Measure for Measure: Starter Guide

Welcome! You have arrived here because you are intrigued by (and perhaps inspired too) the study of Literature in English at ‘A’ Level in Eunoia Junior College. As part of our JC1 syllabus, we will be undertaking Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare in Paper 1 (the core paper), and Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind together with Edward Albee’s seminal Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in Paper 3 (the elective paper).

We are in the midst of purchasing the physical copies of the above texts for our first cohort, and we ask you to be patient. The Heinemann [Book Depository link] edition of Measure for Measure is available only upon order from the UK. Shipping takes time, but we think it’s worth the time: the Heinemann edition provides a very detailed translation of Shakespeare’s Early Modern English to contemporary English on every facing page, and clues the reader in further with probing questions and short insights into the theatrical / performative aspects of the text. For ease of reference during our seminars and tutorials (i.e. ‘let’s flip to page 104, class’), we recommend you purchase the Heinemann edition as your study copy and exam copy.

measure-heinemannExhibit A: the currently elusive Heinemann edition, whose presence we ceaselessly yearn.

We sense from your emails and phone calls (or that from your parents :P) great eagerness to read ahead of time and get to grips with this challenging yet rewarding text. What can you do in the meantime then? Here are some suggestions:

  • Read the soft copies available online, linked below, to save your money for the Heinemann edition. We will try to make the latter available through other means as soon as we can:- Download the PDF of the Folger edition
    – Refer to the online MIT e-text
  • Purchase the following ‘alternative’ editions from stores or anywhere you can find it. They are ranked in descending order of recommendation:- New Cambridge Shakespeare: comprehensive footnotes, annotation-friendly
    Penguin: reasonably priced, available at Kinokuniya, not much space for annotation
    Oxford Shakespeare: reasonably priced, should be available at Kinokuniya
    Norton: the most scholarly and most expensive edition; very unfriendly thoughWe do not recommend the Signet, Classics Library or Folger editions, which may be cheaper and are worth only the pennies you pay (i.e. not very much value at all).Also, a word of caution! Assessment for Literature in English at ‘A’ Level, whether at H1 or H2 levels, takes an ‘open-book format‘, which means you may bring in your set texts. Some of you may want to purchase two copies of each text, one for exam use and one for study use. Regardless, you cannot write any notes in your exam text — more information on annotation of exam texts can be found here.

     

  • Read up the ‘basic’ guides on the text, before progressing to more academic criticism. Many a Literature tutor would frown upon students making use of the ‘popular’, American high school-focused study guides, but we do too. You should not need them by the middle of the year (partly because our notes will be pretty awesome). You should not be paraphrasing, adapting, or borrowing from them in your work because they exist on a mostly superficial, ‘unliterary level’ that covers plot, character and a hint of concerns (without the required analysis and personal response at ‘A’ Level).With the long, long disclaimer out of the way, they do have a place in your understanding of Measure for Measure. They can ease you into the events, characters and literal meaning of the play, so that you can encounter the text itself ready, and ready to pick apart its complexities.- The teachers will be making use of Penguin Teacher’s Guide, which we think is pegged closer to ‘A’ Level. The long commentary by Peter Cash also deserves mention.- The most ‘accessible’ guide on the play’s themes is on LitCharts. The CliffNotes site does have a decent character analysis section that lays on the table the various perspectives of Isabella, Angelo, Duke, Claudio, et al. We figure you’ll visit the above two sites on your own anyway…

    – Once you think you’re equipped to go deeper into the text’s methods and concerns, you should head over to our very rich Articles page for secondary literature (i.e. criticism, commentary) on Measure for Measure. Ask us personally for the password, which should be easy to remember once you remember who your Lit tutors will be (hint hint).

OK, this has been a long enough post! Enjoy reading up in the meantime!

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