Measure for Measure, by William Shakespeare

Act II

Scene I. A hall In Angelo’s house.

Enter Angelo, Escalus, and a Justice, Provost, Officers, and other Attendants, behind

Angelo

We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Their perch and not their terror.

Escalus

Ay, but yet
Let us be keen, and rather cut a little,
Than fall, and bruise to death. Alas, this gentleman
Whom I would save, had a most noble father!
Let but your honour know,
Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue,
That, in the working of your own affections,
Had time cohered with place or place with wishing,
Or that the resolute acting of your blood
Could have attain’d the effect of your own purpose,
Whether you had not sometime in your life
Err’d in this point which now you censure him,
And pull’d the law upon you.

Angelo

’Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall. I not deny,
The jury, passing on the prisoner’s life,
May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try. What’s open made to justice,
That justice seizes: what know the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? ’Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take’t
Because we see it; but what we do not see
We tread upon, and never think of it.
You may not so extenuate his offence
For I have had such faults; but rather tell me,
When I, that censure him, do so offend,
Let mine own judgment pattern out my death,
And nothing come in partial. Sir, he must die.

Escalus

Be it as your wisdom will.

Angelo

Where is the provost?

Provost

Here, if it like your honour.

Angelo

See that Claudio
Be executed by nine to-morrow morning:
Bring him his confessor, let him be prepared;
For that’s the utmost of his pilgrimage.

Exit Provost

Escalus

[Aside] Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all!
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall:
Some run from brakes of ice, and answer none:
And some condemned for a fault alone.

Enter Elbow, and Officers with Froth and Pompey

Elbow

Come, bring them away: if these be good people in a commonweal that do nothing but use their abuses in common houses, I know no law: bring them away.

Angelo

How now, sir! What’s your name? and what’s the matter?

Elbow

If it Please your honour, I am the poor duke’s constable, and my name is Elbow: I do lean upon justice, sir, and do bring in here before your good honour two notorious benefactors.

Angelo

Benefactors? Well; what benefactors are they? are they not malefactors?

Elbow

If it? please your honour, I know not well what they are: but precise villains they are, that I am sure of; and void of all profanation in the world that good Christians ought to have.

Escalus

This comes off well; here’s a wise officer.

Angelo

Go to: what quality are they of? Elbow is your name? why dost thou not speak, Elbow?

Pompey

He cannot, sir; he’s out at elbow.

Angelo

What are you, sir?

Elbow

He, sir! a tapster, sir; parcel-bawd; one that serves a bad woman; whose house, sir, was, as they say, plucked down in the suburbs; and now she professes a hot-house, which, I think, is a very ill house too.

Escalus

How know you that?

Elbow

My wife, sir, whom I detest before heaven and your honour —

Escalus

How? thy wife?

Elbow

Ay, sir; whom, I thank heaven, is an honest woman —

Escalus

Dost thou detest her therefore?

Elbow

I say, sir, I will detest myself also, as well as she, that this house, if it be not a bawd’s house, it is pity of her life, for it is a naughty house.

Escalus

How dost thou know that, constable?

Elbow

Marry, sir, by my wife; who, if she had been a woman cardinally given, might have been accused in fornication, adultery, and all uncleanliness there.

Escalus

By the woman’s means?

Elbow

Ay, sir, by Mistress Overdone’s means: but as she spit in his face, so she defied him.

Pompey

Sir, if it please your honour, this is not so.

Elbow

Prove it before these varlets here, thou honourable man; prove it.

Escalus

Do you hear how he misplaces?

Pompey

Sir, she came in great with child; and longing, saving your honour’s reverence, for stewed prunes; sir, we had but two in the house, which at that very distant time stood, as it were, in a fruit-dish, a dish of some three-pence; your honours have seen such dishes; they are not China dishes, but very good dishes —

Escalus

Go to, go to: no matter for the dish, sir.

Pompey

No, indeed, sir, not of a pin; you are therein in the right: but to the point. As I say, this Mistress Elbow, being, as I say, with child, and being great-bellied, and longing, as I said, for prunes; and having but two in the dish, as I said, Master Froth here, this very man, having eaten the rest, as I said, and, as I say, paying for them very honestly; for, as you know, Master Froth, I could not give you three-pence again.

