he knows of the Duke's desires because he has experienced them himself. With the words "inward," "knows," and "loves," Shakespeare suggests a friendship or even an intimacy between Lucio and the Duke. The word "inward" denotes intense feeling or sexual intimacy, and "knows" refers to carnal knowledge.57

Such nuances allow for the reading that Lucio is an old favorite—as he proclaims—who knows the "very nerves of state" or the secret desires of his ruler, and whom the Duke is replacing with a younger, more pleasing favorite. When Lucio speaks evasively about knowing "the cause of [the Duke's] withdrawing" (III.ii.129), he can be referring to more than the Duke's removal from Vienna and his position as duke; he can mean the Duke's "withdrawal" or drawing away his affections from him in favor of another.58

Shakespeare leaves the crucial issue elusive as to whether Lucio recognizes the Duke and vice versa. Such equivocation permits him to allow for the reading that one or both characters recognize the other and that Lucio is trying to make a special plea to the Duke. If Lucio is read as being a rejected favorite who recognizes the Duke in disguise, then his harping on Angelo's character is more than idle gossip or slander. Lucio's numerous disparaging references to Angelo throughout Act III, scene ii indicate his resentment and jealousy toward the Duke's new choice and his hurt at being jilted. All of his derisive characterizations of Angelo focus on the same point: Angelo is sexually undersirable and frigid. Lucio mockingly calls Angelo "a motion ungenerative" (III.ii.108)—a sexless "thing"—and an "ungenitured agent" (III.ii. 167-68)—a creature without genitals.59 Lucio means his derogatory references to Angelo's sexual frigidity and the contrary portrayal of the Duke as a sexually potent figure to convince the Duke that he should turn his affections away from Angelo as an unsuitable companion. Lucio, in other words, is trying to persuade the Duke to turn away from Angelo and, instead, redirect his affections to himself—an "inward" who "love[s] him." When he states that he "would the Duke we talk of were returned again" (III.ii. 166-67), Lucio means more than he wishes the Duke would return to Vienna and save Claudio's life: on a subtextual level he is also wishing that the Duke would "return" to him, a more suitable choice as a companion than the icy, cold Angelo, who will never return the Duke's affections. He underscores his constancy in that even though the Duke has "withdrawn" from him and rejected him for another, he claims he will "stick" or remain faithful and continue to "serve" him: "I am a kind of burr, I shall stick" (IV.iii.177).60

Certainly, with Lucio's depiction of a salacious duke, Shakespeare continues to make his audience uneasy about the Duke's character. In portraying Lucio as a problematic character, Shakespeare creates perplexity for his audience, who do not know how much credence to put in Lucio's words. While Shakespeare does not permit us to put complete trust in his words, Lucio's wit, intellectual acuity, and often correct assessment of other characters allow for there to be some validity to what he says, especially since his hunches about the Duke's actions and his delineation of his character often seem well founded. Shakespeare, therefore, uses Lucio to enrich the subtext and to expand the sexual element of the Duke. But Lucio also helps Shakespeare to maintain the tribute to the Duke and monarchial rule, for ultimately Shakespeare makes Lucio—given to irreverence, gossip, bawdy innuendo, exaggeration, and subterfuge—far from a trustworthy voice. He permits us to discount Lucio's words and, instead, believe the Duke, who defends himself against Lucio's imputations by proclaiming himself "a scholar, a statesman, and a soldier" and accusing Lucio of being "mistak[en]," "envious," and "malic[ious]" (III.ii.137,142, 144).

Upon overhearing Isabella's revelation to her brother of Angelo's perfidious proposal that she sacrifice her virginity to him to save Claudio's life, the Duke devises the scheme of the bedtrick. The critical controversy that surrounds the Duke's plot betrays the fact that the bedtrick is part of the disturbing subtext. If read on this level, the bedtrick can be seen as the Duke's way of remaining loyal to Angelo, not Lucio, as Shakespeare impresses on us the Duke's consistent efforts to shelter Angelo from danger and the serious consequences of his actions. Shakespeare suggests that his duke devises the bedtrick not only to save Claudio but also to shield Angelo, preventing him from committing a heinous crime of bartering with Isabella for sexual favors in exchange for her brother's safety and, instead, having him consummate his legal bond to Mariana. More importantly, though, the bedtrick helps the Duke perfect his "purpose and plot" with regard to Angelo. His interference ensures that Angelo has the opportunity to abuse his power and satisfy his desires and that he is trapped into revealing his sexuality. The Duke arranges an opportunity to get conclusive proof that Angelo's "blood flows," that his sexlessness is mere "seem[ing]." Mariana, moreover, poses no threat to his plans, for Angelo, obviously, is not in love with Mariana. His union with her was not one of passion but of financial security, and when the dowry disappeared so did Angelo. He has no romantic feelings for her and has not seen or spoken to her for five years. In fact, Angelo may actually dislike Mariana, for the Duke calls Mariana Angelo's "old betrothed but despised" (III.ii.272). Moreover, the Duke's later proposing to Isabella, a woman for whom he has shown no love interest, is a way for him to keep Angelo separated from a woman to whom the deputy is attracted and to keep Angelo for himself.

