Measure for Measure, by William Shakespeare

Act IV

Scene I. The moated grange at St. Luke’s.

Enter Mariana and a Boy

Boy sings

Take, O, take those lips away,

That so sweetly were forsworn;

And those eyes, the break of day,

Lights that do mislead the morn:

But my kisses bring again, bring again;

Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.

Mariana Break off thy song, and haste thee quick away:
Here comes a man of comfort, whose advice
Hath often still’d my brawling discontent.

Exit Boy

Enter Duke Vincentio disguised as before

I cry you mercy, sir; and well could wish
You had not found me here so musical:
Let me excuse me, and believe me so,
My mirth it much displeased, but pleased my woe.

Duke Vincentio ’Tis good; though music oft hath such a charm To make bad good, and good provoke to harm. I pray, you, tell me, hath any body inquired for me here to-day? much upon this time have I promised here to meet.

Mariana You have not been inquired after:
I have sat here all day.

Enter Isabella

Duke Vincentio I do constantly believe you. The time is come even now. I shall crave your forbearance a little: may be I will call upon you anon, for some advantage to yourself.

Mariana I am always bound to you.


Duke Vincentio Very well met, and well come.
What is the news from this good deputy?

Isabella He hath a garden circummured with brick,
Whose western side is with a vineyard back’d;
And to that vineyard is a planched gate,
That makes his opening with this bigger key:
This other doth command a little door
Which from the vineyard to the garden leads;
There have I made my promise
Upon the heavy middle of the night
To call upon him.

Duke Vincentio But shall you on your knowledge find this way?

Isabella I have ta’en a due and wary note upon’t:
With whispering and most guilty diligence,
In action all of precept, he did show me
The way twice o’er.

Duke Vincentio Are there no other tokens
Between you ’greed concerning her observance?

Isabella No, none, but only a repair i’ the dark;
And that I have possess’d him my most stay
Can be but brief; for I have made him know
I have a servant comes with me along,
That stays upon me, whose persuasion is
I come about my brother.

Duke Vincentio ’Tis well borne up.
I have not yet made known to Mariana
A word of this. What, ho! within! come forth!

Re-enter Mariana

I pray you, be acquainted with this maid;
She comes to do you good.

Isabella I do desire the like.

Duke Vincentio Do you persuade yourself that I respect you?

Mariana Good friar, I know you do, and have found it.

Duke Vincentio Take, then, this your companion by the hand,
Who hath a story ready for your ear.
I shall attend your leisure: but make haste;
The vaporous night approaches.

Mariana Will’t please you walk aside?

Exeunt Mariana and Isabella

Duke Vincentio O place and greatness! millions of false eyes
Are stuck upon thee: volumes of report
Run with these false and most contrarious quests
Upon thy doings: thousand escapes of wit
Make thee the father of their idle dreams
And rack thee in their fancies.

Re-enter Mariana and Isabella

Welcome, how agreed?

Isabella She’ll take the enterprise upon her, father,
If you advise it.

Duke Vincentio     It is not my consent,
But my entreaty too.

Isabella Little have you to say
When you depart from him, but, soft and low,
‘Remember now my brother.’

Mariana Fear me not.

Duke Vincentio Nor, gentle daughter, fear you not at all.
He is your husband on a pre-contract:
To bring you thus together, ’tis no sin,
Sith that the justice of your title to him
Doth flourish the deceit. Come, let us go:
Our corn’s to reap, for yet our tithe’s to sow.


Scene II. A room in the prison.

Enter Provost and Pompey

Provost Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off a man’s head?

Pompey If the man be a bachelor, sir, I can; but if he be a married man, he’s his wife’s head, and I can never cut off a woman’s head.

Provost Come, sir, leave me your snatches, and yield me a direct answer. To-morrow morning are to die Claudio and Barnardine. Here is in our prison a common executioner, who in his office lacks a helper: if you will take it on you to assist him, it shall redeem you from your gyves; if not, you shall have your full time of imprisonment and your deliverance with an unpitied whipping, for you have been a notorious bawd.

