Internet Shakespeare Editions


Sex and morality

A scene from a tavern or brothel. From the Roxburghe Ballads. University of Victoria Library.

Central to Measure for Measure is the question of what kind of sexual conduct is socially acceptable, and what is not. The play depicts various attitudes toward prostitution, promiscuity, and fornication -- the latter is a broad category that can include premarital sex. Some have read Measure for Measure as a morality play that deals with Christian doctrine and how it relates to everyday life. Others have found it strikingly modern in its often sympathetic portrayal of those lacking in conventional morality.