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In my mind's eye, Horatio.

      — Hamlet, Act I Scene 2


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Measure for Measure

Act I

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Scene 1. An apartment in the DUKE’S palace.

Scene 2. A Street.

Scene 3. A monastery.

Scene 4. A nunnery.


Act I, Scene 1

An apartment in the DUKE’S palace.

      next scene .

[Enter DUKE VINCENTIO, ESCALUS, Lords and] [p]Attendants]

  • Vincentio. Of government the properties to unfold, 5
    Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse;
    Since I am put to know that your own science
    Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice
    My strength can give you: then no more remains,
    But that to your sufficiency [—] 10
    [—] as your Worth is able,]
    And let them work. The nature of our people,
    Our city's institutions, and the terms
    For common justice, you're as pregnant in
    As art and practise hath enriched any 15
    That we remember. There is our commission,
    From which we would not have you warp. Call hither,
    I say, bid come before us Angelo.
    [Exit an Attendant]
    What figure of us Think you he will bear? 20
    For you must know, we have with special soul
    Elected him our absence to supply,
    Lent him our terror, dress'd him with our love,
    And given his deputation all the organs
    Of our own power: what think you of it? 25
  • Escalus. If any in Vienna be of worth
    To undergo such ample grace and honour,
    It is Lord Angelo.

[Enter ANGELO]

  • Angelo. Always obedient to your grace's will,
    I come to know your pleasure.
  • Vincentio. Angelo,
    There is a kind of character in thy life,
    That to the observer doth thy history 35
    Fully unfold. Thyself and thy belongings
    Are not thine own so proper as to waste
    Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee.
    Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
    Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues 40
    Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike
    As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd
    But to fine issues, nor Nature never lends
    The smallest scruple of her excellence
    But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines 45
    Herself the glory of a creditor,
    Both thanks and use. But I do bend my speech
    To one that can my part in him advertise;
    Hold therefore, Angelo:—
    In our remove be thou at full ourself; 50
    Mortality and mercy in Vienna
    Live in thy tongue and heart: old Escalus,
    Though first in question, is thy secondary.
    Take thy commission.
  • Angelo. Now, good my lord, 55
    Let there be some more test made of my metal,
    Before so noble and so great a figure
    Be stamp'd upon it.
  • Vincentio. No more evasion:
    We have with a leaven'd and prepared choice 60
    Proceeded to you; therefore take your honours.
    Our haste from hence is of so quick condition
    That it prefers itself and leaves unquestion'd
    Matters of needful value. We shall write to you,
    As time and our concernings shall importune, 65
    How it goes with us, and do look to know
    What doth befall you here. So, fare you well;
    To the hopeful execution do I leave you
    Of your commissions.
  • Angelo. Yet give leave, my lord, 70
    That we may bring you something on the way.
  • Vincentio. My haste may not admit it;
    Nor need you, on mine honour, have to do
    With any scruple; your scope is as mine own
    So to enforce or qualify the laws 75
    As to your soul seems good. Give me your hand:
    I'll privily away. I love the people,
    But do not like to stage me to their eyes:
    Through it do well, I do not relish well
    Their loud applause and Aves vehement; 80
    Nor do I think the man of safe discretion
    That does affect it. Once more, fare you well.
  • Angelo. The heavens give safety to your purposes!
  • Escalus. Lead forth and bring you back in happiness!


  • Escalus. I shall desire you, sir, to give me leave
    To have free speech with you; and it concerns me
    To look into the bottom of my place:
    A power I have, but of what strength and nature 90
    I am not yet instructed.
  • Angelo. 'Tis so with me. Let us withdraw together,
    And we may soon our satisfaction have
    Touching that point.
  • Escalus. I'll wait upon your honour. 95


. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 2

A Street.

      next scene .

