Measure for Measure eText - Act II

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Act II

Act II, Scene 1

ACT II.

Scene I. A hall in ANGELO'S house.

[Enter ANGELO, ESCALUS, a JUSTICE, PROVOST, Officers, and other
Attendants.]

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
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.
Let but your honour know,--
Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue,--
That, in the working of your own affections,
Had time coher'd with place, or place with wishing,
Or that the resolute acting of your blood
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,
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 knows the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? 'Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take it,
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
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.

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 prepard;
For that's the utmost of his pilgrimage.

[Exit PROVOST.]

ESCALUS.
Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all!
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall:
Some run from brakes of vice, and answer none,
And some condemned for a fault alone.

[Enter ELBOW, FROTH, CLOWN, Officers, &c.]

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.

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.

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 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?

CLOWN.
He cannot, sir; he's out at elbow.

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.

ESCALUS.
How know you that?

ELBOW.
My wfe, sir, whom I detest before heaven and your honour,--

ESCALUS.
How! thy wife!

ELBOW.
Ay, sir; who, I thank heaven, is an honest woman,--

ESCALUS.
Dost thou detest her therefore?

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 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.

CLOWN.
Sir, if it please your honour, this is not so.

ELBOW.
Prove it before these varlets here, thou honourable man, prove
it.

ESCALUS.
[To ANGELO.] Do you hear how he misplaces?

CLOWN.
Sir, she came in great with child; and longing,--saving your
honour's reverence--for stew'd 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 threepence; your honours have
seen such dishes; they are not China dishes, but very good
dishes.

ESCALUS.
Go to, go to; no matter for the dish, sir.

CLOWN.
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 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 not give you threepence again,--

FROTH.
No, indeed.

CLOWN.
Very well; you being then, if you be remember'd, cracking the
stones of the foresaid prunes,--

FROTH.
Ay, so I did indeed.

CLOWN.
Why, very well: I telling you then, if you be remember'd, 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.

CLOWN.
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.

CLOWN.
Sir, your honour cannot come to that yet.

ESCALUS.
No, sir, nor I mean it not.

CLOWN.
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 fourscore
pound a-year; whose father died at Hallowmas:--was't not at
Hallowmas, Master Froth?

FROTH.
All-hallond eve.

CLOWN.
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 to sit, have you not?--

FROTH.
I have so; because it is an open room, and good for winter.

CLOWN.
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,
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?

CLOWN.
Once, sir? there was nothing done to her once.

ELBOW.
I beseech you, sir, ask him what this man did to my wife.

CLOWN.
I beseech your honour, ask me.

ESCALUS.
Well, sir: what did this gentleman to her?

CLOWN.
I beseech you, sir, look in this gentleman's face.--Good Master
Froth, look upon his honour; 'tis for a good purpose.--Doth your
honour mark his face?

ESCALUS.
Ay, sir, very well.

CLOWN.
Nay, I beseech you, mark it well.

ESCALUS.
Well, I do so.

CLOWN.
Doth your honour see any harm in his face?

ESCALUS.
Why, no.

CLOWN.
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 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 mistress is a respected woman.

CLOWN.
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 is yet to
come that she was ever respected with man, woman, or child.

CLOWN.
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 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.

ESCALUS.
If he took you a box o' th' 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 should do with this wicked caitiff?

ESCALUS.
Truly, officer, because he hath some offences in him that thou
wouldst discover if thou couldst, let him continue in his courses
till thou knowest what they are.

ELBOW.
Marry, I thank your worship for it.--Thou seest, thou wicked
varlet, now, what's come upon thee; thou art to continue now, thou
varlet; thou art to continue.

ESCALUS.
[To FROTH.] 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.

ESCALUS.
So.--[To the CLOWN.] What trade are you of, sir?

CLOWN.
A tapster; a poor widow's tapster.

ESCALUS.
Your mistress' name?

CLOWN.
Mistress Overdone.

ESCALUS.
Hath she had any more than one husband?

CLOWN.
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
more of you.

FROTH.
I thank your worship. For mine own part, I never come into any
room in a taphouse but I am drawn in.

ESCALUS.
Well, no more of it, Master Froth: farewell.

[Exit FROTH.]

--Come you hither to me, master tapster; what's your name, master
tapster?

CLOWN.
Pompey.

ESCALUS.
What else?

CLOWN.
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 not? come, tell me true; it shall be the better for you.

CLOWN.
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?

CLOWN.
If the law would allow it, sir.

ESCALUS.
But the law will not allow it, Pompey: nor it shall not be
allowed in Vienna.