Shakespeare's bedtrick in Measure for Measure also evokes a note of pruriency, which has been difficult for many critics to ignore, and it is quite different from other instances of it. In All's Well That Ends Well, for example, we hear none of the specifics of the bedtrick, none of the sordid details, and the exchange happens before we know it—much removed from our hearing or sight. But in Measure for Measure, the Duke vitally and gratuitously involves himself in arranging sex for others. Critics note that Shakespeare makes his duke become so questionably and excessively involved in the clandestine arrangements that the Duke resembles Pompey the bawd, with whom Shakespeare juxtaposes the Duke as if to suggest a strange connection. What is so shocking is his planning and delineating the bed scene in titillating detail. Shakespeare has the bedtrick enhance the subtextual reading of the Duke by suggesting that his ruler indulges voyeuristic tendencies, enjoys hearing of others' sexual activities, and derives pleasure from imagining and planning sex for others61—and all while he is executing his governmental duties.

Shakespeare is using the bedtrick as a means to dramatize yet again general concerns about a sovereign's misuse of power to involve himself in the most intimate aspects of his subjects' lives. James arranged marriages and sexual liaisons for his favorites and, in fact, was not threatened by these unions or rendezvouses: "while he was bitterly jealous of his favorites' male friends, he always showed himself willing and indeed eager to arrange advantageous marriages for them."62 He continued his relations with the men even more intensely after the favorites entered into marital bonds, and he used the passionless marriages as fronts for intimate encounters with the young men, as he tried to quell suspicions about his sexual orientation. He admitted that he married to dispel the suspicion of impotency in him, "as gif I were a barran stock; thir reasons, and innumerable others hourly objected, moved me to heasten the treatie of my marriage"—an oblique reference to rumors about his intimacy with young men.63

James's promoting others' sexual activities was not something that his contemporaries praised or even modern day biographers treat with much acceptance. Rather it was a source of embarrassement. James intimately involved himself in the heterosexual intrigues of his male companions. When, for example, one of James's first male favorites in England—the earl of Montgomery—decided to marry Lady Susan Vere at the close of 1603, the king took the whole matter on himself, arranging the ceremony and reconciling the couple's families to the surprise event. This could be attributed to solicitude, but what cast a dark shadow on such intervention was James's obsession with the actual sexual relations of the newly married couple. Otto Scott, for example, describes James's strange behavior: "The king supervised and beamed during the marriage of his favorite, the earl of Montgomery, to Lady Susan Vere; the following morning he rushed to their bedchamber to learn the details of their first night, lolling familiarly between them"—a story that quickly became a source of gossip.64 Contemporary Sir Dudley Carleton in a letter to Mr. Winwood obliquely suggests a peculiar aspect to the king's behavior in the newly weds' bedroom: "They were lodged in the Councill Chamber, where the King, in his Shirt and Night-Gown, gave them a Revelee Matin before they were up, and spent a good time in or upon the Bed, chuse which you will believe."65 In November of 1603, the king did something similar, behavior that he indulged in so often that it became a pattern for him: he intimately involved himself in the union of the young Lady Margaret Stewart and the aged earl of Nottingham, prying for details about Nottingham's ability to consummate the marriage. Queen Anne, James's wife, alludes in a letter addressed to James to the indelicacy and inappropriateness of James's involvement in Lady Margaret and the earl of Nottingham's sex life:

The last part of your letter you guessed right that I would laugh. Who would not laugh both at the persons and at the subject, but more at so well a chosen Mercury between Mars and Venus? You know that women can hardly keep counsel. I humbly desire your Majesty to tell me how it is possible that I should keep this secret, that have already told it, and shall tell it to as many as I shall speak with; and if I were a poet, I would make a song of it, and sing it to the tune of 'Three fools well met.'66

Later in his reign, he took a major interest in arranging marriages for his children, especially his daughter, Elizabeth. After attentively supervising the courting and marriage of his daughter to Frederick, he visited them the morning after the ceremony. A modern biographer, David Willson describes the odd behavior of the king: "with shocking pruriency he questioned Frederick minutely about what had happened during the night." Robert Ashton also describes the event: "James was passionately devoted to his daughter, though the salacious pruriency which impelled him to visit the newlyweds in bed and question them in detail about the events of their wedding night—a practice which the king indulged on other similar occasions—shews [sic] him in one of his least attractive lights." Antonia Fraser, likewise, records the disturbing behavior: his visiting the newlyweds brought out "that faintly ludicrous side in his public behaviour which his rather pathetic curiosity towards the sexual relationships of others only enhanced."67 What the king was doing amounted to spy ing on the newlyweds, even if he was doing it second-hand by having them describe the scene so that he could envision it in his mind. These strange predispositions indicate that the king took vicarious pleasure in planning and hearing about the sexual relations of others, that he had voyeuristic tendencies—libidinous interests that he concealed under the guise of fatherly solicitude for his subjects and that he often fulfilled through misuse of his governmental prerogative.

