Open Source Shakespeare

Measure for Measure

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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