Measure for Measure In Plain and Simple English (Digital Download)
A Shakespearean Tale as Riveting as a Modern-Day Thriller

Imagine the intricate plotting of Shakespeare blending seamlessly with the page-turning appeal of a contemporary bestseller. Dive into a reimagined "Measure for Measure" where themes of mercy, justice, truth, pride, and humility echo with modern resonance, making it as engaging as any legal drama on today's bookshelves.

Venture into the heart of Vienna, where Duke Vincentio, the city's enigmatic leader, opts to take a back seat, silently observing the unfolding drama from the shadows. Handing the reins of power to his austere deputy, Angelo, the city anticipates fair governance. But with power comes corruption. Angelo, a man once revered for his unblemished reputation, soon reveals his darker side. Yielding to temptation, he abuses his newfound authority, attempting to force the virtuous Isabella into a compromising position. Her purity and resolve stand against his dark desires, leading to a gripping showdown. It is Duke Vincentio, in an unexpected twist, who emerges to untangle the web of deceit, evoking the timeless theme of divine intervention in human affairs.

This modern retelling of "Measure for Measure" offers an accessible gateway to one of Shakespeare's most compelling plays. It bridges the centuries, merging the depth and drama of the Elizabethan era with the readability of a modern thriller.

If the Bard has ever felt out of reach, fear not. BookCaps introduces a fresh, modern translation of "Measure for Measure" that retains the play's essence while making it effortlessly comprehensible. This version, paired side by side with the original text, invites both seasoned Shakespeare enthusiasts and new readers to appreciate the timeless tale in all its glory.






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In Vienna, the Duke gets ready for a trip. He leaves Lord Angelo and his subordinate Escalus in charge of the city during his absence. Angelo accepts the position of honor and wishes the Duke a safe journey.

​Later, in the streets, Lucio and two other gentlemen are joking around. Mistress Overdone, the owner of several brothels, arrives with bad news that Claudio has been arrested for getting Juliet pregnant. Lucio doesn't believe this and goes to find the truth for himself. Mistress Overdone and her servant Pompey discuss matters of the city. The temporary ruler, Lord Angelo, has taken this chance to cleanse the city and put into effect laws that have previously gone unpunished. Mistress Overdone worries that her business will suffer.

At that point, Claudio is being escorted to prison. He is sorrowful but resigned to his fate. Lucio finds Claudio and asks him what happened. Claudio tells him that he and Juliet were in love, but couldn't marry. They became lovers, and she ended up pregnant. Under Lord Angelo's new strict rulings, Claudio has been sentenced to death. Claudio asks Lucio to find his sister Isabella and beg for her help since the Duke cannot be found.

Meanwhile, the story shifts back to the Duke, who did not leave the city but is actually disguised as a friar. He talks to one of the order, revealing his reasons for the disguise. He realized that, during his reign, the laws of the city became lax. He hopes that Lord Angelo will begin enforcing them again, and donned the disguise to observe the reactions of the city firsthand.

In the nunnery, Isabella is being introduced to the rules of her order. She has not sworn her vows yet but plans on it. Lucio knocks on the door and tells her about Claudio's predicament. Isabella agrees to go bed Lord Angelo to release her brother and leaves with Lucio.

Lord Angelo, at his house, refuses to change Claudio's sentence even though both the provost and Escalus try to convince him that he is being too strict. Isabella and Lucio are admitted, and Isabella tries to convince Lord Angelo. Isabella is about to give up, but Lucio urges her to be more passionate. She does so, and Lord Angelo agrees to meet with her the next day. When Isabella is gone, Lord Angelo admits to himself that he feels a strange attraction to Isabella.

Back at the prison, the Duke talks to Juliet and plans to go see Claudio. 

The next day, Angelo is still mulling over his desire for Isabella. He admits that he loves her, and when she asks for an audience she is given one immediately. Lord Angelo makes her a proposition: her virginity for her brother's life. Isabella is ignorant at first, but, once she understands, is appalled. Lord Angelo leaves, giving Isabella time to think the deal over.

The Duke is talking to Claudio in prison, preparing him for death. When Claudio is at peace with himself, Isabella comes in. The Duke hides where he can hear the conversation, and Isabella reluctantly tells Claudio about what happened with Lord Angelo. She does not believe she should give up her virtue, but Claudio urges her to take Lord Angelo's offer. 

Isabella storms out and meets the Duke, who proposes a plan. A woman named Mariana was formerly engaged to Lord Angelo, but the engagement was broken off. The Duke plans on having Mariana meet Lord Angelo instead of Isabella. Isabella can keep her virtue, Mariana, in disguise, can gain a husband, and Claudio will be saved. The Duke goes to Mariana, and tells Isabella to go to Lord Angelo and set up a dark meeting place. After getting a meeting time and place, Isabella hurries back to give the information to Mariana, who agrees to the plan.