While Shakespeare with the bedtrick again creates some unsettling scenes for his audience, and most likely for James himself, he glosses them over with a more obvious harmonious surface. As numerous scholars have clarified, the bedtrick was an established and popular dramatic device during this time, and, thus, Shakespeare hides his covert meaning within conventions. The Duke, moreover, again professes the most honorable intentions: the bedtrick allows him to "redeem [Claudio] from the angry law" (III.i.200-201); it permits him to do Mariana "a poor wronged lady a merited benefit" (III.i. 199-200); and it prepares for the Duke to "scale" "the corrupt deputy" (III.i.255-56). While the Duke's methods may be unsettling, Shakespeare makes the results good. Shakespeare also shows the Duke to be a consummate politician, shrewd enough to turn his most questionable actions into a means of enhancing his own image as a solicitous, loving father of his people—somewhat reminiscent of King James's talent.

On a subtextual level, though, the Duke's actions continue to be sexually loaded as he seeks more than a voyeuristic relationship with Angelo. Act V contains the consummation of the Duke's submerged scheme to trap Angelo into becoming his new favorite and into returning his affections. The play ends much as it began, with the Duke acting as enigmatically as in Act I. The play comes full circle or full "measure," and we can "measure" the last act by the first one. In Act V the Duke duplicates his actions of Act I, scene i: once again he surrenders his power and leaves the scene to assume his priestly garb; again he names Angelo as his replacement and gives him his full power; again his actions can seem irresponsible and tinged with favoritism as he leaves the least appropriate man—Angelo—in charge; and once more his actions all pivot around Angelo. The Duke's motivations, likewise, are as problematical as they are at the play's beginning and have caused scholarly debate and consternation. Again Shakespeare maintains the pleasing comedic surface by having the Duke attest to holy and virtuous intentions for the most questionable actions, such as lying to Isabella and making her think her brother is dead: "I will keep her ignorant of her good, / To make her heavenly comforts of despair / When it is least expected" (IV.iii.108-10). That the Duke's professed spiritual explanations for his behavior are so strained, however, indicates a subtext in which he is concealing less savory motivations. His lying to Isabella is geared more to persuading her to condemn publicly Angelo of rape, to "accuse him home and home" (IV.iii. 143), than to giving her "heavenly comforts." He also arranges to have Mariana accuse Angelo of seducing her. Such maneuvers allow him to put Angelo in a distressing situation, and he has several salacious reasons for doing so.

While the Duke's praise of Angelo in Act V serves as dramatic irony and is meant to activate the deputy's guilt and to trap him into revealing his perfidy, it is gratuitous and indicative that something else is transpiring. The Duke creates an opportunity to impress Angelo with his devotion to him. He is excessively kind and complimentary to Angelo. Shakespeare has the Duke inform Angelo that he "favours" him, that he regards him as a "favorite": "let the subject see, to make them know / That outward courtesies would fain proclaim / Favours that keep within" (V.i.15-17). The Duke declares that he will show him "outward courtesies," that he will publicly lavish him with his generosity and material rewards,68 in order to gain his "infner]" "favours" during more private times, a reference to sexual favors.69 He proceeds to allude to all of the material ways he can benefit Angelo, referring to the "more requital" (V.i.8), to the forthcoming perquisites. He tells Angelo that his worthiness "deserves with characters of brass / A forted residence 'gainst the tooth of time / And razure of oblivion" (V.i. 12-14). The hyperbolic promise tantalizes Angelo with boundless wealth, with "characters of brass" or copper and bronze coins or money in general.70 The "characters of brass" also refer to public acclaim. The "forted residence" entices Angelo with promises of lands and estates. In tempting Angelo with promises of wealth, fame, and material possessions, the Duke is trying to buy the affection of a young man, who has been withholding his sexual attention from him.

The Duke, in fact, proceeds to treat his deputy with great privilege. The Duke's creating a seemingly dire situation for Angelo, in which his character is being impugned, allows the ruler to impress the young man with his belief in him and his dedication to protecting him. He repeatedly and excessively defends him against what he terms unfounded accusations, attesting to Angelo's "integrity" (V.i. 110):

think'st thou thy [Angelo's accusers'] oaths, Though they would swear down each particular saint, Were testimonies against [Angelo's] worth and credit, That's seal'd in approbation?


