Measure for Measure

When you read literary criticism you should have a thorough knowledge of the text first, against which you can weigh your response to others' critical views. Below is a selection of possible critical reading on Measure for Measure. (The date given is usually the date of first publication, though some of these texts have gone into later editions, which in some cases have then had different publishers.)

Useful historical context

  • 1599: A year in the life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro. Faber, 2005
    [Not a work of criticism, but an interesting view of a crucial year in Shakespeare's life.]
  • Shakespeare, the Biography by Peter Ackroyd. Chatto and Windus, 2005
  • In Search of Shakespeare by Michael Wood. BBC Books, 2003
  • Shakespeare the Man by A.L.Rowse. Macmillan, 1973

[As their titles suggest, these give general background, dealing with Shakespeare's life.]

  • Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare by Lisa Jardine. Brighton: Harvester, 1983
  • The Woman's Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare by Lenz, Greene and Neely. University of Illinois, 1984

Critical views on Measure for Measure

(In reverse order of publication from present day)
[Note that in many cases these are essays on Measure for Measure within a book on more than one Shakespearean play]:

  • Shakespeare's Problem Plays by Simon Baker. Macmillan Casebook series, 2005
  • William Shakespeare: the Problem Plays by Richard Hillman. Twayne's English Authors series, 1993
  • Shakespeare: Measure for Measure edited C.K. Stead. Macmillan Casebook Series, 1971 [a series of essays all on Measure for Measure]
  • The Achievement of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure by D.L.Stevenson. Cornell University Press, 1966
  • The Problem Plays of Shakespeare by Ernest Schanzer. 1965, reprinted Routledge, 2004
  • Angel with Horns: fifteen lectures on Shakespeare by A.P. Rossiter. Longman, 1961
  • Shakespeare's Problem Plays by Peter Ure. Longmans Green, 1961
  • Shakespeare's Problem Comedies by William Witherle Lawrence. Ungar, 1960 (Penguin, 1969)
  • Shakespeare's Measure for Measure by Mary Lascelles. Athlone Press, 1953
  • The Common Pursuit by F.R. Leavis. Peregrine Books, 1952 (reprinted Pelican, 1976)
  • The Meaning of Shakespeare by Harold Goddard. University of Chicago Press, 1951
  • Shakespeare's Problem Plays by E.M.W. Tillyard. (First published Toronto, 1949), Penguin books, 1965
  • The Wheel of Fire by G.Wilson Knight. Methuen, 1930, reprinted many times by Methuen and Routledge

Pre-twentieth century critics of Shakespeare

(See also reproduction of earlier criticism in Macmillan Casebook Series ed. Stead, above)

  • Nineteenth century: Walter Pater – Appreciations. Published Macmillan, 1890. Reprinted Echo library, 2006.
  • Nineteenth century: William Hazlitt – The Characters of Shakespeare's Plays. Originally 1817, but reproduced Dent, 1960.
  • Eighteenth century: Samuel Johnson – reproduced in Dr. Johnson on Shakespeare ed. W.K. Wimsatt. Penguin, 1969.


Be particularly careful to avoid ‘lifting' any material – including any from this web site! Copying even a small amount is plagiarism and its inclusion in coursework essays will be looked upon scathingly and severely penalised by examination boards.

  • Typing in ‘Shakespeare Measure for Measure' to Google produces more than a million responses! Some are editions of the text, some study guides, some essays. Although you will certainly find some useful material, remember that none of it is going to help you understand the play if you do not already have a thorough knowledge of the text from reading it yourself.

Useful links:

  • An interesting website which really looks at the play as drama is the RSC's guide based on their 2003 production

See the play

An essential resource when studying any drama is a means of seeing it in performance. If no live performance is available, then DVDs or videos are an excellent resource.

Measure for Measure. BBC Television. 1979.

Measure for Measure. Dir. Bob Komar. 2007.

Listen to the play

Audio CD or taped productions are also very useful, particularly to allow the listener to concentrate on the flow of the verse. Unfortunately productions of Measure for Measure are not very readily available in audiobook form.

Measure for Measure. (Audio CD). Arkangel Complete Shakespeare Company. 2006.

Measure for Measure: Complete & Unabridged (Audio Cassette). Harper Collins Audio. 1995.

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