That night, after everything has happened, the prison is getting ready for the execution. Two men are to be executed: Claudio and Barnardine. A letter comes, and the Duke believes it to be a pardon. Instead, the letter contains instructions to execute Claudio and send the head to Lord Angelo. To keep Claudio alive, the Duke instructs the provost to kill Barnardine and send his head instead.

In the morning,  Barnardine refuses to come to the block willingly. The head of a dead pirate is sent to Lord Angelo instead, and both Barnardine and Claudio are hidden. Isabella comes in, expecting happy news. Instead, the Duke tells her that her brother is dead. Angry, Isabella wants to know what she can do, and the Duke advises her to complain the next day at the city gates. Lucio arrives and is sad at Claudio's death. He tells the Duke in disguise that he got a girl pregnant, but didn't marry her.

Lord Angelo and Escalus puzzle over the Duke’s instructions. He tells them that he is arriving in the city tomorrow, and to meet him at the city gate. Lord Angelo reveals that he had Claudio killed because he was worried he might seek revenge for his sister's defilement.

The next day the Duke, not in disguise, heads for the town. He meets Lord Angelo and Escalus who are friendly towards him. Isabella, following the "friar's" instructions, voices her complaint against Angelo, who accuses her of being crazy. She is sent to prison, and Mariana comes forth. After Mariana tells her story and insists that Lord Angelo is her rightful husband, Lord Angelo demands to know who is behind this. The instigator is found to be Friar Lodowick (the Duke in disguise), and the friar is sent for. The Duke leaves the matter to Angelo and Escalus, and leaves, coming back as the friar.

Escalus is about to send the friar to prison for slander when Lucio pulls off his hood, revealing the Duke. Once his identity is no longer secret, the Duke conveniently sets everything right. He orders Angelo to marry Mariana as punishment for his sins. He also orders Claudio and Barnardine brought out from prison. He tells Claudio to marry Juliet, and Lucio to marry the brothel girl he impregnated. During his speech, he asks for Isabella's hand in marriage.


The Duke (Disguise: Friar Lodowick)
Although not much is known about his personal life, the Duke is the main manipulator in Measure for Measure. He purposefully hands his control of Vienna over to Angelo, realizing his strict moral code would tempt him to purge the city, and disguises himself as Friar Lodowick in order to observe firsthand. The Duke seems good-natured and intelligent, but not as morally strict as Angelo. He attempts to set everything right in the play and somewhere along the way falls in love with Isabella.

Left with complete control of Vienna during the Duke's absence, Lord Angelo wastes no time putting back into place old laws that previously went unpunished. Because of his strict moral nature, most of these laws had to do with adultery and lechery. He believes that people should fear the law and that anyone guilty of breaking the law should be punished, himself included. His chief fault occurred when he fell for Isabella after condemning her brother to die for adultery. When he is eventually found out, he holds true to his beliefs and asks to be executed. The Duke, being merciful, ordered him to marry instead.

The Duke's second-hand man, Escalus is put in charge of supporting Lord Angelo while he rules in the Duke's stead. Out of the three authority figures, Escalus is the most level-headed and the fairest. Because he does not have the same amount of authority as the Duke and Lord Angelo, however, he cannot affect the action as much. When Claudio is sentenced to die, for instance, all Escalus can do is beg Angelo to release him.

Claudio's execution is the primary source of conflict in the play, and his case acts as a test for the battle between justice and mercy in Vienna. Lord Angelo sentences Claudio to die after impregnating Juliet, the girl that he loves and wishes to marry. During the play, Claudio goes back and forth between hoping for life and resigning himself to death. Although he faces prison with bravery, when Isabella presents him with a way out (giving up her virginity) he begs her to go through with it. In the end, he is not executed but marries Juliet.

The most virtuous character in the play, Isabella is Claudio's sister. At the beginning of the play, Isabella is about to join a convent. She agrees to go plead with Angelo in order to save her brother's life, and from then on is taken farther and farther away from her original plan of being a nun. Not only is she asked to beg, but then she is asked to give up her virginity, and eventually, to marry the Duke. There is controversy about whether or not Isabella should be admired for her virtue, or seen as cold-hearted for her treatment toward Claudio in her refusal to give up her virginity to Angelo.

A young gentleman who is a friend of Claudio's. Lucio appears randomly throughout Measure to Measure, always with a witty remark or some news. He, along with several other gentlemen, frequented the brothels. Before the play took place, Lucio got one of the girls pregnant. He denied it in front of the Duke, however, and because of his status as a gentleman, was pardoned. He reveals this information to the Duke in disguise, who sees his true nature as a liar and manipulator, and is eventually punished for his sins.

