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Shakespeare: Measure for Measure

5. Sexuality

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the theme of sexuality in the play, thinking in particular of the relationship between Claudio and Juliet, the figures of Mistress Overdone, Pompey and Lucio, Claudio and Angel’s reflections on their own sexuality, and the inadvertent (or is it?) eroticism of Isabella.


In this course, Professor John Roe (University of York) explores Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, a play in which a Duke’s decision to put his power in the hands of the fascinating character of Angelo goes catastrophically wrong. It’s a miracle no-one is killed, though death is a continuous presence in the play. In the end, the Duke returns and everything is resolved in a magnificent quadruple marriage.

The course begins by looking at the historical context for the play, including the sources that Shakespeare may have drawn on when writing the play, before considering the themes of religion and sexuality. After that, we look four of the play’s major characters in turn: Juliet, Mariana, Isabella, and the Duke.


John Roe is a professor in Renaissance literature and a member of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (CREMS) at the University of York. He took a BA (subsequently MA) in English Literature at the University of Cambridge and an MA and PhD in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Comparative Literature, mainly English and Italian, has remained a keen interest, which shows principally in his monograph Shakespeare and Machiavelli. He has taught at York since 1973. Before that he taught at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and at Harvard. During his time at York he has enjoyed long sojourns at universities in other countries, for example, at the University of the Saarland in Germany, at Kyoto University, Doshisha University, and Kobe Jogakuin, in Japan; and most recently a year as the visiting Gillespie Professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Roe, J. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Measure for Measure - Sexuality [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Roe, J. "Shakespeare: Measure for Measure – Sexuality." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,