Measure for Measure
2006: Bob Komar
This production is one of only two currently available, and as such it’s necessary if you want to do any comparisons. But it runs to only eighty minutes, and its brutal cutting is further controlled by a dominant idea that is, I think, wrong-headed. Finally, it is transferred to a modern (presumably British) military setting, where the cultural and moral significance of its original context are stripped away. It cannot help but go astray.
It’s important to appreciate — even if one does not share the supposition — that a monarch in the sixteenth century was not merely responsible for the physical welfare of his people, but was at least somewhat answerable for their spiritual welfare as well. Within this context, the Duke’s admittedly devious testing of all the major characters in the play is not a sleazy trick or a usurpation: it’s testing them for their own benefit. At every turn, the Duke has his people’s best interest at heart (down to the convicted criminal, whom he refuses to see executed, because “to transport him in the mind he is were damnable”.
This version of the play establishes Isabella’s rejection of the Duke — never at all explicit in Shakespeare’s text — by an unspoken but hostile interchange. Yes, this is possible within the strict scope of the script. It seems inconsistent with the tonal pattern Shakespeare has actually set up, however, and inconsistent with the cultural suppositions of the time as well. Likelihood was high that Isabella had entered the convent (where she had not, it should be noted, taken final vows) out of necessity rather than out of a compelling sense of a call. We hear of her inclination to purity, but never anything about her feeling compelled to become a nun. Likeliest is that her family was unable to provide her with a dowry, which would have made her unmarriagable in most contexts. When the Duke offers his hand without any consideration of a dowry, she has the option to accept or reject him freely. He’s done her a great favor irrespective of the choice she makes, therefore. That he makes the offer purely out of regard for her moral worth (which he has tested down to the end) is even more significant, and (contrary to a number of feminist readings I have encountered) suggests an unusually high personal respect for her.
I have not been able to find this film for sale anywhere, but it is available for streaming viewing on Amazon.
Isabel: Josephine Rogers
Angelo: Daniel Roberts
Duke: Simon Phillips
Mariana (as Emma Ager): Emma Agerwald
Provost: Kristopher Milnes
Claudio (as Simon Nuckley): Simon Brandon
Lucio: Luke Leeves
Escalus: Dawn Murphy
Juliet: Kate Sullington
Soldier Overdone: Hanne Steen
Pompey: Leah Grayson
Elbow: Piers Pereira
Priest: Roberto Argenti
Soldier Froth: Robert Anderson
Soldier in Bar (as Danny Idollor Jnr.): Danny Idollor
Duke; Angelo Guard: Rossa McPhillips
MP Officer (as Annabelle Munro): Anabelle Munro
Barman: Kuldip Nandula
Soldier 3 (as Oliver Millward): Oliver Dawsson
Soldier 4: Harry Hayes
Priest (voice): Peter Bevins