Mariana is a young woman who was formerly engaged to Lord Angelo. The engagement was broken off when a good part of her dowry was lost at sea, and Lord Angelo spread rumors that she was unfaithful. Conveniently for the plot, Mariana still adores Lord Angelo and seeks nothing other than to be his wife. She agrees to the friar's plot, and has sex with Lord Angelo while disguising herself as Isabella. 

Mistress Overdone
While only present in two scenes of the play, Mistress Overdone represents all the brothels in and around Vienna. She seems, first and foremost, a business woman, and is overly concerned with how Lord Angelo's rule will affect her houses. She represents a woman of the world and is knowledgeable about the way things work. Isabella is presented as her opposite.

Mistress Overdone's clownish servant, Pompey serves as the primary comic relief. He is eventually sent to prison, where he is given the opportunity to learn the trade of being a hangman instead of working at the brothels.

Claudio's lover, Juliet is pregnant and near her due date. She loves Claudio and wishes to marry him. The only time she speaks in Measure for Measure is in a conversation with the Duke in disguise. Interestingly, he tells her that because she committed adultery with Claudio willingly, her sin was greater than hers. This insinuates that sexual modesty is more valuable to women than men.

The Provost
In charge of the prisons, the provost serves as an important character for moving the plot along. In the habit of taking orders, the provost is directed by both the Duke in disguise and Lord Angelo. At the end of the play, he is given a better office by the Duke for his help.

A foolish gentleman who accuses Froth and Pompey of violating his wife. His main purpose is to add comedy to the play as he continually mixes up his words. His run-in with Pompey ends up with Pompey in jail.

Froth is brought in front of Lord Angelo and Escalus by Elbow, along with Pompey. He helps Pompey tell his side of the story, and adds comedic value.

A prisoner who has been in jail for nine years. He admitted to murder and spends his days and nights drinking. The Duke originally plans to have Barnardine's head sent to Lord Angelo instead of Claudio's but Barnardine refuses to be executed that day and another man in used instead. At the end of the play, Barnardine is pardoned by the Duke.

The hang-man of the prison, Abhorson takes on Pompey as his apprentice. He thinks that being an executioner has a kind of mystery to it.


SCENE I. An apartment in the DUKE'S palace. Enter DUKE VINCENTIO, ESCALUS, Lords and Attendants




My lord.


Of government the properties to unfold,

To explain the qualities needed in governing well,
Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse;

Would make me seem enamored with the sound of my own voice;
Since I am put to know that your own science

Since I am obliged to admit that your own knowledge
Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice

Of this exceeds the limits of all advice
My strength can give you: then no more remains,

That my strength can give you: then no more remains,
But that to your sufficiency as your Worth is able,

But that you put your adequacy and worth,
And let them work. The nature of our people,

To work. The nature of our people,
Our city's institutions, and the terms

Our city’s institutions, and the methods of the courts procedures
For common justice, you're as pregnant in

For common justice, you’re as full of
As art and practise hath enriched any

Art and practice as anyone
That we remember. There is our commission,

That we can remember. Here is our commission,
From which we would not have you warp. Call hither,

Which we don’t want you to alter. Call forth
I say, bid come before us Angelo.

I say, and call Angelo here.


Exit an Attendant


What figure of us think you he will bear?

What you think he will think of us?
For you must know, we have with special soul

For you must know, we have with all the power of our hearts and minds
Elected him our absence to supply,

Chosen him to supply our absence,
Lent him our terror, dress'd him with our love,

Lent him our terror, dressed him with our love,
And given his deputation all the organs

And given him as deputy all the instruments
Of our own power: what think you of it?

Of our own power: what do you think of it?


If any in Vienna be of worth

If any in Vienna are worthy
To undergo such ample grace and honour,

To bear the weight of such ample grace and honor,
It is Lord Angelo.

It is Lord Angelo.


Look where he comes.

Here he comes.



Always obedient to your grace's will,

Always obedient to your will,
I come to know your pleasure.

I come here to know what you need from me.


There is a kind of character in thy life,

There is a kind of written sign in your life,
That to the observer doth thy history

That tells the observer your history
Fully unfold. Thyself and thy belongings

Completely. Yourself and your attributes
Are not thine own so proper as to waste

Are not your own so exclusively as to waste
Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee.

