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"Measure for Measure": Act 4, Scenes 3-6 Analysis

Act 4, Scene 3

Pompey feels at home at the executioners; most of the prisoners were known to him through Mistress Overdone.

Abhorson and Pompey call on Barnardine to be executed but he is too drunk to respond. He says it is not fair that he be hanged when drunk. Pompey says that it could be an advantage. The Duke enters as the Friar, Barnardine tells him that he will not be put to death that day and wanders off.

The Duke orders the executioners to get him to the block.

Enter Provost who explains to the Duke that another prisoner has died that day of a fever and that he could be used as a substitute for Claudio instead of Barnardine. The Duke thanks god for providing this accidental death. He then resolves to persuade Barnardine to welcome death willingly.

The Provost says that Barnardine must still be put to death that afternoon and fears for his own life if Claudio is found alive. The Duke reassures him, telling him to hide Barnardine and Claudio and that he will be given safety. The Duke says to do as he says and send the head to Angelo.

The Duke then explains that he will send a letter to Angelo announcing his return. Ordering him to meet him at the consecrated fount where he will make a public return to the city with Angelo.

The Provost enters with Ragusine’s head intent on delivering it to Angelo himself. The Duke tells him to return quickly when he will impart his secrets to him.

Isabella enters and the Duke resolves not to let her in to his plan.

The Duke tells Isabella that her brother’s head has been sent to Angelo. Isabella curses Angelo. The Friar explains that the Duke will return tomorrow and she can speak to him about her wishes for revenge. He gives her a letter for Friar Peter desiring him to attend Mariana’s house that night. It also notes the Duke’s return. The Friar will accompany Isabella to confront Angelo and the Duke. The Duke as the Friar then makes his excuses and dismisses her.

Enter Lucio asking for the Provost. On seeing Isabella he offers her condolences. She leaves. The Friar tells Lucio that the Duke is unimpressed with his stories and denies them. Lucio tells the Friar that he does not know the Duke like he does and that he is quite capable of what he speaks of. The Friar tells him that he will have to answer to the Duke one day. Lucio says he will go with the Friar to tell him more stories about the Duke.

Lucio confides in the ‘Friar’ that he got a wench pregnant but when he was taken before the Duke, he denied it or he would have been forced to marry her. Lucio tells the Friar that he will stick with him like a burr and will try to keep his bawdy chat to a minimum.

Act 4, Scene 4

Enter Angelo and Escalus. They are discussing the Duke’s letters, Escalus says they are contradictory. Angelo questions the Duke’s sanity and asks why he has to meet him at the city gates. Angelo wonders why he is to announce the Duke’s return an hour before his arrival and wonders why he has asked the people to petition any act of injustice in the streets. Escalus explains that this is so the Duke can justly dispatch with their services. He tells Escalus to go door to door and warn people off from challenging their decisions.

Act 4, Scene 5

Enter the Duke, in his own clothes and Friar Peter. The Duke explains that the Provost is aware of his purpose. He tells the Friar to follow his instructions and to tell the trumpeters to come to the gate. Varrius a friend of the Duke enters, the Duke tells him that more of his friends will be coming.

Act 4, Scene 6

Enter Isabella and Mariana. Isabella tells Mariana that she doesn’t like to be deceitful but she has been advised to accuse Angelo on Mariana’s behalf to hide the purpose of the exercise. Isabella says she has been told to expect Angelo to accuse her of sinning but that it is worth it for a happy ending. Enter Friar Peter who tells the women he has found them a good spot to speak to the Duke and challenge Angelo.

The trumpets begin.

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