Pompey Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of mind; but yet I will be content to be a lawful hangman. I would be glad to receive some instruction from my fellow partner.

Provost What, ho! Abhorson! Where’s Abhorson, there?

Enter Abhorson

Abhorson Do you call, sir?

Provost Sirrah, here’s a fellow will help you to-morrow in your execution. If you think it meet, compound with him by the year, and let him abide here with you; if not, use him for the present and dismiss him. He cannot plead his estimation with you; he hath been a bawd.

Abhorson A bawd, sir? fie upon him! he will discredit our mystery.

Provost Go to, sir; you weigh equally; a feather will turn the scale.


Pompey Pray, sir, by your good favour — for surely, sir, a good favour you have, but that you have a hanging look — do you call, sir, your occupation a mystery?

Abhorson Ay, sir; a mystery

Pompey Painting, sir, I have heard say, is a mystery; and your whores, sir, being members of my occupation, using painting, do prove my occupation a mystery: but what mystery there should be in hanging, if I should be hanged, I cannot imagine.

Abhorson Sir, it is a mystery.

Pompey Proof?

Abhorson Every true man’s apparel fits your thief: if it be too little for your thief, your true man thinks it big enough; if it be too big for your thief, your thief thinks it little enough: so every true man’s apparel fits your thief.

Re-enter Provost

Provost Are you agreed?

Pompey Sir, I will serve him; for I do find your hangman is a more penitent trade than your bawd; he doth oftener ask forgiveness.

Provost You, sirrah, provide your block and your axe to-morrow four o’clock.

Abhorson Come on, bawd; I will instruct thee in my trade; follow.

Pompey I do desire to learn, sir: and I hope, if you have occasion to use me for your own turn, you shall find me yare; for truly, sir, for your kindness I owe you a good turn.

Provost Call hither Barnardine and Claudio:

Exeunt Pompey and Abhorson

The one has my pity; not a jot the other,
Being a murderer, though he were my brother.

Enter Claudio

Look, here’s the warrant, Claudio, for thy death:
’Tis now dead midnight, and by eight to-morrow
Thou must be made immortal. Where’s Barnardine?

Claudio As fast lock’d up in sleep as guiltless labour
When it lies starkly in the traveller’s bones:
He will not wake.

Provost     Who can do good on him?
Well, go, prepare yourself.

Knocking within

But, hark, what noise?
Heaven give your spirits comfort!

Exit Claudio

By and by.
I hope it is some pardon or reprieve
For the most gentle Claudio.

Enter Duke Vincentio disguised as before

Welcome father.

Duke Vincentio The best and wholesomest spirts of the night
Envelope you, good Provost! Who call’d here of late?

Provost None, since the curfew rung.

Duke Vincentio Not Isabel?

Provost     No.

Duke Vincentio     They will, then, ere’t be long.

Provost What comfort is for Claudio?

Duke Vincentio There’s some in hope.

Provost It is a bitter deputy.

Duke Vincentio Not so, not so; his life is parallel’d
Even with the stroke and line of his great justice:
He doth with holy abstinence subdue
That in himself which he spurs on his power
To qualify in others: were he meal’d with that
Which he corrects, then were he tyrannous;
But this being so, he’s just.

Knocking within

Now are they come.

Exit Provost

This is a gentle provost: seldom when
The steeled gaoler is the friend of men.

Knocking within

How now! what noise? That spirit’s possessed with haste
That wounds the unsisting postern with these strokes.

Re-enter Provost

Provost There he must stay until the officer
Arise to let him in: he is call’d up.

Duke Vincentio Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,
But he must die to-morrow?

Provost None, sir, none.

Duke Vincentio As near the dawning, provost, as it is,
You shall hear more ere morning.