Froth

No, indeed.

Pompey

Very well: you being then, if you be remembered, cracking the stones of the foresaid prunes —

Froth

Ay, so I did indeed.

Pompey

Why, very well; I telling you then, if you be remembered, that such a one and such a one were past cure of the thing you wot of, unless they kept very good diet, as I told you —

Froth

All this is true.

Pompey

Why, very well, then —

Escalus

Come, you are a tedious fool: to the purpose. What was done to Elbow’s wife, that he hath cause to complain of? Come me to what was done to her.

Pompey

Sir, your honour cannot come to that yet.

Escalus

No, sir, nor I mean it not.

Pompey

Sir, but you shall come to it, by your honour’s leave. And, I beseech you, look into Master Froth here, sir; a man of four-score pound a year; whose father died at Hallowmas: was’t not at Hallowmas, Master Froth?

Froth

All-hallond eve.

Pompey

Why, very well; I hope here be truths. He, sir, sitting, as I say, in a lower chair, sir; ’twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where indeed you have a delight to sit, have you not?

Froth

I have so; because it is an open room and good for winter.

Pompey

Why, very well, then; I hope here be truths.

Angelo

This will last out a night in Russia,
When nights are longest there: I’ll take my leave.
And leave you to the hearing of the cause;
Hoping you’ll find good cause to whip them all.

Escalus

I think no less. Good morrow to your lordship.

Exit Angelo

Now, sir, come on: what was done to Elbow’s wife, once more?

Pompey

Once, sir? there was nothing done to her once.

Elbow

I beseech you, sir, ask him what this man did to my wife.

Pompey

I beseech your honour, ask me.

Escalus

Well, sir; what did this gentleman to her?

Pompey

I beseech you, sir, look in this gentleman’s face. Good Master Froth, look upon his honour; ’tis for a good purpose. Doth your honour mark his face?

Escalus

Ay, sir, very well.

Pompey

Nay; I beseech you, mark it well.

Escalus

Well, I do so.

Pompey

Doth your honour see any harm in his face?

Escalus

Why, no.

Pompey

I’ll be supposed upon a book, his face is the worst thing about him. Good, then; if his face be the worst thing about him, how could Master Froth do the constable’s wife any harm? I would know that of your honour.

Escalus

He’s in the right. Constable, what say you to it?

Elbow

First, an it like you, the house is a respected house; next, this is a respected fellow; and his mistress is a respected woman.

Pompey

By this hand, sir, his wife is a more respected person than any of us all.

Elbow

Varlet, thou liest; thou liest, wicked varlet! the time has yet to come that she was ever respected with man, woman, or child.

Pompey

Sir, she was respected with him before he married with her.

Escalus

Which is the wiser here? Justice or Iniquity? Is this true?

Elbow

O thou caitiff! O thou varlet! O thou wicked Hannibal! I respected with her before I was married to her! If ever I was respected with her, or she with me, let not your worship think me the poor duke’s officer. Prove this, thou wicked Hannibal, or I’ll have mine action of battery on thee.

Escalus

If he took you a box o’ the ear, you might have your action of slander too.

Elbow

Marry, I thank your good worship for it. What is’t your worship’s pleasure I shall do with this wicked caitiff?

Escalus

Truly, officer, because he hath some offences in him that thou wouldst discover if thou couldst, let him continue in his courses till thou knowest what they are.

Elbow

Marry, I thank your worship for it. Thou seest, thou wicked varlet, now, what’s come upon thee: thou art to continue now, thou varlet; thou art to continue.

Escalus

Where were you born, friend?

Froth

Here in Vienna, sir.

Escalus

Are you of fourscore pounds a year?

Froth

Yes, an’t please you, sir.

Escalus

So. What trade are you of, sir?

Pompey

Tapster; a poor widow’s tapster.

Escalus

Your mistress’ name?

Pompey

Mistress Overdone.

Escalus

Hath she had any more than one husband?

Pompey

Nine, sir; Overdone by the last.

