Open Source Shakespeare

Measure for Measure

Act II

Scene 1. A hall In ANGELO’s house.

Scene 2. Another room in the same.

Scene 3. A room in a prison.

Scene 4. A room in ANGELO’s house.

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Act II, Scene 1

A hall In ANGELO’s house.


[Enter ANGELO, ESCALUS, and a Justice, Provost,] [p]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 455
    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! 460
    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 465
    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, 470
    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 475
    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 480
    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. 485
  • 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; 490
    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: 495
    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. 500
  • 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. 505
  • 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 510
    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. 515
  • 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. 520
  • 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? 525
  • 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 530
    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. 535
  • 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, 540
    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 545
    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 550
    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 555
    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. 560
  • 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. 565
  • 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. 570
  • 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, 575
    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 580
    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. 585
    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? 590
  • 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. 595
    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. 600
  • 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 605
    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 610
    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 615
    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 620
    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. 625
  • 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 630
    that thou wouldst discover if thou couldst, let him
    continue in his courses till thou knowest what they
  • Elbow. Marry, I thank your worship for it. Thou seest, thou
    wicked varlet, now, what's come upon thee: thou art 635
    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. 640
  • 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? 645
  • 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 650
    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
  • Escalus. Well, no more of it, Master Froth: farewell. 655
    [Exit FROTH]
    Come you hither to me, Master tapster. What's your
    name, Master tapster?
  • Pompey. Pompey.
  • Escalus. What else? 660
  • 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 665
    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. 670
  • 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. 675
  • 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. 680
  • 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 685
    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, 690
    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] 695
    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.


  • 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? 705
  • 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 710
    are chosen, they are glad to choose me for them; I
    do it for some piece of money, and go through with
  • Escalus. Look you bring me in the names of some six or seven,
    the most sufficient of your parish. 715
  • 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. 720
  • 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. 725
  • 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. 730



Act II, Scene 2

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. 735
    [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 740
    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? 745
    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. 750
  • 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? 755
    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 760
    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. 765
  • 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. 770


  • Provost. God save your honour!
  • Angelo. Stay a little while.
    You're welcome: what's your will? 775
  • 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; 780
    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: 785
    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: 790
    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! 795
  • 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: 800
    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. 805
  • 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 810
    As 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, 815
    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. 820
    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, 825
    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. 830
  • 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 835
    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. 840
  • 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! 845
    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? 850
    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 855
    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, 860
    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, 865
    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, 870
    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 875
    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 880
    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, 885
    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; 890
    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. 895
  • 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? 900
  • 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 905
    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. 910
  • 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. 915
  • 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 920
    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! 925
  • 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 930
    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! 935
    What's this, what's this? Is this her fault or mine?
    The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?
    Not she: nor doth she tempt: but it is I
    That, lying by the violet in the sun, 940
    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 945
    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 950
    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 955
    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, 960
    When men were fond, I smiled and wonder'd how.



Act II, Scene 3

A room in a prison.


[Enter, severally, DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as a] [p]friar, and Provost]

  • Vincentio. Hail to you, provost! so I think you are. 965
  • Provost. I am the provost. What's your will, good friar?
  • 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 970
    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, 975
    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. 980
  • 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. 985
  • Vincentio. Repent you, fair one, of the sin you carry?
  • Juliet. I do; and bear the shame most patiently.
  • Vincentio. I'll teach you how you shall arraign your conscience,
    And try your penitence, if it be sound,
    Or hollowly put on. 990
  • Juliet. I'll gladly learn.
  • Vincentio. Love you the man that wrong'd you?
  • Juliet. Yes, as I love the woman that wrong'd him.
  • Vincentio. So then it seems your most offenceful act
    Was mutually committed? 995
  • Juliet. Mutually.
  • Vincentio. Then was your sin of heavier kind than his.
  • Juliet. I do confess it, and repent it, father.
  • Vincentio. 'Tis meet so, daughter: but lest you do repent,
    As that the sin hath brought you to this shame, 1000
    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. 1005
  • 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!


  • 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.



Act II, Scene 4

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, 1020
    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, 1025
    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 1030
    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? 1035
  • 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, 1040
    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 1045
    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. 1050
    [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. 1055
  • 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. 1060
  • 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 1065
    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 1070
    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, 1075
    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 1080
    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, 1085
    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, 1090
    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, 1095
    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, 1100
    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 1105
    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. 1110
  • 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, 1115
    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 1120
    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: 1125
    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. 1130
  • 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. 1135
  • 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. 1140
  • 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: 1145
    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 1150
    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 1155
    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,— 1160
    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 1165
    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. 1170
  • 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, 1175
    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! 1180
    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? 1185
    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, 1190
    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; 1195
    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, 1200
    Say what you can, my false o'erweighs your true.


  • 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, 1205
    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, 1210
    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. 1215
    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.