[Enter LUCIO and two Gentlemen]

  • Lucio. If the duke with the other dukes come not to
    composition with the King of Hungary, why then all
    the dukes fall upon the king. 100
  • First Gentleman. Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of
  • Lucio. Thou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate, that
    went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped 105
    one out of the table.
  • Lucio. Ay, that he razed.
  • First Gentleman. Why, 'twas a commandment to command the captain and
    all the rest from their functions: they put forth 110
    to steal. There's not a soldier of us all, that, in
    the thanksgiving before meat, do relish the petition
    well that prays for peace.
  • Lucio. I believe thee; for I think thou never wast where 115
    grace was said.
  • Lucio. In any proportion or in any language.
  • Lucio. Ay, why not? Grace is grace, despite of all
    controversy: as, for example, thou thyself art a
    wicked villain, despite of all grace.
  • Lucio. I grant; as there may between the lists and the 125
    velvet. Thou art the list.
  • First Gentleman. And thou the velvet: thou art good velvet; thou'rt
    a three-piled piece, I warrant thee: I had as lief
    be a list of an English kersey as be piled, as thou
    art piled, for a French velvet. Do I speak 130
    feelingly now?
  • Lucio. I think thou dost; and, indeed, with most painful
    feeling of thy speech: I will, out of thine own
    confession, learn to begin thy health; but, whilst I
    live, forget to drink after thee. 135
  • Lucio. Behold, behold. where Madam Mitigation comes! I
    have purchased as many diseases under her roof as come to—
  • Lucio. A French crown more.
  • First Gentleman. Thou art always figuring diseases in me; but thou 145
    art full of error; I am sound.
  • Lucio. Nay, not as one would say, healthy; but so sound as
    things that are hollow: thy bones are hollow;
    impiety has made a feast of thee.


  • First Gentleman. How now! which of your hips has the most profound sciatica?
  • Mistress Overdone. Well, well; there's one yonder arrested and carried
    to prison was worth five thousand of you all.
  • Mistress Overdone. Nay, but I know 'tis so: I saw him arrested, saw
    him carried away; and, which is more, within these
    three days his head to be chopped off.
  • Lucio. But, after all this fooling, I would not have it so. 160
    Art thou sure of this?
  • Mistress Overdone. I am too sure of it: and it is for getting Madam
    Julietta with child.
  • Lucio. Believe me, this may be: he promised to meet me two
    hours since, and he was ever precise in 165
  • Second Gentleman. Besides, you know, it draws something near to the
    speech we had to such a purpose.
  • Lucio. Away! let's go learn the truth of it. 170

[Exeunt LUCIO and Gentlemen]

  • Mistress Overdone. Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what
    with the gallows and what with poverty, I am
    [Enter POMPEY] 175
    How now! what's the news with you?
  • Pompey. Yonder man is carried to prison.
  • Pompey. Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.
  • Pompey. No, but there's a woman with maid by him. You have
    not heard of the proclamation, have you?
  • Pompey. All houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be plucked down.
  • Pompey. They shall stand for seed: they had gone down too,
    but that a wise burgher put in for them.
  • Mistress Overdone. But shall all our houses of resort in the suburbs be 190
    pulled down?
  • Pompey. To the ground, mistress.
  • Mistress Overdone. Why, here's a change indeed in the commonwealth!
    What shall become of me?
  • Pompey. Come; fear you not: good counsellors lack no 195
    clients: though you change your place, you need not
    change your trade; I'll be your tapster still.
    Courage! there will be pity taken on you: you that
    have worn your eyes almost out in the service, you
    will be considered. 200
  • Pompey. Here comes Signior Claudio, led by the provost to
    prison; and there's Madam Juliet.


[Enter Provost, CLAUDIO, JULIET, and Officers]

  • Claudio. Fellow, why dost thou show me thus to the world?
    Bear me to prison, where I am committed.
  • Provost. I do it not in evil disposition,
    But from Lord Angelo by special charge.
  • Claudio. Thus can the demigod Authority 210
    Make us pay down for our offence by weight
    The words of heaven; on whom it will, it will;
    On whom it will not, so; yet still 'tis just.

[Re-enter LUCIO and two Gentlemen]