Escalus

Nine! Come hither to me, Master Froth. Master Froth, I would not have you acquainted with tapsters: they will draw you, Master Froth, and you will hang them. Get you gone, and let me hear no more of you.

Froth

I thank your worship. For mine own part, I never come into any room in a tap-house, but I am drawn in.

Escalus

Well, no more of it, Master Froth: farewell.

Exit Froth

Come you hither to me, Master tapster. What’s your name, Master tapster?

Pompey

Pompey.

Escalus

What else?

Pompey

Bum, sir.

Escalus

Troth, and your bum is the greatest thing about you; so that in the beastliest sense you are Pompey the Great. Pompey, you are partly a bawd, Pompey, howsoever you colour it in being a tapster, are you not? come, tell me true: it shall be the better for you.

Pompey

Truly, sir, I am a poor fellow that would live.

Escalus

How would you live, Pompey? by being a bawd? What do you think of the trade, Pompey? is it a lawful trade?

Pompey

If the law would allow it, sir.

Escalus

But the law will not allow it, Pompey; nor it shall not be allowed in Vienna.

Pompey

Does your worship mean to geld and splay all the youth of the city?

Escalus

No, Pompey.

Pompey

Truly, sir, in my poor opinion, they will to’t then. If your worship will take order for the drabs and the knaves, you need not to fear the bawds.

Escalus

There are pretty orders beginning, I can tell you: it is but heading and hanging.

Pompey

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: if this law hold in Vienna ten year, I’ll rent the fairest house in it after three-pence a bay: if you live to see this come to pass, say Pompey told you so.

Escalus

Thank you, good Pompey; and, in requital of your prophecy, hark you: I advise you, let me not find you before me again upon any complaint whatsoever; no, not for dwelling where you do: if I do, Pompey, I shall beat you to your tent, and prove a shrewd Caesar to you; in plain dealing, Pompey, I shall have you whipt: so, for this time, Pompey, fare you well.

Pompey

I thank your worship for your good counsel:

Aside

but I shall follow it as the flesh and fortune shall better determine.
Whip me? No, no; let carman whip his jade:
The valiant heart is not whipt out of his trade.

Exit

Escalus

Come hither to me, Master Elbow; come hither, Master constable. How long have you been in this place of constable?

Elbow

Seven year and a half, sir.

Escalus

I thought, by your readiness in the office, you had continued in it some time. You say, seven years together?

Elbow

And a half, sir.

Escalus

Alas, it hath been great pains to you. They do you wrong to put you so oft upon ’t: are there not men in your ward sufficient to serve it?

Elbow

Faith, sir, few of any wit in such matters: as they are chosen, they are glad to choose me for them; I do it for some piece of money, and go through with all.

Escalus

Look you bring me in the names of some six or seven, the most sufficient of your parish.

Elbow

To your worship’s house, sir?

Escalus

To my house. Fare you well.

Exit Elbow

What’s o’clock, think you?

Justice

Eleven, sir.

Escalus

I pray you home to dinner with me.

Justice

I humbly thank you.

Escalus

It grieves me for the death of Claudio;
But there’s no remedy.

Justice

Lord Angelo is severe.

Escalus

It is but needful:
Mercy is not itself, that oft looks so;
Pardon is still the nurse of second woe:
But yet — poor Claudio! There is no remedy.
Come, sir.

Exeunt

Scene II. Another room in the same.

Enter Provost and a Servant

Servant

He’s hearing of a cause; he will come straight
I’ll tell him of you.

Provost

Pray you, do.

Exit Servant

I’ll know
His pleasure; may be he will relent. Alas,
He hath but as offended in a dream!
All sects, all ages smack of this vice; and he
To die for’t!

Enter Angelo

Angelo

    Now, what’s the matter. Provost?

Provost

Is it your will Claudio shall die tomorrow?

Angelo

Did not I tell thee yea? hadst thou not order?
Why dost thou ask again?

Provost

Lest I might be too rash:
Under your good correction, I have seen,
When, after execution, judgment hath
Repented o’er his doom.

Angelo

Go to; let that be mine:
Do you your office, or give up your place,
And you shall well be spared.

Provost

I crave your honour’s pardon.
What shall be done, sir, with the groaning Juliet?
She’s very near her hour.