Provost Happily
You something know; yet I believe there comes
No countermand; no such example have we:
Besides, upon the very siege of justice
Lord Angelo hath to the public ear
Profess’d the contrary.

Enter a Messenger

This is his lordship’s man.

Duke Vincentio And here comes Claudio’s pardon.

Messenger [Giving a paper] My lord hath sent you this note; and by me this further charge, that you swerve not from the smallest article of it, neither in time, matter, or other circumstance. Good morrow; for, as I take it, it is almost day.

Provost I shall obey him.

Exit Messenger

Duke Vincentio [Aside] This is his pardon, purchased by such sin
For which the pardoner himself is in.
Hence hath offence his quick celerity,
When it is born in high authority:
When vice makes mercy, mercy’s so extended,
That for the fault’s love is the offender friended.
Now, sir, what news?

Provost I told you. Lord Angelo, belike thinking me remiss in mine office, awakens me with this unwonted putting-on; methinks strangely, for he hath not used it before.

Duke Vincentio Pray you, let’s hear.

Provost [Reads] ‘Whatsoever you may hear to the contrary, let Claudio be executed by four of the clock; and in the afternoon Barnardine: for my better satisfaction, let me have Claudio’s head sent me by five. Let this be duly performed; with a thought that more depends on it than we must yet deliver. Thus fail not to do your office, as you will answer it at your peril.’

What say you to this, sir?

Duke Vincentio What is that Barnardine who is to be executed in the afternoon?

Provost A Bohemian born, but here nursed un and bred; one that is a prisoner nine years old.

Duke Vincentio How came it that the absent duke had not either delivered him to his liberty or executed him? I have heard it was ever his manner to do so.

Provost His friends still wrought reprieves for him: and, indeed, his fact, till now in the government of Lord Angelo, came not to an undoubtful proof.

Duke Vincentio It is now apparent?

Provost Most manifest, and not denied by himself.

Duke Vincentio Hath he born himself penitently in prison? how seems he to be touched?

Provost A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully but as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless of what’s past, present, or to come; insensible of mortality, and desperately mortal.

Duke Vincentio He wants advice.

Provost He will hear none: he hath evermore had the liberty of the prison; give him leave to escape hence, he would not: drunk many times a day, if not many days entirely drunk. We have very oft awaked him, as if to carry him to execution, and showed him a seeming warrant for it: it hath not moved him at all.

Duke Vincentio More of him anon. There is written in your brow, provost, honesty and constancy: if I read it not truly, my ancient skill beguiles me; but, in the boldness of my cunning, I will lay myself in hazard. Claudio, whom here you have warrant to execute, is no greater forfeit to the law than Angelo who hath sentenced him. To make you understand this in a manifested effect, I crave but four days’ respite; for the which you are to do me both a present and a dangerous courtesy.

Provost Pray, sir, in what?

Duke Vincentio In the delaying death.

Provost A lack, how may I do it, having the hour limited, and an express command, under penalty, to deliver his head in the view of Angelo? I may make my case as Claudio’s, to cross this in the smallest.

Duke Vincentio By the vow of mine order I warrant you, if my instructions may be your guide. Let this Barnardine be this morning executed, and his head born to Angelo.

Provost Angelo hath seen them both, and will discover the favour.

Duke Vincentio O, death’s a great disguiser; and you may add to it. Shave the head, and tie the beard; and say it was the desire of the penitent to be so bared before his death: you know the course is common. If any thing fall to you upon this, more than thanks and good fortune, by the saint whom I profess, I will plead against it with my life.

Provost Pardon me, good father; it is against my oath.

Duke Vincentio Were you sworn to the duke, or to the deputy?

Provost To him, and to his substitutes.

Duke Vincentio You will think you have made no offence, if the duke avouch the justice of your dealing?

Provost But what likelihood is in that?

Duke Vincentio Not a resemblance, but a certainty. Yet since I see you fearful, that neither my coat, integrity, nor persuasion can with ease attempt you, I will go further than I meant, to pluck all fears out of you. Look you, sir, here is the hand and seal of the duke: you know the character, I doubt not; and the signet is not strange to you.