The Duke suggests that even if the accusations were well founded and could convict saints, and even if Angelo were guilty of the charges, he would safeguard Angelo, over whom he has placed a "seal" or an impenetrable protective covering.71 He instructs Angelo that he has nothing to worry about since the Duke will not "permit / A blasting and a scandalous breath to fall / On him so near us" (V.i. 124-26). His closeness or preference for his deputy compels him to see that no danger comes his way and to resort to any tactics to ensure his well-being. And, indeed, the Duke proves true to his word, for he shows himself willing to distort justice by making Angelo judge of his own case: "Come, cousin Angelo, / In this I'll be impartial: be you judge / Of your own cause" (V.i. 167-69). The declaration is highly ironic, for the Duke is being far from impartial in allowing the guilty party to control his own trial. As in Act I, scene i, he shows his devotion and preference for Angelo by giving him all of his power and allowing Angelo to behave unethically if he wishes. Once again, he does him a special favor.

He also encourages Angelo to behave poorly and to conceal the truth. The Duke's finding Isabella and Mariana guilty himself before handing them over to Angelo and his own insulting behavior as Friar Lodowick encourage the deputy to punish his victims "to [his] height of pleasure" (V.i.239). The Duke's actions again parallel those of the first scene, for in both scenes the Duke prompts his deputy to abuse his power. As he does in Act I, scene i, the Duke prods Angelo to behave shamefully so that the deputy will be more at his mercy, more in need of forgiveness when his crimes are revealed. These tactics are largely geared to making Angelo feel "sealed" (V.i.244) to the Duke, to feel bound or obligated to him72 for his kindness and his patronage during scandalous times. Shakespeare makes us sense that the Duke puts a "seal" on Angelo and maneuvers him so that he can claim possession of him as his favorite.73

As soon as the Duke has been divested of his disguise, Angelo admits his wrongdoing and guilt. Although Angelo readily admits to his faults, the Duke presents him as a vile criminal who "would'st deny" (V.i.411) his crimes if not trapped into doing otherwise. The Duke proceeds to reveal Angelo's abuse of his power, never clarifying that he set Angelo up to do exactly that. His public humiliation of Angelo makes his deputy, deprived of the last shred of pride, drop his sanctimonious pose and admit to his flawed humanity. The Duke's arranging for Isabella and Mariana to accuse Angelo of a libidinous nature forces Angelo to "confess" "that his appetite is more to bread than stone." That his sexuality is revealed in public prevents Angelo from ever denying it. The Duke's preceding tributes to Angelo's virtue and his avowals of unwavering belief in his deputy's goodness are meant partially to increase Angelo's devastation at not living up to the Duke's expectations and disappointing his ruler. The Duke so vilifies, shames, and mortifies Angelo that his spirit is broken and he wants only to die—a desperate condition that makes Angelo vulnerable and resigned to the Duke's plans for him. The Duke ensures that Angelo can no longer claim his superiority—either ethically or sexually. He is just as, if not more, marred and sexual as others. He can no longer hold himself at a distance from others—especially not from the Duke.

Despite Angelo's avowal of guilt, the Duke continues with what seems like needless and heartless deception: he lies to Isabella yet again and reassures her of her brother's death, makes Mariana believe her new husband must die, and ominously and repeatedly pronounces the death sentence on Angelo: "An Angelo for Claudio; death for death"; "We do condemn thee to the very block / Where Claudio stoop'd to death"; "Away with him to death"; "He dies for Claudio's death" (V.i.407, 412-13, 427, 441). Shakespeare has his duke create a horribly frightening scene, protracting the misconception about Claudio's death and making everyone believe he will carry out the execution of Angelo, which he secretly never intends to enforce. The Duke lets the scene get to a pitch of desperation and morbidity and only at the last moment miraculously produces Claudio and announces that Angelo is "safe." The Duke's scaring and impressing on Angelo his looming death and his vileness make Angelo feel forever duty-bound and grateful to the Duke when he forgives him his sins and saves his life. Keeping his scheme cloaked in mystery, he never lets Angelo know that he was carefully trapped or that Angelo's life was never in real danger. This level of meaning presents a ruler who is willing to hurt anyone, including the innocent participants who helped him perfect his scheme and including the object of his desires, in order to satisfy his personal needs.

The Duke exercises absolute power, making himself judge and jury, conducting a trial that conceals more than it reveals the crimes and the criminal. Shakespeare allows for a subtextual reading in which his duke uses the judicial process to serve his private desires and to protect Angelo, rather than to reveal the truth. The Duke underscores what he does for his deputy: "Methinks I see a quickening in his eye. / Well, Angelo, your evil quits you well. / Look that you love your wife: her worth, worth yours" (V.i.493-95). The Duke's telling Angelo that his "evil quits [him] well" indicates that the Duke misuses justice in order to protect his favorite, for Angelo's "evil" pays off or benefits him in the end. He saves Angelo's reputation by marrying him to the woman with whom he has slept; he "quit[s]"—absolves or delivers—him of his abuse of power and his attempts to conceal that abuse; and he "quicken[s]" him or gives him life again, rescuing him at the last minute from the hands of death. Within the word "quit" is couched the Duke's primary intention. "Quit" meaning to repay or requite a person for a favor,74 the Duke performs this elaborate maneuver to make Angelo feel he owes him for his very life. Earlier Shakespeare alludes to the game the Duke is playing when he has Angelo tell the Duke, "You make my bonds still greater" (V.i.9). The Duke is trying to establish a bond—a strong union—between himself and Angelo, a sense of commitment, one based on an obligation or duty.75 Angelo is trapped by the "bonds" of gratitude and shame and is in "bonds" or the shackles and chains of obligation.76 The Duke, on the other hand, is excessively harsh to Lucio, refusing to forgive him completely for his supposed slander. That the Duke pursues Lucio for slander and yet forgives Angelo for what many see as more serious offenses underscores his severity toward Lucio and his favoritism toward Angelo. That his actions seem extreme also indicates that he is capitalizing on an opportunity to rid himself of an unwanted "inward," of whom he has grown tired. Despite his professions of constancy and love, Lucio is discarded in favor of a younger companion.