Angelo

Dispose of her
To some more fitter place, and that with speed.

Re-enter Servant

Servant

Here is the sister of the man condemn’d
Desires access to you.

Angelo

Hath he a sister?

Provost

Ay, my good lord; a very virtuous maid,
And to be shortly of a sisterhood,
If not already.

Angelo

    Well, let her be admitted.

Exit Servant

See you the fornicatress be removed:
Let have needful, but not lavish, means;
There shall be order for’t.

Enter Isabella and Lucio

Provost

God save your honour!

Angelo

Stay a little while.

To Isabella

You’re welcome: what’s your will?

Isabella

I am a woeful suitor to your honour,
Please but your honour hear me.

Angelo

Well; what’s your suit?

Isabella

There is a vice that most I do abhor,
And most desire should meet the blow of justice;
For which I would not plead, but that I must;
For which I must not plead, but that I am
At war ’twixt will and will not.

Angelo

Well; the matter?

Isabella

I have a brother is condemn’d to die:
I do beseech you, let it be his fault,
And not my brother.

Provost

[Aside] Heaven give thee moving graces!

Angelo

Condemn the fault and not the actor of it?
Why, every fault’s condemn’d ere it be done:
Mine were the very cipher of a function,
To fine the faults whose fine stands in record,
And let go by the actor.

Isabella

O just but severe law!
I had a brother, then. Heaven keep your honour!

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella] Give’t not o’er so: to him again, entreat him;
Kneel down before him, hang upon his gown:
You are too cold; if you should need a pin,
You could not with more tame a tongue desire it:
To him, I say!

Isabella

Must he needs die?

Angelo

    Maiden, no remedy.

Isabella

Yes; I do think that you might pardon him,
And neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy.

Angelo

I will not do’t.

Isabella

    But can you, if you would?

Angelo

Look, what I will not, that I cannot do.

Isabella

But might you do’t, and do the world no wrong,
If so your heart were touch’d with that remorse
A s mine is to him?

Angelo

    He’s sentenced; ’tis too late.

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella] You are too cold.

Isabella

Too late? why, no; I, that do speak a word.
May call it back again. Well, believe this,
No ceremony that to great ones ’longs,
Not the king’s crown, nor the deputed sword,
The marshal’s truncheon, nor the judge’s robe,
Become them with one half so good a grace
As mercy does.
If he had been as you and you as he,
You would have slipt like him; but he, like you,
Would not have been so stern.

Angelo

Pray you, be gone.

Isabella

I would to heaven I had your potency,
And you were Isabel! should it then be thus?
No; I would tell what ’twere to be a judge,
And what a prisoner.

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella]
Ay, touch him; there’s the vein.

Angelo

Your brother is a forfeit of the law,
And you but waste your words.

Isabella

Alas, alas!
Why, all the souls that were were forfeit once;
And He that might the vantage best have took
Found out the remedy. How would you be,
If He, which is the top of judgment, should
But judge you as you are? O, think on that;
And mercy then will breathe within your lips,
Like man new made.

Angelo

    Be you content, fair maid;
It is the law, not I condemn your brother:
Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son,
It should be thus with him: he must die tomorrow.

Isabella

To-morrow! O, that’s sudden! Spare him, spare him!
He’s not prepared for death. Even for our kitchens
We kill the fowl of season: shall we serve heaven
With less respect than we do minister
To our gross selves? Good, good my lord, bethink you;
Who is it that hath died for this offence?
There’s many have committed it.

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella] Ay, well said.

Angelo

The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept:
Those many had not dared to do that evil,
If the first that did the edict infringe
Had answer’d for his deed: now ’tis awake
Takes note of what is done; and, like a prophet,
Looks in a glass, that shows what future evils,
Either new, or by remissness new-conceived,
And so in progress to be hatch’d and born,
Are now to have no successive degrees,
But, ere they live, to end.

Isabella

Yet show some pity.

Angelo

I show it most of all when I show justice;
For then I pity those I do not know,
Which a dismiss’d offence would after gall;
And do him right that, answering one foul wrong,
Lives not to act another. Be satisfied;
Your brother dies to-morrow; be content.