Yourself on your virtues, they on you.
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,

Heaven does with us as we do with torches,
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues

Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike

Did not go before us, it would be
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd

As if we didn’t have them. Spirits are not finely endowed
But to fine issues, nor Nature never lends

Except for fine purposes, nor does Nature ever lend
The smallest scruple of her excellence

The smallest scruple of her excellence
But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines

Except when she, like a thrifty goddess, she assumes
Herself the glory of a creditor,

For herself the privileges of a creditor,
Both thanks and use. But I do bend my speech

Both thanks and use. But I do bend my speech
To one that can my part in him advertise;

To one that already knows more than I know;
Hold therefore, Angelo:--

Hold therefore, Angelo:--
In our remove be thou at full ourself;

In our absence be in every respect myself;
Mortality and mercy in Vienna

Mortality and mercy in Vienna
Live in thy tongue and heart: old Escalus,

Live in your tongue and heart: old Escalus,
Though first in question, is thy secondary.

Thought senior and first appointed, is your right hand.
Take thy commission.

Take your commission.


Now, good my lord,

Now, my good lord,
Let there be some more test made of my metal,

There should be some more test of my temper and quality,
Before so noble and so great a figure

Before such a noble and great figure
Be stamp'd upon it.

Is stamped upon it.


No more evasion:

No more evasion:
We have with a leaven'd and prepared choice

We have with a carefully considered and prepared choice
Proceeded to you; therefore take your honours.

Proceeded to you; therefore take your honors.
Our haste from hence is of so quick condition

The cause for my hasty departure is so urgent
That it prefers itself and leaves unquestion'd

That it takes precedence over all other matters, and leaves unconsidered
Matters of needful value. We shall write to you,
Matters of needful value. We shall write to you,

As time and our concernings shall importune,

As much as time and our business allows,
How it goes with us, and do look to know

And let you know how it goes with us, and will want to know
What doth befall you here. So, fare you well;

What happens to you here. So, may you fare well;
To the hopeful execution do I leave you

I leave you to the hopeful execution
Of your commissions.

Of your commissions.


Yet give leave, my lord,

But give me permission, my lord,
That we may bring you something on the way.

So that we can bring you something on the way.


My haste may not admit it;

I may be in too much of a hurry for that;
Nor need you, on mine honour, have to do
Nor do you, I promise, have to do

With any scruple; your scope is as mine own

With any scruple; you have my same powers
So to enforce or qualify the laws

To enforce or qualify the laws
As to your soul seems good. Give me your hand:

As you yourself deem right.
I'll privily away. I love the people,

I’ll leave secretly. I love the people,
But do not like to stage me to their eyes:

But I do not like to make a show of myself to them:
Through it do well, I do not relish well

Through it do well, I don’t exactly relish
Their loud applause and Aves vehement;
Their loud applause and hails of acclamation;

Nor do I think the man of safe discretion

Nor do I think that a man of safe discretion
That does affect it. Once more, fare you well.

Would want it. Once again, goodbye.


The heavens give safety to your purposes!

May the heavens see you safely to your purposes!


Lead forth and bring you back in happiness!

Lead ahead, and bring back happiness!


I thank you. Fare you well.

I thank you. Goodbye.



I shall desire you, sir, to give me leave

I will want you, sir, to give me permission
To have free speech with you; and it concerns me

To speak freely to you; it concerns me
To look into the bottom of my place:
To look into the extent of my commission and authority:

A power I have, but of what strength and nature

A power that I possess, but how strong and for what purpose
I am not yet instructed.

I am not yet instructed.


'Tis so with me. Let us withdraw together,

Same with me. Let us withdraw together,
And we may soon our satisfaction have

And we may soon have the satisfaction
Touching that point.

Of talking about it.


I'll wait upon your honour.

I’ll go with you.


SCENE II. A Street. Enter LUCIO and two Gentlemen


If the duke with the other dukes come not to

If the duke does not come with the other dukes don’t come to
composition with the King of Hungary, why then all

An agreement with the King of Hungary, well then all
the dukes fall upon the king.

The dukes will attack the king.



Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of

May heaven grant us peace, but not the King of






Thou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate, that

You talk like the self-righteous pirate, that
went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped

Went out to sea with ther Ten Commandments, but scraped
one out of the table.

One of them out of the tablet.


'Thou shalt not steal'?

Was it “Thou shalt not steal”?


Ay, that he razed.

Yes, that’s the one he did away with.


Why, 'twas a commandment to command the captain and

Well, it was a commandment that was commanding the captain and
all the rest from their functions: they put forth

All of his crew from performing their functions: they set out
to steal. There's not a soldier of us all, that, in

To steal. There’s not a soldier out of all of us soldiers, that, while
the thanksgiving before meat, do relish the petition

Blessing the food before we eat, love for people
well that prays for peace.

To pray for peace.


I never heard any soldier dislike it.

I’ve never actually heard a soldier say they didn’t like that.


I believe thee; for I think thou never wast where

I believe you; since I don’t think you’ve ever been present
grace was said.

When people say grace before they eat.
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