Measure for Measure eText - Act I

This eText contains embedded glossary terms and other notes added by our community of educators. Simply click or tap on the yellow highlighted words within the text to see the annotations.
Turn Off

Act I

Act I, Scene 1

SCENE: Vienna

ACT I.

SCENE I. An apartment in the DUKE'S Palace.

[Enter DUKE, ESCALUS, LORDS, and ATTENDANTS.]

DUKE.
Escalus,--

ESCALUS.
My lord.

DUKE.
Of government the properties to unfold,
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, 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 are as pregnant in
As art and practice hath enriched any
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?
For you must know we have with special soul
Elected him our absence to supply;
Lent him our terror, drest him with our love,
And given his deputation all the organs
Of our own power: what think you of it?

ESCALUS.
If any in Vienna be of worth
To undergo such ample grace and honour,
It is Lord Angelo.

[Enter ANGELO.]

DUKE.
Look where he comes.

ANGELO.
Always obedient to your grace's will,
I come to know your pleasure.

DUKE.
Angelo,
There is a kind of character in thy life
That to th' observer doth thy history
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
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
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:
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,
Let there be some more test made of my metal,
Before so noble and so great a figure
Be stamped upon it.

DUKE.
No more evasion:
We have with a leaven'd and prepared choice
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,
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,
That we may bring you something on the way.

DUKE.
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
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:
Though it do well, I do not relish well
Their loud applause and 'aves' vehement:
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.

DUKE.
I thank you. Fare you well.

[Exit.]

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 pow'r I have, but of what strength and nature
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.

[Exeunt.]

Act I, Scene 2

SCENE II. A street.

[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.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary's!

SECOND GENTLEMAN.
Amen.

LUCIO.
Thou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate that went to sea
with the ten
commandments, but scraped one out of the table.

SECOND GENTLEMAN.
Thou shalt not steal?

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 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.

SECOND GENTLEMAN.
I never heard any soldier dislike it.

LUCIO.
I believe thee; for I think thou never wast where grace was said.

SECOND GENTLEMAN.
No? A dozen times at least.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
What? in metre?

LUCIO.
In any proportion or in any language.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
I think, or in any religion.

LUCIO.
Ay! why not? Grace is grace, despite of all controversy. As, for
example;--thou
thyself art a wicked villain, despite of all grace.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
Well, there went but a pair of shears between us.

LUCIO.
I grant; as there may between the lists and the 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 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.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
I think I have done myself wrong; have I not?

SECOND GENTLEMAN.
Yes, that thou hast, whether thou art tainted or free.

LUCIO.
Behold, behold, where Madam Mitigation comes! I have purchased as
many diseases under her roof as come to--

SECOND GENTLEMAN.
To what, I pray?

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
Judge.

SECOND GENTLEMAN.
To three thousand dollars a year.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
Ay, and more.

LUCIO.
A French crown more.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
Thou art always figuring diseases in me, but thou 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.

[Enter BAWD.]

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
How now! which of your hips has the most profound sciatica?

BAWD.
Well, well; there's one yonder arrested and carried to prison was
worth five thousand of you all.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
Who's that, I pray thee?

BAWD.
Marry, sir, that's Claudio, Signior Claudio.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
Claudio to prison! 'tis not so.

BAWD.
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. Art thou
sure of this?

BAWD.
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 promise-keeping.

SECOND GENTLEMAN.
Besides, you know, it draws something near to the speech we had
to such a purpose.

FIRST GENTLEMAN.
But most of all agreeing with the proclamation.

LUCIO.
Away; let's go learn the truth of it.

[Exeunt Lucio and Gentlemen.]

BAWD.
Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what with the
gallows, and what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk.
How now! what's the news with you?

[Enter CLOWN.]

CLOWN.
Yonder man is carried to prison.

BAWD.
Well: what has he done?

CLOWN.
A woman.

BAWD.
But what's his offence?

CLOWN.
Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

BAWD.
What! is there a maid with child by him?

CLOWN.
No; but there's a woman with maid by him. You have not heard of
the proclamation, have you?

BAWD.
What proclamation, man?

CLOWN.
All houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be plucked down.

BAWD.
And what shall become of those in the city?

CLOWN.
They shall stand for seed: they had gone down too, but that a
wise burgher put in for them.

BAWD.
But shall all our houses of resort in the suburbs be pulled down?

CLOWN.
To the ground, mistress.