Isabella

So you must be the first that gives this sentence,
And he, that suffer’s. O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella] That’s well said.

Isabella

Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne’er be quiet,
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder;
Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella] O, to him, to him, wench! he will relent; He’s coming; I perceive ’t.

Provost

[Aside] Pray heaven she win him!

Isabella

We cannot weigh our brother with ourself:
Great men may jest with saints; ’tis wit in them,
But in the less foul profanation.

Lucio

Thou’rt i’ the right, girl; more o, that.

Isabella

That in the captain’s but a choleric word,
Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella] Art avised o’ that? more on ’t.

Angelo

Why do you put these sayings upon me?

Isabella

Because authority, though it err like others,
Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself,
That skins the vice o’ the top. Go to your bosom;
Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know
That’s like my brother’s fault: if it confess
A natural guiltiness such as is his,
Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue
Against my brother’s life.

Angelo

[Aside] She speaks, and ’tis
Such sense, that my sense breeds with it. Fare you well.

Isabella

Gentle my lord, turn back.

Angelo

I will bethink me: come again tomorrow.

Isabella

Hark how I’ll bribe you: good my lord, turn back.

Angelo

How! bribe me?

Isabella

Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you.

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella] You had marr’d all else.

Isabella

Not with fond shekels of the tested gold,
Or stones whose rates are either rich or poor
As fancy values them; but with true prayers
That shall be up at heaven and enter there
Ere sun-rise, prayers from preserved souls,
From fasting maids whose minds are dedicate
To nothing temporal.

Angelo

Well; come to me to-morrow.

Lucio

[Aside to Isabella] Go to; ’tis well; away!

Isabella

Heaven keep your honour safe!

Angelo

[Aside] Amen:
For I am that way going to temptation,
Where prayers cross.

Isabella

At what hour to-morrow
Shall I attend your lordship?

Angelo

At any time ’fore noon.

Isabella

’save your honour!

Exeunt Isabella, Lucio, and Provost

Angelo

    From thee, even from thy virtue!
What’s this, what’s this? Is this her fault or mine?
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?
Ha!
Not she: nor doth she tempt: but it is I
That, lying by the violet in the sun,
Do as the carrion does, not as the flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be
That modesty may more betray our sense
Than woman’s lightness? Having waste ground enough,
Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary
And pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie!
What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
Dost thou desire her foully for those things
That make her good? O, let her brother live!
Thieves for their robbery have authority
When judges steal themselves. What, do I love her,
That I desire to hear her speak again,
And feast upon her eyes? What is’t I dream on?
O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint,
With saints dost bait thy hook! Most dangerous
Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue: never could the strumpet,
With all her double vigour, art and nature,
Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite. Even till now,
When men were fond, I smiled and wonder’d how.

Exit

Scene III. A room in a prison.

Enter, severally, Duke Vincentio disguised as a friar, and Provost

Duke Vincentio

Hail to you, provost! so I think you are.

Provost

I am the provost. What’s your will, good friar?

Duke Vincentio

Bound by my charity and my blest order,
I come to visit the afflicted spirits
Here in the prison. Do me the common right
To let me see them and to make me know
The nature of their crimes, that I may minister
To them accordingly.

Provost

I would do more than that, if more were needful.

Enter Juliet

Look, here comes one: a gentlewoman of mine,
Who, falling in the flaws of her own youth,
Hath blister’d her report: she is with child;
And he that got it, sentenced; a young man
More fit to do another such offence
Than die for this.

Duke Vincentio

When must he die?

Provost

    As I do think, to-morrow.
I have provided for you: stay awhile,

To Juliet

And you shall be conducted.

Duke Vincentio

Repent you, fair one, of the sin you carry?

Juliet

I do; and bear the shame most patiently.

Duke Vincentio

I’ll teach you how you shall arraign your conscience,
And try your penitence, if it be sound,
Or hollowly put on.

Juliet

I’ll gladly learn.

Duke Vincentio

Love you the man that wrong’d you?

Juliet

Yes, as I love the woman that wrong’d him.

Duke Vincentio

So then it seems your most offenceful act
Was mutually committed?

