SANTA CRUZ SHAKESPEARE 2017 28 At the center of Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s darkest comedy, is political regime change – the experience of ruling and of being ruled. The properties of Government are perennially urgent questions, as much a concern at the turn of the 17th Century, as it is in this 21st century moment. George Washington warned that we need checks on leaders because of the “love of power and the proneness to abuse it.” Measure for Measure explores the nature of governmental power, specifically the twin obligations of an absolute monarch: justice and mercy. It is also a world populated by gangsters and low- lifes who joyfully and wickedly mock the state’s attempts to enforce certain moral standards. The realms of authority and anarchy are not so firmly separate as we may believe. How a society controls the sexuality of its members is one of its most profound means of control, a constant tension between moral puritanism and sexual appetite, expressed by Government, church, school, and family. Measure for Measure takes a great leap into the center of this disharmony. It de-stabilizes our moral bearings, allowing uncertain and divided responses in the minds of the audience. It offers questions, not answers, but urgent questions that burn to the heart of our present moment. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1-2) Shakespeare probably wrote Measure for Measure in 1604; its first recorded performance was at court for King James I on December 26, 1604. By then Shakespeare had moved away from the English history plays and romantic comedies that had made him successful in the 1590s, writing Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, and Othello, serious dramas with a vein of bitter humor. New playwrights were writing comedies about contemporary London life, and in Measure for Measure Shakespeare examined the city life around him. Although the names of its well-born characters are Italian and the setting of the play is Vienna (probably a consequence of a revision of the play by Thomas Middleton after Shakespeare’s death), the street and prison life of the play, with characters named Elbow, Froth, Pompey, and Mistress Overdone (the bawd), is that of Jacobean London. The opening speech introduces the central issue of the play: “Of government the properties to unfold . . . .” What is the relation between law and human nature, particularly sexual desire? When the Duke, who for many years has neglected his duties while pursuing “a life removed,” appoints a puritanical deputy, Angelo, to restore the rule of law while he in disguise observes what happens, citizens’ lives are radically changed. But so is the life of Angelo, who, in ruthlessly enforcing the law, discovers impulses in himself that he has not anticipated. His actions then compel the Duke to reassess his own behavior. The play mixes intense psychological drama with comic scenes of the underworld of tavern, brothel, and prison. In so doing, it raises serious issues, as its title suggests. How shall one judge? What personal qualities are to be expected of a judge or ruler if he is to be able to pass judgment on others? How are laws to be enforced? What happens when neglected laws are suddenly re-imposed? What is the relation between justice and mercy? When does too much mercy undo the rule of law? With its brilliantly dramatic, frequently comic, unsettlingly unromantic last act, the play provides no simple answers to its profound questions. Director’s Notes TYNE RAFAELI Dramaturg’s Notes ASHLEY HERUM