Pompey is clearly a rogue. He acts as a tapster, or barman, in Mistress Overdone's house, but, as Escalus realises, however much Pompey lies about his real activity, he is ‘partly a bawd'. Although he has the name of a famous Roman leader, he is ‘Pompey the Great' only in the proportions of his backside; there is nothing noble about him. However, in Measure for Measure he has a more significant role than just being a ‘low-life' character, since, in exposing the corruption of Vienna to the audience, he also exposes many of the problems innate in dealing with it.
Pompey's wit, fluency and astuteness
The audience quickly realises that Pompey is far more quick-witted and fluent than the constable, Elbow, whose job it is to try to control him:
- Pompey's long-winded and witty version of events when he is brought before Escalus (in Act II sc i) arouses much laughter at the expense of the legitimate officer of the law, thereby demonstrating that, in Shakespeare's Vienna, there is little chance of true justice being meted out.
- In addition, some of Pompey's remarks have a ring of common sense. He knows that young men and women have sexual appetites which may be hard to control:
Does your worship mean to geld and splay all the youth of the city? ... If you head and hang all that offend that way but for ten year together, you'll be glad to give out a commission for more heads.
- Even more astutely, he knows that law is a man-made system which can be altered as laws are made or rescinded. In response to Escalus's question,
‘Is it a lawful trade?'
‘If the law would allow it, sir.'
In making this comment he may suggest to the audience a distinction between justice, which has a moral quality, and the law, which consists of rules laid down by a government.
Pompey and Lucio
When he is taken to prison in Act III sc ii, Pompey's predicament reveals to the audience the nastier side of Lucio, who not only refuses to stand bail for Pompey but who hypocritically denounces him as a bawd and gloats at his predicament:
Well, then, imprison him. If imprisonment be the due of a bawd, why, ‘tis his right. Bawd he is doubtless, and of antiquity too: bawd born.
Pompey in prison
Once in prison Pompey's role is again to reveal to the audience the flaws of Vienna's legal system:
- While Claudio languishes in his cell, expecting imminent execution for getting the woman he regards as his wife pregnant, Pompey, whose whole existence involves prostitution and sexual licence, is invited to escape his full penalty by assisting the executioner
- For Pompey, death is not – as it so clearly is for Isabella - the boundary between this earthly life and eternity, when the soul must be prepared for God's judgement, but a matter for coarse jesting:
If the man be a bachelor, sir, I can (cut off his head); but if he be a married man, he's his wife's head; and I can never cut off a woman's head. (Act IV sc ii)
- Here he is referring to the belief, expressed by St Paul in the New Testament, that within marriage ‘the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church' (Ephesians 5:23).
- The last time we see Pompey he is preparing to execute Barnardine, a man whom the Duke describes as ‘Unfit to live or die!' For Pompey, life and death have no spiritual dimension; his perceptions are all to do with the physical senses, and his last words in the play reflect this:
He that drinks all night, and is hanged betimes in the morning, may sleep the sounder all the next day. (Act IV sc iii)
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not become partners with them; 8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 15Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
1Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 14Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. 15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
A woman in charge of a brothel, also known as a madam
1. The quality of being just. 2. Fairness. 3. The administration of the law.
1. The quality of being just. 2. Fairness. 3. The administration of the law.
a hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something they are not
1. Genesis indicates that death was not part of the orginal plan for human beings but is one of the consequences of the Fall.
2. The death of Jesus is presented as opening up the possibility of reconciliation with God.
Lasting forever, throughout all ages.
The spirit which gives life to a human being; the part which lives on after death; a person's inner being (personality, intellect, emotions and will) which distinguishes them from animals.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
2. A decision about guilt, and / or the passing of sentence by the person presiding over a court of justice.
3. In the Bible, God's verdict on human behaviour especially on the Day of Judgement at the end of time.
The 'Apostle to the Gentiles' (d. c. CE 65). Paul had a major role in setting up the Early Church and is believed to be the author of several letters in the Bible.
A 'testament' is a covenant (binding agreement), a term used in the Bible of God's relationship with his people. The New Testament is the second part of the Christian Bible. Its name comes from the new covenant or relationship with God.