Shakespeare, then, allows his duke to be read as abusing his power in order to gratify his desires. Shakespeare lodges a subversive and politically dangerous message in his subtext, suggesting that rulers are not godly agents (and the present king of England, in particular) but, rather, fleshly humans, more in touch with the earth than the heavens. What Shakespeare's subtext presents is an undermining of a divine monarch, for Shakespeare's monarch is influenced by questionable, personal, and perhaps not fully conscious motives—a theme that would have had special import to Shakespeare's audience, who were subject to a sovereign with similar problems of governmental mismanagement.

But to recognize only this level of meaning and to see Shakespeare as merely censuring his duke for being a flawed leader, ruled primarily by his latent homoerotic feelings for Angelo, misses the complexity and multiplicity of Shakespeare's message and characterization. If the Duke is "moulded out of faults" and is "a little bad" (V.i.437, 439), he is also "very good" at governing, and all of his actions in Act V serve other purposes as well—more political in nature. The last act is also the Duke's greatest moment: he proves himself to be a powerful leader and a consummate politician. Although the Duke has ulterior motives and uses his governmental prerogative to please his private needs, and although he does questionable, selfish acts, he sees that harmony prevails and his actions benefit his subjects, and for this he can be called a "good" ruler. It is the Duke's intervention and his overview of the action, in fact, that prevent the play from veering toward tragedy several times. Working behind the scenes, he preserves the comedic thrust and maintains the surface harmony. Shakespeare and the Duke himself allow his actions to be read in more favorable terms: he saves Claudio's life and marries the young man to his beloved; he prevents Angelo from accomplishing the perfidious schemes of raping Isabella and killing Claudio; he traps Angelo into revealing his baseness and recognizing his limitations and makes him suffer for his crimes, despite the fact that the deputy is his "favorite"; he forces Angelo ultimately to do good and keep his promise of marriage to Mariana; he traps Lucio into revealing his scandalous nature and punishes him for taking liberties with the Duke's reputation, which the Duke shows to be an egregious crime not to be tolerated in a stable government; he looks out for Isabella's happiness and preserves her brother's life and teaches this rigidly doctrinaire woman the value of true forgiveness; and he himself joins in the festive, celebratory atmosphere of the ending by proposing to abandon his reclusive lifestyle and enter into the social contract of marriage. All of these actions temper the sexual subtext and make the Duke an effective ruler.

He also proves to be a cunning politician: he sets Angelo up to gratify his desires and conceals his "vices" so well that they pose no threat to his public image; and he portrays himself as a god figure, unseen but always overseeing his subjects' welfare. Shakespeare presents Act V as not only a means for the Duke to maneuver Angelo into a compromising situation but also a stage production, created and choreographed by his duke to accentuate his grandeur. In Act V, he twice allows events to deteriorate to the extent that evil is defeating goodness so that he can miraculously transform at the last moment from a poor friar into a glorious ruler, who sets things right and reveals a breathing Claudio, whom he seems to have brought back from the dead. The Duke shows himself to be like God—severe but loving—and grants mercy to all. He arranges for himself to shine for his divinity, wisdom, sternness, and benevolence in comparison to Angelo, whom he has shown to be the poorest of rulers. The Duke uses Angelo as a foil, assigning his deputy the difficult and unpopular task of rectifying his ruler's mistakes and guaranteeing Angelo's failure. He publicly displays the deputy's base nature and corrupt governing skills in order to underscore by contrast his own divine image and superlative skills. Angelo shows reverence for the image that the Duke has so expertly chiseled: "I perceive your Grace, like power divine, / Hath looked upon my passes" (V.i.367-68).