Provost I know them both.

Duke Vincentio The contents of this is the return of the duke: you shall anon over-read it at your pleasure; where you shall find, within these two days he will be here. This is a thing that Angelo knows not; for he this very day receives letters of strange tenor; perchance of the duke’s death; perchance entering into some monastery; but, by chance, nothing of what is writ. Look, the unfolding star calls up the shepherd. Put not yourself into amazement how these things should be: all difficulties are but easy when they are known. Call your executioner, and off with Barnardine’s head: I will give him a present shrift and advise him for a better place. Yet you are amazed; but this shall absolutely resolve you. Come away; it is almost clear dawn.


Scene III. Another room in the same.

Enter Pompey

Pompey I am as well acquainted here as I was in our house of profession: one would think it were Mistress Overdone’s own house, for here be many of her old customers. First, here’s young Master Rash; he’s in for a commodity of brown paper and old ginger, ninescore and seventeen pounds; of which he made five marks, ready money: marry, then ginger was not much in request, for the old women were all dead. Then is there here one Master Caper, at the suit of Master Three-pile the mercer, for some four suits of peach-coloured satin, which now peaches him a beggar. Then have we here young Dizy, and young Master Deep-vow, and Master Copperspur, and Master Starve-lackey the rapier and dagger man, and young Drop-heir that killed lusty Pudding, and Master Forthlight the tilter, and brave Master Shooty the great traveller, and wild Half-can that stabbed Pots, and, I think, forty more; all great doers in our trade, and are now ’for the Lord’s sake.’

Enter Abhorson

Abhorson Sirrah, bring Barnardine hither.

Pompey Master Barnardine! you must rise and be hanged.
Master Barnardine!

Abhorson What, ho, Barnardine!

Barnardine [Within] A pox o’ your throats! Who makes that noise there? What are you?

Pompey Your friends, sir; the hangman. You must be so good, sir, to rise and be put to death.

Barnardine [Within] Away, you rogue, away! I am sleepy.

Abhorson Tell him he must awake, and that quickly too.

Pompey Pray, Master Barnardine, awake till you are executed, and sleep afterwards.

Abhorson Go in to him, and fetch him out.

Pompey He is coming, sir, he is coming; I hear his straw rustle.

Abhorson Is the axe upon the block, sirrah?

Pompey Very ready, sir.

Enter Barnardine

Barnardine How now, Abhorson? what’s the news with you?

Abhorson Truly, sir, I would desire you to clap into your prayers; for, look you, the warrant’s come.

Barnardine You rogue, I have been drinking all night; I am not fitted for ’t.

Pompey O, the better, sir; for he that drinks all night, and is hanged betimes in the morning, may sleep the sounder all the next day.

Abhorson Look you, sir; here comes your ghostly father: do we jest now, think you?

Enter Duke Vincentio disguised as before

Duke Vincentio Sir, induced by my charity, and hearing how hastily you are to depart, I am come to advise you, comfort you and pray with you.

Barnardine Friar, not I I have been drinking hard all night, and I will have more time to prepare me, or they shall beat out my brains with billets: I will not consent to die this day, that’s certain.

Duke Vincentio O, sir, you must: and therefore I beseech you
Look forward on the journey you shall go.

Barnardine I swear I will not die to-day for any man’s persuasion.

Duke Vincentio But hear you.

Barnardine Not a word: if you have any thing to say to me, come to my ward; for thence will not I to-day.


Duke Vincentio Unfit to live or die: O gravel heart!
After him, fellows; bring him to the block.

Exeunt Abhorson and Pompey

Re-enter Provost

Provost Now, sir, how do you find the prisoner?

Duke Vincentio A creature unprepared, unmeet for death;
And to transport him in the mind he is
Were damnable.

