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Measure for Measure

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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.
  • 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


  • 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.
  • 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. Yes; I do think that you might pardon him,
    And neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy. 805
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Angelo. I will bethink me: come again tomorrow.
  • Isabella. Hark how I'll bribe you: good my lord, turn back.
  • 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.

[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.