  • Lucio. Why, how now, Claudio! whence comes this restraint? 215
  • Claudio. From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty:
    As surfeit is the father of much fast,
    So every scope by the immoderate use
    Turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue,
    Like rats that ravin down their proper bane, 220
    A thirsty evil; and when we drink we die.
  • Lucio. If could speak so wisely under an arrest, I would
    send for certain of my creditors: and yet, to say
    the truth, I had as lief have the foppery of freedom
    as the morality of imprisonment. What's thy 225
    offence, Claudio?
  • Claudio. What but to speak of would offend again.
  • Lucio. What, is't murder?
  • Claudio. One word, good friend. Lucio, a word with you.
  • Lucio. A hundred, if they'll do you any good.
    Is lechery so look'd after? 235
  • Claudio. Thus stands it with me: upon a true contract
    I got possession of Julietta's bed:
    You know the lady; she is fast my wife,
    Save that we do the denunciation lack
    Of outward order: this we came not to, 240
    Only for propagation of a dower
    Remaining in the coffer of her friends,
    From whom we thought it meet to hide our love
    Till time had made them for us. But it chances
    The stealth of our most mutual entertainment 245
    With character too gross is writ on Juliet.
  • Lucio. With child, perhaps?
  • Claudio. Unhappily, even so.
    And the new deputy now for the duke—
    Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness, 250
    Or whether that the body public be
    A horse whereon the governor doth ride,
    Who, newly in the seat, that it may know
    He can command, lets it straight feel the spur;
    Whether the tyranny be in his place, 255
    Or in his emmence that fills it up,
    I stagger in:—but this new governor
    Awakes me all the enrolled penalties
    Which have, like unscour'd armour, hung by the wall
    So long that nineteen zodiacs have gone round 260
    And none of them been worn; and, for a name,
    Now puts the drowsy and neglected act
    Freshly on me: 'tis surely for a name.
  • Lucio. I warrant it is: and thy head stands so tickle on
    thy shoulders that a milkmaid, if she be in love, 265
    may sigh it off. Send after the duke and appeal to
  • Claudio. I have done so, but he's not to be found.
    I prithee, Lucio, do me this kind service:
    This day my sister should the cloister enter 270
    And there receive her approbation:
    Acquaint her with the danger of my state:
    Implore her, in my voice, that she make friends
    To the strict deputy; bid herself assay him:
    I have great hope in that; for in her youth 275
    There is a prone and speechless dialect,
    Such as move men; beside, she hath prosperous art
    When she will play with reason and discourse,
    And well she can persuade.
  • Lucio. I pray she may; as well for the encouragement of the 280
    like, which else would stand under grievous
    imposition, as for the enjoying of thy life, who I
    would be sorry should be thus foolishly lost at a
    game of tick-tack. I'll to her.
  • Claudio. I thank you, good friend Lucio. 285
  • Lucio. Within two hours.


. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 3

A monastery.

      next scene .


  • Vincentio. No, holy father; throw away that thought; 290
    Believe not that the dribbling dart of love
    Can pierce a complete bosom. Why I desire thee
    To give me secret harbour, hath a purpose
    More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends
    Of burning youth. 295
  • Vincentio. My holy sir, none better knows than you
    How I have ever loved the life removed
    And held in idle price to haunt assemblies
    Where youth, and cost, and witless bravery keeps. 300
    I have deliver'd to Lord Angelo,
    A man of stricture and firm abstinence,
    My absolute power and place here in Vienna,
    And he supposes me travell'd to Poland;
    For so I have strew'd it in the common ear, 305
    And so it is received. Now, pious sir,
    You will demand of me why I do this?
  • Vincentio. We have strict statutes and most biting laws.
    The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds, 310
    Which for this nineteen years we have let slip;
    Even like an o'ergrown lion in a cave,
    That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fathers,
    Having bound up the threatening twigs of birch,
    Only to stick it in their children's sight 315
    For terror, not to use, in time the rod
    Becomes more mock'd than fear'd; so our decrees,
    Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead;
    And liberty plucks justice by the nose;
    The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart 320
    Goes all decorum.
  • Friar Thomas. It rested in your grace
    To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleased:
    And it in you more dreadful would have seem'd
    Than in Lord Angelo. 325
  • Vincentio. I do fear, too dreadful:
    Sith 'twas my fault to give the people scope,
    'Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them
    For what I bid them do: for we bid this be done,
    When evil deeds have their permissive pass 330
    And not the punishment. Therefore indeed, my father,
    I have on Angelo imposed the office;
    Who may, in the ambush of my name, strike home,
    And yet my nature never in the fight
    To do in slander. And to behold his sway, 335
    I will, as 'twere a brother of your order,
    Visit both prince and people: therefore, I prithee,
    Supply me with the habit and instruct me
    How I may formally in person bear me
    Like a true friar. More reasons for this action 340
    At our more leisure shall I render you;
    Only, this one: Lord Angelo is precise;
    Stands at a guard with envy; scarce confesses
    That his blood flows, or that his appetite
    Is more to bread than stone: hence shall we see, 345
    If power change purpose, what our seemers be.


. previous scene      

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.