The Duke is adept at concentrating on the glorious ends rather than the dubious means. He, for example, makes Angelo look like the sinner and disguises the fact that he has done something quite similar in warping the law to satisfy his libido. He, moreover, discredits Lucio, with some help from the incorrigible prankster himself, who may have spoken more correctly of the real Duke than anyone recognizes: Lucio contends that "the greater file of the subject" are "deceived" (III.ii.134, 120) in the Duke, believing in the external image of wisdom, when he "knows" that the true Duke, who has "crotchets in him" (III.ii.124), would have "dark deeds darkly answered" (III.ii. 171) and "had some feeling of the sport" (III.ii.115-16). The shrewd Duke recognizes that people who know too much and can tarnish the finely polished image must be forever silenced. He puts the final polish on the image when he proposes marriage to Isabella, whom he has not wooed and in whom he has shown no sexual interest. The proposal permits him to conceal his homoerotic proclivities and his desire for Angelo, in particular, behind a front of a socially sanctioned union.

It is the Duke's skill at bringing good out of bad and, ironically, at being so good at disguising the bad, which often resides in himself, that the play, although tottering on tragedy several times, ends as a comedy and a tribute to the Duke's miraculous powers and his successful "ends." Shakespeare's Duke proves to be an effective leader in that he ultimately works for the good of his people and accomplishes admirable deeds, yet he is fox-like enough to know when to resort to cunning methods to maintain his power and position and conceal his less honorable actions. In Machiavelli's words, he knows "how to get around men's brains with [his] astuteness."77 The play is a troublesome comedy, however, in that Shakespeare sometimes permits us to puncture the image and to see the flawed underside, to detect the Duke's less savory motivations, and to question his means of achieving impressive ends. As scholars note, the festive ending is marred by the relative silence of the Duke's subjects—Claudio, Mariana, Angelo, and particularly Isabella, whom Shakespeare does not have definitively accept the Duke's marriage proposal—and by the severe fate of Lucio, whom Shakespeare has made scandalous yet likeable. The subdued ending reinforces the troublesome nature of the play and of the Duke in particular. It reflects the questionable means behind the Duke's impressive ends—the painful lies; the scheming deceptions; the humiliating public shattering of reputations; the frightening threats of death; the unnecessary suffering; and the illicit motivations. The play is problematical in part because Shakespeare gives us glimpses of what the Duke may "within him hide / Though angel on the outward side."


1Rosalind Miles, The Problem of "Measure for Measure" (London: Vision, 1976), 13.

2David Lloyd Stevenson, The Achievement of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966), 131.

3Don D. Moore, "Three Stage Versions of Measure for Measure's Duke: The Providential, the Pathetic, the Personable," Explorations in Renaissance Culture 12 (1986): 59.

4Marilyn French, Shakespeare's Division of Experience (New York: Ballantine, 1981), 182.

5Eric Patridge, Shakespeare's Bawdy (1947; repr. New York: Routledge, 1990), 46.

6Derek A. Traversi, An Approach to Shakespeare, 3rd ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1969), 364; Robert Rogers, A Psychoanalytic Study of the Double in Literature (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1970), 74.

7Richard A. Levin, "Duke Vincentio and Angelo: Would 'A Feather Turn the Scale'?" SEL 22 (1982): 262.

8Rogers, 72-74; Herbert Weil, Jr., "Form and Contexts in Measure for Measure," Critical Quarterly 12 (1970): 62; French, 190; Levin, 260.

9All textual quotations of Measure for Measure are taken from the Arden edition, ed. J. W. Lever (London: Methuen, 1976).

10Marvin Rosenberg, "Shakespeare's Fantastic Trick: Measure for Measure," Sewanee Review 80 (1972): 53.

11For a discussion of Isabella's sexuality, consult the following: Arthur C. Kirsch, "The Integrity of Measure for Measure" ShS 28 (1975): 96; Harriet Hawkins, "'The Devil's Party': Virtues and Vices in 'Measure for Measure,'" ShS 31 (1978): 107; Richard P. Wheeler, Shakespeare's Development and the Problem Comedies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), 112; Northrop Frye, The Myth of Deliverance: Reflections on Shakespeare's Problem Comedies (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983), 21; Carolyn E. Brown, "Measure for Measure: Isabella's Beating Fantasies," American Imago 43 (1986): 67-80.

12Angelo's sadism is explored by Hawkins, 108; and Wheeler, 109.

13The Duke's sexuality is discussed by the following: Janet Adelman, "Mortality and Mercy in 'Measure for Measure'" in The Shakespeare Plays: A Study Guide (San Diego: University Extension, University of California, San Diego & the Coast Community College District, 1978), 106-7; Bernard J. Paris, "The Inner Conflicts of Measure for Measure: A Psychological Approach," Centennial Review 24 (1981): 266, 273; Wheeler, 154; Levin, 264; Carolyn E. Brown, "Erotic Religious Flagellation and Shakespeare's Measure for Measure," ELR 16 (1986): 158-62.

14Adelman, 107.

15Catharine F. Seigel, "Hands off the Hothouses: Shakespeare's Advice to the King," Journal of Popular Culture 20 (1986): 81; Herbert Howarth, "Shakespeare's Flattery in Measure for Measure," SQ 16 (1965): 30.

