Open Source Shakespeare

Measure for Measure

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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.