Juliet

Mutually.

Duke Vincentio

Then was your sin of heavier kind than his.

Juliet

I do confess it, and repent it, father.

Duke Vincentio

’Tis meet so, daughter: but lest you do repent,
As that the sin hath brought you to this shame,
Which sorrow is always towards ourselves, not heaven,
Showing we would not spare heaven as we love it,
But as we stand in fear —

Juliet

I do repent me, as it is an evil,
And take the shame with joy.

Duke Vincentio

There rest.
Your partner, as I hear, must die to-morrow,
And I am going with instruction to him.
Grace go with you, Benedicite!

Exit

Juliet

Must die to-morrow! O injurious love,
That respites me a life, whose very comfort
Is still a dying horror!

Provost

’Tis pity of him.

Exeunt

Scene IV. A room in Angelo’s house.

Enter Angelo

Angelo

When I would pray and think, I think and pray
To several subjects. Heaven hath my empty words;
Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue,
Anchors on Isabel: Heaven in my mouth,
As if I did but only chew his name;
And in my heart the strong and swelling evil
Of my conception. The state, whereon I studied
Is like a good thing, being often read,
Grown fear’d and tedious; yea, my gravity,
Wherein — let no man hear me — I take pride,
Could I with boot change for an idle plume,
Which the air beats for vain. O place, O form,
How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,
Wrench awe from fools and tie the wiser souls
To thy false seeming! Blood, thou art blood:
Let’s write good angel on the devil’s horn:
’Tis not the devil’s crest.

Enter a Servant

How now! who’s there?

Servant

One Isabel, a sister, desires access to you.

Angelo

Teach her the way.

Exit Servant

O heavens!
Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,
Making both it unable for itself,
And dispossessing all my other parts
Of necessary fitness?
So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons;
Come all to help him, and so stop the air
By which he should revive: and even so
The general, subject to a well-wish’d king,
Quit their own part, and in obsequious fondness
Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love
Must needs appear offence.

Enter Isabella

How now, fair maid?

Isabella

I am come to know your pleasure.

Angelo

That you might know it, would much better please me
Than to demand what ’tis. Your brother cannot live.

Isabella

Even so. Heaven keep your honour!

Angelo

Yet may he live awhile; and, it may be,
As long as you or I; yet he must die.

Isabella

Under your sentence?

Angelo

Yea.

Isabella

When, I beseech you? that in his reprieve,
Longer or shorter, he may be so fitted
That his soul sicken not.

Angelo

Ha! fie, these filthy vices! It were as good
To pardon him that hath from nature stolen
A man already made, as to remit
Their saucy sweetness that do coin heaven’s image
In stamps that are forbid: ’tis all as easy
Falsely to take away a life true made
As to put metal in restrained means
To make a false one.

Isabella

’Tis set down so in heaven, but not in earth.

Angelo

Say you so? then I shall pose you quickly.
Which had you rather, that the most just law
Now took your brother’s life; or, to redeem him,
Give up your body to such sweet uncleanness
As she that he hath stain’d?

Isabella

Sir, believe this,
I had rather give my body than my soul.

Angelo

I talk not of your soul: our compell’d sins
Stand more for number than for accompt.

Isabella

How say you?

Angelo

Nay, I’ll not warrant that; for I can speak
Against the thing I say. Answer to this:
I, now the voice of the recorded law,
Pronounce a sentence on your brother’s life:
Might there not be a charity in sin
To save this brother’s life?

Isabella

Please you to do’t,
I’ll take it as a peril to my soul,
It is no sin at all, but charity.

Angelo

Pleased you to do’t at peril of your soul,
Were equal poise of sin and charity.

Isabella

That I do beg his life, if it be sin,
Heaven let me bear it! you granting of my suit,
If that be sin, I’ll make it my morn prayer
To have it added to the faults of mine,
And nothing of your answer.

Angelo

Nay, but hear me.
Your sense pursues not mine: either you are ignorant,
Or seem so craftily; and that’s not good.

Isabella

Let me be ignorant, and in nothing good,
But graciously to know I am no better.