BAWD.
Why, here's a change indeed in the commonwealth! What shall
become of me?

CLOWN.
Come, fear not you; good counsellors lack no 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.

BAWD.
What's to do here, Thomas Tapster? Let's withdraw.

CLOWN.
Here comes Signior Claudio, led by the provost to prison: and
there's Madam Juliet.

[Exeunt.]

Act I, Scene 3

Scene III. The same.

[Enter PROVOST, CLAUDIO, JULIET, and Officers; LUCIO and two
Gentlemen.]

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 demi-god Authority
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.

LUCIO.
Why, how now, Claudio, whence comes this restraint?

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,--
A thirsty evil; and when we drink we die.

LUCIO.
If I 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 offence, Claudio?

CLAUDIO.
What but to speak of would offend again.

LUCIO.
What, is't murder?

CLAUDIO.
No.

LUCIO.
Lechery?

CLAUDIO.
Call it so.

PROVOST.
Away, sir; you must go.

CLAUDIO.
One word, good friend.--Lucio, a word with you.

[Takes him aside.]

LUCIO.
A hundred, if they'll do you any good. Is lechery so lookeed
after?

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
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,
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,
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,
Or in his eminence 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
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, may sigh it off. Send after the
duke, and appeal to him.

CLAUDIO.
I have done so, but he's not to be found.
I pr'ythee, Lucio, do me this kind service:
This day my sister should the cloister enter,
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
There is a prone and speechless dialect
Such as moves 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 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.

LUCIO.
Within two hours,--

CLAUDIO.
Come, officer, away.

[Exeunt.]

Act I, Scene 4

SCENE IV. A Monastery.

[Enter DUKE and FRIAR THOMAS.]

DUKE.
No; holy father; throw away that thought;
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.

FRIAR.
May your grace speak of it?

DUKE.
My holy sir, none better knows than you
How I have ever lov'd the life remov'd,
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies
Where youth, and cost, a witless bravery keeps.
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,
And so it is received. Now, pious sir,
You will demand of me why I do this?

FRIAR.
Gladly, my lord.

DUKE.
We have strict statutes and most biting laws,--
The needful bits and curbs to headstrong steeds,--
Which for this fourteen 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 threat'ning twigs of birch,
Only to stick it in their children's sight
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
Goes all decorum.

FRIAR.
It rested in your grace
To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleas'd;
And it in you more dreadful would have seem'd
Than in Lord Angelo.

DUKE.
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
And not the punishment. Therefore, indeed, my father,
I have on Angelo impos'd 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,
I will, as 'twere a brother of your order,
Visit both prince and people: therefore, I pr'ythee,
Supply me with the habit, and instruct me
How I may formally in person bear me
Like a true friar. Moe reasons for this action
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,
If power change purpose, what our seemers be.

[Exeunt.]

Act I, Scene 5

SCENE V. A Nunnery.

[Enter ISABELLA and FRANCISCA.]

ISABELLA.
And have you nuns no further privileges?

FRANCISCA.
Are not these large enough?

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!

ISABELLA.
Who's that which calls?

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;
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.

[Exit FRANCISCA.]

ISABELLA.
Peace and prosperity! Who is't that calls?

[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
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:
Not to be weary with you, he's in prison.

ISABELLA.
Woe me! For what?

LUCIO.
For that which, if myself might be his judge,
He should receive his punishment in thanks:
He hath got his friend with child.

ISABELLA.
Sir, make me not your story.

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:
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.

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
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.

LUCIO.
She it is.

ISABELLA.
O, let him marry her!

LUCIO.
This is the point.
The duke is very strangely gone from hence;
Bore many gentlemen, myself being one,
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,
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.
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;
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.

ISABELLA.
Doth he so seek his life?

LUCIO.
Has censur'd him
Already; and, as I hear, the provost hath
A warrant for his execution.

ISABELLA.
Alas! what poor ability's in me
To do him good.

LUCIO.
Assay the power you have.

ISABELLA.
My power! alas, I doubt,--

LUCIO.
Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
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.

ISABELLA.
I'll see what I can do.

LUCIO.
But speedily.

ISABELLA.
I will about it straight;
No longer staying but to give the Mother
Notice of my affair. I humbly thank you:
Commend me to my brother: soon at night
I'll send him certain word of my success.

LUCIO.
I take my leave of you.

ISABELLA.
Good sir, adieu.

[Exeunt.]