In Shakespeare’s Vienna, laws against premarital sex are technically on the books, but they have never been enforced. That is, until the duke decides that somebody should crack down. Not wanting to take the heat for being that someone himself, the duke puts his morally upright deputy, Angelo, in charge. Angelo arrests and condemns to death a young man, Claudio, for the crime. When his sister Isabella begs Angelo to spare her brother’s life, Angelo agrees, but only if she will sacrifice her virginity to him. When she threatens to tell somebody, Angelo replies, “Who will believe thee, Isabel?” Sound familiar? Written around 1604, Measure for Measure may be one of the most relevant plays ever written about sexual harassment and abuse against women, and the stakes for women who speak up about it.
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