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Measure for Measure

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Act I, Scene 4

A nunnery.



  • Isabella. And have you nuns no farther privileges?
  • Isabella. Yes, truly; I speak not as desiring more;
    But rather wishing a more strict restraint
    Upon the sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare.
  • Lucio. [Within] Ho! Peace be in this place!
  • Francisca. It is a man's voice. Gentle Isabella,
    Turn you the key, and know his business of him;
    You may, I may not; you are yet unsworn.
    When you have vow'd, you must not speak with men
    But in the presence of the prioress: 360
    Then, if you speak, you must not show your face,
    Or, if you show your face, you must not speak.
    He calls again; I pray you, answer him.


  • Isabella. Peace and prosperity! Who is't that calls 365

[Enter LUCIO]

  • Lucio. Hail, virgin, if you be, as those cheek-roses
    Proclaim you are no less! Can you so stead me
    As bring me to the sight of Isabella,
    A novice of this place and the fair sister 370
    To her unhappy brother Claudio?
  • Isabella. Why 'her unhappy brother'? let me ask,
    The rather for I now must make you know
    I am that Isabella and his sister.
  • Lucio. Gentle and fair, your brother kindly greets you: 375
    Not to be weary with you, he's in prison.
  • Lucio. For that which, if myself might be his judge,
    He should receive his punishment in thanks:
    He hath got his friend with child. 380
  • Lucio. It is true.
    I would not—though 'tis my familiar sin
    With maids to seem the lapwing and to jest,
    Tongue far from heart—play with all virgins so: 385
    I hold you as a thing ensky'd and sainted.
    By your renouncement an immortal spirit,
    And to be talk'd with in sincerity,
    As with a saint.
  • Isabella. You do blaspheme the good in mocking me. 390
  • Lucio. Do not believe it. Fewness and truth, 'tis thus:
    Your brother and his lover have embraced:
    As those that feed grow full, as blossoming time
    That from the seedness the bare fallow brings
    To teeming foison, even so her plenteous womb 395
    Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry.
  • Isabella. Some one with child by him? My cousin Juliet?
  • Lucio. Is she your cousin?
  • Isabella. Adoptedly; as school-maids change their names
    By vain though apt affection. 400
  • Lucio. This is the point.
    The duke is very strangely gone from hence;
    Bore many gentlemen, myself being one, 405
    In hand and hope of action: but we do learn
    By those that know the very nerves of state,
    His givings-out were of an infinite distance
    From his true-meant design. Upon his place,
    And with full line of his authority, 410
    Governs Lord Angelo; a man whose blood
    Is very snow-broth; one who never feels
    The wanton stings and motions of the sense,
    But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge
    With profits of the mind, study and fast. 415
    He—to give fear to use and liberty,
    Which have for long run by the hideous law,
    As mice by lions—hath pick'd out an act,
    Under whose heavy sense your brother's life
    Falls into forfeit: he arrests him on it; 420
    And follows close the rigour of the statute,
    To make him an example. All hope is gone,
    Unless you have the grace by your fair prayer
    To soften Angelo: and that's my pith of business
    'Twixt you and your poor brother. 425
  • Lucio. Has censured him
    Already; and, as I hear, the provost hath
    A warrant for his execution.
  • Isabella. Alas! what poor ability's in me 430
    To do him good?
  • Lucio. Assay the power you have.
  • Lucio. Our doubts are traitors
    And make us lose the good we oft might win 435
    By fearing to attempt. Go to Lord Angelo,
    And let him learn to know, when maidens sue,
    Men give like gods; but when they weep and kneel,
    All their petitions are as freely theirs
    As they themselves would owe them. 440
  • Isabella. I will about it straight;
    No longer staying but to give the mother
    Notice of my affair. I humbly thank you: 445
    Commend me to my brother: soon at night
    I'll send him certain word of my success.
  • Lucio. I take my leave of you.