As well as looking at how we’ve staged Measure for Measure, which you can do in the Productions section, it’s important to think about what you would do if you were staging the play. And, if you can, to perform parts of it yourself.

We encourage you to look at the play, or scenes in the play, and think through the decisions a director makes with their actors:

  • Where is the play set?
  • How are the characters connected?
  • What do the characters want?

Here you can find some key things to think about before staging the play yourself. Even if you’re working towards an exam or preparing for an assignment, it’s important to think about different ways of reading lines or words, and taking a look at the key decisions a director needs to make could really help your essay responses.

  • Key decisions to make

    There are certain things that every director and creative team have to consider when staging Measure for Measure. The following key things will be discussed in every production, but the way you answer the questions below can create incredibly different interpretations of the play.

    Vienna’s Streets & Brothels

    • Many plays have scenes that intrude on the main world of the play. Act 1 Scenes 2 and 3 happen in the streets of Vienna and are very different to anything else we see in the play. How would you represent this world of brothel keepers and corruption? How can this be shown in the characters’ costumes?
    • How would you cast the character of Mistress Overdone? How different could she be to Juliet and the other women in the play and what effect might this have?
    • Is there a hierarchy on the streets of Vienna and how is it structured? How are Lucio and Froth dressed compared to Pompey and how do they behave compared to everyone else?
    • How will you stage the final scene where so many people are on stage? How does a person's status affect where they are in a scene?

    The World of the Court

    • The courtroom scenes in the play need a very different feel to what the audience has seen before. How could you tackle this?
    • Angelo’s room is described as an ’antechamber’ to the courtroom. How would you make this look different? What is the effect when Isabella, a woman, enters this room?
    • How does Elbow, the constable, greet Angelo and Escalus in Act 2 Scene 1? How is this different from how he treats Pompey and Froth? Elbow and Pompey are supposed to be comical. How could this be staged to achieve this?
    • There are servants and other judges in this scene. What could their roles be and, as a director, what physical action could you give them?

    Male Versus Female Worlds

    • Men and women have very specific roles in Vienna. Men have more freedom to do what they want. Women must follow the expectations of society. How could you show this in how the men and women are dressed?
    • Some period costumes restrict movement such as large skirts, stiff collars or corsets. What use could you make of this? As a novice nun, how would you dress Isabella compared to the other women? What choices could you make in designing a look for her?
    • Some characters go through big changes over the action of the play. How might you change the appearance of Angelo for example? Or the duke when he is not in his disguise? What about Juliet? She isn’t seen much but her pregnancy is important. How might you show this? Is she trying to hide it or is it very obvious in her costume?
    • Mariana and Isabella are very powerless in Act 5 Scene 1. How might you direct this scene to show this more?

    Within each of these choices, there are lots of key moments and scenes to explore.

    Going back through the Productions section and looking at the different performances we’ve had at the RSC, think about these two areas:

    • Can you see how each director has presented the streets and the citizens of Vienna? Why do you think they have made those choices?
    • How important is the appearance of the citizens at different stages of the play? How do they fit into the world that the play has been set in?

    Take a look at the casebook for the 1978 production of Measure for Measure, to view the specific choices and thinking that have informed that staging.

Teacher Notes

This page looks at some of the key decisions a director makes.

Challenge your students to think about how they would want to tell the story of Measure for Measure. How would they respond to the questions here?