16Consult, for example, the following: Thomas Tyrwhit, Observations and Conjectures Upon Some Passages of Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1766); George Chalmers, A Supplemental Apology for the Believers in Shakespeare-Papers (London: T. Egerton, 1797); Charles Knight, Studies in Shakespeare (London: C. Knight, 1849); Elizabeth Marie Pope, "The Renaissance Background of Measure for Measure," ShS 2 (1949): 66-82; David Lloyd Stevenson, "The Role of James I in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure," ELH 26 (1959): 188-208, now included in David Lloyd Stevenson, The Achievement of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure"; Josephine Waters Bennett, "Measure for Measure " as Royal Entertainment (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966); Brian Rose, "Friar-Duke and Scholar-King," English Studies in Africa 9 (1966): 72-82; J. W. Lever, "Introduction," Arden edition of Measure for Measure, xlviii-li; Leonard Tennenhouse, "Representing Power: Measure for Measure in Its Time" in The Forms of Power and the Power of Forms in the Renaissance, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982), 139-56; Jonathan Goldberg, James I and the Politics of Literature: Jonson, Shakespeare, Donne, and Their Contemporaries (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983); Jonathan Dollimore, "Transgression and Surveillance in Measure for Measure" in Political Shakespeare, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), 72-87.

17 "Report on England presented to the Government of Venice in the year 1607, by the Illustrious Gentleman Nicolo Molin, Ambassador there" in Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts, relating to English affairs, existing in the Archives and Collections of Venice, 1603-1607 (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1864), 513; G. B. Harrison, A Jacobean Journal: Being a Record of Those Things Most Talked of During the Years, 1603-1606 (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1946), viii.

18Memorials of Affairs of State in the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I Collected Chiefly from the Original Papers of the Right Honourable Sir Ralph Winwood, 3 vols. (London: T. Ward, 1725), 2: 54.

19 Arthur Wilson, The Life and Reign of James, the First King of Great Britain, in A Complete History of England: with the Lives of all the Kings and Queens Hereof, ed. White Kennett, 3 vols. (London: B. Aylmer, 1706), 2: 792.

20 Howarth, 29-37; Roy Battenhouse, "Measure for Measure and King James," Clio 7 (1978): 193-215; Charles Swann, "Lucio: Benefactor or Malefactor?" Critical Quarterly 29 (1987): 55-70; and Craig A. Bernthal, "Staging Justice: James I and the Trial Scene of Measure for Measure," SEL 32 (1992): 247-69—all argue that Shakespeare is instructing King James on the proper relationship between mercy and justice, in which James displayed considerable interest and of which his own administration was defective. Swann and Cynthia Lewis, "'Dark Deeds Darkly Answered': Duke Vincentio and Judgment in Measure for Measure" SQ 34 (1983): 271-89, contend that Shakespeare is addressing the controversy over James's neglect of state and his abdication of political responsibilities. Swann also contends that the play examines James's unpopular assumption of unlimited power over his subjects and the Parliament. Marilyn L. Williamson, "The Comedies in Historical Context," in Images of Shakespeare: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the International Shakespeare Association, 1986, ed. Werner Habicht, D. J. Palmer, and Roger Pringle (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1988), 188-200, believes that the play looks at the political debate within Parliament and the public about the legal regulation of personal conduct. Seigel, 81-88, argues that Shakespeare uses his play to address the conflict over the state of the stews in the suburbs of England. Anthony B. Dawson, "Measure for Measure, New Historicism, and Theatrical Power," SQ 39 (1988): 328-41, and Bernthal contend that Shakespeare is demysticizing James's rule by having the Duke duplicate the King's reliance on histrionic showmanship in governmental actions.

21 Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 62.

22 Robert Ashton, James I by his Contemporaries (London: Hutchinson, 1969), 106.

23 "A Declaration of the Just and Necessar Causes Moving us of the Nobilitie of Scotland, and Others the King's Majestie's Faithfull Subjects, to Repaire to His Hienesse' Presence" in David Calderwood, The History of the Kirk of Scotland, 10 vols. (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1843), 3: 653.

24 G. P. V. Akrigg, Jacobean Pageant or the Court of King James I (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), 14.

25 Thomas Birch, ed. The Court and Times of James the First, 2 vols. (London: Henry Colburn, 1849), 1: viii.

26 Francis Osborne, "Traditional Memoyres on the Raigne of King James the First," in The Secret History of the Court of James the First, ed. Sir Walter Scott, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: James Ballantyne, 1811), 1: 74-75.

27 M. de Fontenay, Envoy of Mary Stuart to King James VI, "Letter to Mary's secretary, August 15, 1584," in Historical Manuscripts Commission: Manuscripts of the Marquess of Salisbury preserved at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire (1883-1965), 24 vols. (London: n.p., n.d.), 3: 60.

28 Calderwood, 5: 171.

29 "Proclamation to his Subjects" in Sir Edward Peyton, "The Divine Catastrophe of the Kingly Family of the House of Stuarts," in The Secret History of the Court of James the First, 2: 333.