Provost     Here in the prison, father,
There died this morning of a cruel fever
One Ragozine, a most notorious pirate,
A man of Claudio’s years; his beard and head
Just of his colour. What if we do omit
This reprobate till he were well inclined;
And satisfy the deputy with the visage
Of Ragozine, more like to Claudio?

Duke Vincentio O, ’tis an accident that heaven provides!
Dispatch it presently; the hour draws on
Prefix’d by Angelo: see this be done,
And sent according to command; whiles I
Persuade this rude wretch willingly to die.

Provost This shall be done, good father, presently.
But Barnardine must die this afternoon:
And how shall we continue Claudio,
To save me from the danger that might come
If he were known alive?

Duke Vincentio Let this be done.
Put them in secret holds, both Barnardine and Claudio:
Ere twice the sun hath made his journal greeting
To the under generation, you shall find
Your safety manifested.

Provost I am your free dependant.

Duke Vincentio Quick, dispatch, and send the head to Angelo.

Exit Provost

Now will I write letters to Angelo —
The provost, he shall bear them, whose contents
Shall witness to him I am near at home,
And that, by great injunctions, I am bound
To enter publicly: him I’ll desire
To meet me at the consecrated fount
A league below the city; and from thence,
By cold gradation and well-balanced form,
We shall proceed with Angelo.

Re-enter Provost

Provost Here is the head; I’ll carry it myself.

Duke Vincentio Convenient is it. Make a swift return;
For I would commune with you of such things
That want no ear but yours.

Provost I’ll make all speed.


Isabella [Within] Peace, ho, be here!

Duke Vincentio The tongue of Isabel. She’s come to know
If yet her brother’s pardon be come hither:
But I will keep her ignorant of her good,
To make her heavenly comforts of despair,
When it is least expected.

Enter Isabella

Isabella Ho, by your leave!

Duke Vincentio Good morning to you, fair and gracious daughter.

Isabella The better, given me by so holy a man.
Hath yet the deputy sent my brother’s pardon?

Duke Vincentio He hath released him, Isabel, from the world:
His head is off and sent to Angelo.

Isabella Nay, but it is not so.

Duke Vincentio It is no other: show your wisdom, daughter,
In your close patience.

Isabella O, I will to him and pluck out his eyes!

Duke Vincentio You shall not be admitted to his sight.

Isabella Unhappy Claudio! wretched Isabel!
Injurious world! most damned Angelo!

Duke Vincentio This nor hurts him nor profits you a jot;
Forbear it therefore; give your cause to heaven.
Mark what I say, which you shall find
By every syllable a faithful verity:
The duke comes home to-morrow; nay, dry your eyes;
One of our convent, and his confessor,
Gives me this instance: already he hath carried
Notice to Escalus and Angelo,
Who do prepare to meet him at the gates,
There to give up their power. If you can, pace your wisdom
In that good path that I would wish it go,
And you shall have your bosom on this wretch,
Grace of the duke, revenges to your heart,
And general honour.

Isabella     I am directed by you.

Duke Vincentio This letter, then, to Friar Peter give;
’Tis that he sent me of the duke’s return:
Say, by this token, I desire his company
At Mariana’s house to-night. Her cause and yours
I’ll perfect him withal, and he shall bring you
Before the duke, and to the head of Angelo
Accuse him home and home. For my poor self,
I am combined by a sacred vow
And shall be absent. Wend you with this letter:
Command these fretting waters from your eyes
With a light heart; trust not my holy order,
If I pervert your course. Who’s here?

Enter Lucio

Lucio Good even. Friar, where’s the provost?

Duke Vincentio Not within, sir.

Lucio O pretty Isabella, I am pale at mine heart to see thine eyes so red: thou must be patient. I am fain to dine and sup with water and bran; I dare not for my head fill my belly; one fruitful meal would set me to ’t. But they say the duke will be here to-morrow. By my troth, Isabel, I loved thy brother: if the old fantastical duke of dark corners had been at home, he had lived.