Angelo

Thus wisdom wishes to appear most bright
When it doth tax itself; as these black masks
Proclaim an enshield beauty ten times louder
Than beauty could, display’d. But mark me;
To be received plain, I’ll speak more gross:
Your brother is to die.

Isabella

So.

Angelo

And his offence is so, as it appears,
Accountant to the law upon that pain.

Isabella

True.

Angelo

Admit no other way to save his life —
As I subscribe not that, nor any other,
But in the loss of question — that you, his sister,
Finding yourself desired of such a person,
Whose credit with the judge, or own great place,
Could fetch your brother from the manacles
Of the all-building law; and that there were
No earthly mean to save him, but that either
You must lay down the treasures of your body
To this supposed, or else to let him suffer;
What would you do?

Isabella

As much for my poor brother as myself:
That is, were I under the terms of death,
The impression of keen whips I’ld wear as rubies,
And strip myself to death, as to a bed
That longing have been sick for, ere I’ld yield
My body up to shame.

Angelo

Then must your brother die.

Isabella

And ’twere the cheaper way:
Better it were a brother died at once,
Than that a sister, by redeeming him,
Should die for ever.

Angelo

Were not you then as cruel as the sentence
That you have slander’d so?

Isabella

Ignomy in ransom and free pardon
Are of two houses: lawful mercy
Is nothing kin to foul redemption.

Angelo

You seem’d of late to make the law a tyrant;
And rather proved the sliding of your brother
A merriment than a vice.

Isabella

O, pardon me, my lord; it oft falls out,
To have what we would have, we speak not what we mean:
I something do excuse the thing I hate,
For his advantage that I dearly love.

Angelo

We are all frail.

Isabella

    Else let my brother die,
If not a feodary, but only he
Owe and succeed thy weakness.

Angelo

Nay, women are frail too.

Isabella

Ay, as the glasses where they view themselves;
Which are as easy broke as they make forms.
Women! Help Heaven! men their creation mar
In profiting by them. Nay, call us ten times frail;
For we are soft as our complexions are,
And credulous to false prints.

Angelo

I think it well:
And from this testimony of your own sex —
Since I suppose we are made to be no stronger
Than faults may shake our frames — let me be bold;
I do arrest your words. Be that you are,
That is, a woman; if you be more, you’re none;
If you be one, as you are well express’d
By all external warrants, show it now,
By putting on the destined livery.

Isabella

I have no tongue but one: gentle my lord,
Let me entreat you speak the former language.

Angelo

Plainly conceive, I love you.

Isabella

My brother did love Juliet,
And you tell me that he shall die for it.

Angelo

He shall not, Isabel, if you give me love.

Isabella

I know your virtue hath a licence in’t,
Which seems a little fouler than it is,
To pluck on others.

Angelo

Believe me, on mine honour,
My words express my purpose.

Isabella

Ha! little honour to be much believed,
And most pernicious purpose! Seeming, seeming!
I will proclaim thee, Angelo; look for’t:
Sign me a present pardon for my brother,
Or with an outstretch’d throat I’ll tell the world aloud
What man thou art.

Angelo

    Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i’ the state,
Will so your accusation overweigh,
That you shall stifle in your own report
And smell of calumny. I have begun,
And now I give my sensual race the rein:
Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite;
Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes,
That banish what they sue for; redeem thy brother
By yielding up thy body to my will;
Or else he must not only die the death,
But thy unkindness shall his death draw out
To lingering sufferance. Answer me to-morrow,
Or, by the affection that now guides me most,
I’ll prove a tyrant to him. As for you,
Say what you can, my false o’erweighs your true.

Exit

Isabella

To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,
Who would believe me? O perilous mouths,
That bear in them one and the self-same tongue,
Either of condemnation or approof;
Bidding the law make court’sy to their will:
Hooking both right and wrong to the appetite,
To follow as it draws! I’ll to my brother:
Though he hath fallen by prompture of the blood,
Yet hath he in him such a mind of honour.
That, had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he’ld yield them up,
Before his sister should her body stoop
To such abhorr’d pollution.
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity.
I’ll tell him yet of Angelo’s request,
And fit his mind to death, for his soul’s rest.

Exit

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30