30 William Robertson, The History of Scotland During the Reigns of Queen Mary and of King James VI, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London: A. Millar, 1759), 2: 172.

31 Ibid., 105, 260.

32 Peyton, 352.

33 Birch, 1: viii.

34 Peyton, 364.

35 David Harris Willson, King James VI and I (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 48, 47.

36The Historie and Life of King James the Sext (Edinburgh: James Ballantyne, 1825), 185, 188; Lucy Aikin, Memoirs of the Court of King James the First, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1822), 1: 16.

37 Aikin, 1: 60.

38 Anthony Weldon, "The Court and Character of King James," in The Secret History of the Court of James the First, 1: 311, 332.

39 Caroline Bingham, The Making of a King: The Early Years of James VI and I (New York: Doubleday, 1969), 198.

40 Osborne, 276.

41 Calderwood, 5: 471, 454.

42 "Letter of James VI to Huntly, 2 October 1596" in The Warrender Papers, ed. Annie I. Cameron, Publications of the Scottish History Society, 3rd ser. 19 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1932), 2: 299-300.

43The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), special, adv., c 1 (hereafter cited as OED).

44 Levin, 259.

45OED, special, 2b.

46 Ibid., cousin, 5.

47 Ibid., near, adv.1, 2c; adv.2 3; a., 2.

48 Ibid., bosom, sb., 6. Partridge suggests that "bosom" can have the sexual undercurrent of genitals (69); and James T. Henke, Renaissance Dramatic Bawdy (Exclusive of Shakespeare): An Annotated Glossary and Critical Essays, 2 vols. (Salzburg: Universitat Salzburg, 1974), 2: 96, glosses "bosom" as sexual intimacy. Given the sexual undercurrent to his words of "covert bosom," the Duke can be alluding to having Angelo "lock[ed]" in intercourse with him.

49 Adelman, 106.

50 Partridge, 97.

51 Ibid., 99, 74.

52 Ibid., 223.

53OED, youth, 6.

54 Ibid., bravery, 5; cost, sb., 2.

55 Partridge, 81.

56 Frankie Rubinstein, A Dictionary of Shakespeare 's Sexual Puns and Their Significance, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1989), 207-8.

57 Partridge, 131. Rubinstein argues that "inward" can more specifically elicit "anal puns" (135-36).

58OED, withdraw, 13. The word "withdrawing" can have a more bawdy designation of the "withdrawal" of a penis during or after intercourse.

59 Lever, 89.

60 "Stick like burrs" is proverbial and can mean to cling in fidelity. Pandarus in Troilus and Cressida wittily uses the saying to express the faithfulness of Cressida and his other kin: "They are constant being one. They are burs. They'll stick where they are thrown" (III.ii. 119). In Henry IV, Part II, Shakespeare also enlists the word "stick" to mean remaining firm and steadfast (OED 7): "The knave will stick by thee. I can assure thee"; "I'll stick by him" (V.ii.66; 68). With the word "stick" containing a possible bawdy innuendo of copulation (Rubinstein, 255-56), Lucio can be intimating that he will continue to serve the Duke sexually.

61 Critics of the play have commented on the Duke's voyeuristic tendencies and vicarious pleasure in other characters' sexual activities, especially in arranging sex for Angelo and Mariana during the bedtrick: Adelman, 107; Paris, 273; Wheeler, 132; Levin, 265; and Carolyn E. Brown, "The Wooing of Duke Vincentio and Isabella of Measure for Measure: The Image of It Gives [Them] Content,'" ShS 22 (1994): 189-219.

62 Caroline Bingham, James I of England (London: Waidenfeld & Nicolson, 1981), 125.

63 "Proclamation to his Subjects," in Peyton, 333.

64 Otto Scott, James I (New York: Mason/Charter, 1976), 276.

65Memorials of Affairs of State in the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I Collected Chiefly from the Original Papers of the Right Honourable Sir Ralph Winwood, 2: 43.

66 "Letter from Queen Anne to King James VI, 1603" in John Hill Burton, The History of Scotland: from Agricola 's Invasion to the extinction of the last Jacobite insurrection, 2nd ed., 7 vols. (London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1873), 5: 384-85.

67 Willson, 286; Ashton, 87-88; Antonia Fraser, King James VI and I (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1975), 34.

68OED, courtesy, 2.

69 Partridge glosses "favours" as sexual parts (104); Henke glosses it as "pleasure derived from copulation" (150).

70OED, brass, 3a, 3b.

71 Ibid., seal, 5.

72 Ibid., lc; le.

73 Ibid., sb.2, Ih.

74 Ibid., quit, 10.

75 Ibid., bond, 7, 6b.

76 Ibid., 1.

77 Machiavelli, 69.

Source: "The Homoeroticism of Duke Vincentio: 'Some Feeling of the Sport'," in Studies in Philology, Vol. XCIV, No. 2, Spring, 1997, pp. 187-220.


Spectator Seduction: Measure for Measure