Exit Isabella

Duke Vincentio Sir, the duke is marvellous little beholding to your reports; but the best is, he lives not in them.

Lucio Friar, thou knowest not the duke so well as I do: he’s a better woodman than thou takest him for.

Duke Vincentio Well, you’ll answer this one day. Fare ye well.

Lucio Nay, tarry; I’ll go along with thee
I can tell thee pretty tales of the duke.

Duke Vincentio You have told me too many of him already, sir, if they be true; if not true, none were enough.

Lucio I was once before him for getting a wench with child.

Duke Vincentio Did you such a thing?

Lucio Yes, marry, did I but I was fain to forswear it; they would else have married me to the rotten medlar.

Duke Vincentio Sir, your company is fairer than honest. Rest you well.

Lucio By my troth, I’ll go with thee to the lane’s end: if bawdy talk offend you, we’ll have very little of it. Nay, friar, I am a kind of burr; I shall stick.


Scene IV. A room in Angelo’s house.

Enter Angelo and Escalus

Escalus Every letter he hath writ hath disvouched other.

Angelo In most uneven and distracted manner. His actions show much like to madness: pray heaven his wisdom be not tainted! And why meet him at the gates, and redeliver our authorities there

Escalus I guess not.

Angelo And why should we proclaim it in an hour before his entering, that if any crave redress of injustice, they should exhibit their petitions in the street?

Escalus He shows his reason for that: to have a dispatch of complaints, and to deliver us from devices hereafter, which shall then have no power to stand against us.

Angelo Well, I beseech you, let it be proclaimed betimes i’ the morn; I’ll call you at your house: give notice to such men of sort and suit as are to meet him.

Escalus I shall, sir. Fare you well.

Angelo Good night.

Exit Escalus

This deed unshapes me quite, makes me unpregnant
And dull to all proceedings. A deflower’d maid!
And by an eminent body that enforced
The law against it! But that her tender shame
Will not proclaim against her maiden loss,
How might she tongue me! Yet reason dares her no;
For my authority bears of a credent bulk,
That no particular scandal once can touch
But it confounds the breather. He should have lived,
Save that riotous youth, with dangerous sense,
Might in the times to come have ta’en revenge,
By so receiving a dishonour’d life
With ransom of such shame. Would yet he had lived!
A lack, when once our grace we have forgot,
Nothing goes right: we would, and we would not.


Scene V. Fields without the town.

Enter Duke Vincentio in his own habit, and Friar Peter

Duke Vincentio These letters at fit time deliver me

Giving letters

The provost knows our purpose and our plot.
The matter being afoot, keep your instruction,
And hold you ever to our special drift;
Though sometimes you do blench from this to that,
As cause doth minister. Go call at Flavius’ house,
And tell him where I stay: give the like notice
To Valentinus, Rowland, and to Crassus,
And bid them bring the trumpets to the gate;
But send me Flavius first.

Friar Peter It shall be speeded well.


Enter Varrius

Duke Vincentio I thank thee, Varrius; thou hast made good haste:
Come, we will walk. There’s other of our friends
Will greet us here anon, my gentle Varrius.


Scene VI. Street near the city gate.

Enter Isabella and Mariana

Isabella To speak so indirectly I am loath:
I would say the truth; but to accuse him so,
That is your part: yet I am advised to do it;
He says, to veil full purpose.

Mariana Be ruled by him.

Isabella Besides, he tells me that, if peradventure
He speak against me on the adverse side,
I should not think it strange; for ’tis a physic
That’s bitter to sweet end.

Mariana I would Friar Peter  —

Isabella O, peace! the friar is come.

Enter Friar Peter

Friar Peter Come, I have found you out a stand most fit,
Where you may have such vantage on the duke,
He shall not pass you. Twice have the trumpets sounded;
The generous and gravest citizens
Have hent the gates, and very near upon
The duke is entering: therefore, hence, away!


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59