CLOWN.
Does your worship mean to geld and splay all the youth of the
city?

ESCALUS.
No, Pompey.

CLOWN.
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 is pretty orders beginning, I can tell you. It is but
heading and hanging.

CLOWN.
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 threepence a bay. If you live to see this 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, 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.

CLOWN.
I thank your worship for your good counsel; 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's not whipt out of his trade.

[Exit.]

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 the readiness in the office, you had continued in
it some time.
You say seven years together?

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 are chosen,
they are glad to choose me for them; I do it for some piece of
money, and go through with all.

ESCALUS.
Look you, bring me in the names of some six or seven, the most
sufficient of your parish.

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.

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.

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's no remedy.
Come, sir.

[Exeunt.]

Act II, Scene 2

SCENE II. 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.

[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
To die for it!

[Enter ANGELO.]

ANGELO.
Now, what's the matter, provost?

PROVOST.
Is it your will Claudio shall die to-morrow?

ANGELO.
Did not I tell thee yea? hadst thou not order?
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.

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?
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 condemned
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.

ANGELO.
Well, let her be admitted.

[Exit Servant.]

See you the fornicatress be remov'd;
Let her have needful but not lavish means;
There shall be order for it.

[Enter Lucio and ISABELLA.]

PROVOST.
[Offering to retire.] Save your honour!

ANGELO.
Stay a little while.-- [To ISABELLA.] You are welcome. What's
your will?

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;
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;
I do beseech you, let it be his fault,
And not my brother.

PROVOST.
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;
Mine were the very cipher of a function,
To find 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!

[Retiring.]

LUCIO.
[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:
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.

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
As mine is to him?

ANGELO.
He's sentenc'd; 'tis too late.

LUCIO.
[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,
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.
If he had been as you, and you as he,
You would have slipp'd 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,
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.] Ay, touch him; there's the vein.

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
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.

ANGELO.
Be you content, fair maid:
It is the law, not I, condemns your brother:
Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son,
It should be thus with him;--he must die to-morrow.

ISABELLA.
To-morrow! O, that's sudden! Spare him, spare him!
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?
There's many have committed it.

LUCIO.
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
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 now, or by remissness new conceiv'd,
And so in progress to be hatch'd and born,--
Are now to have no successive degrees,
But, where 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,
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;
And he that suffers. O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

LUCIO.
That's well said.

ISABELLA.
Could great men thunder
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,
Splits the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle; but man, proud man!
Dress'd in a little brief authority,--
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence,--like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.

LUCIO.
O, to him, to him, wench: he will relent;
He's coming; I perceive 't.

PROVOST.
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.

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.
Art advised o' that? more on't.

ANGELO.
Why do you put these sayings upon me?

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
A natural guiltiness such as is his,
Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue
Against my brother's life.

ANGELO.
She speaks, and 'tis
Such sense that my sense breeds with it.--
Fare you well.

ISABELLA.
Gentle my lord, turn back.

ANGELO.
I will bethink me:--Come again to-morrow.

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.

LUCIO.
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,
Ere sunrise: 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.

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
Shall I attend your lordship?

ANGELO.
At any time 'fore noon.

ISABELLA.
Save your honour!

[Exeunt LUCIO, ISABELLA, PROVOST.]

ANGELO.
From thee; even from thy virtue!--
What's this, what's this? Is this her fault or mine?
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most? Ha!
Not she; nor doth she tempt; but it is I
That, lying by the violet, in the sun
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,
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
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
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.--Ever till now,
When men were fond, I smil'd and wonder'd how.

[Exit.]

Act II, Scene 3

SCENE III. A Room in a prison.

[Enter DUKE, habited like a Friar, and PROVOST.]

DUKE.
Hail to you, provost! so I think you are.

PROVOST.
I am the provost. What's your will, good friar?

DUKE.
Bound by my charity and my bless'd 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
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,
Who, falling in the flaws of her own youth,
Hath blister'd her report. She is with child;
And he that got it, sentenc'd: a young man
More fit to do another such offence
Than die for this.

DUKE.
When must he die?

PROVOST.
As I do think, to-morrow.--
[To JULIET.] I have provided for you; stay awhile
And you shall be conducted.

DUKE.
Repent you, fair one, of the sin you carry?

JULIET.
I do; and bear the shame most patiently.

DUKE.
I'll teach you how you shall arraign your conscience,
And try your penitence, if it be sound
Or hollowly put on.

JULIET.
I'll gladly learn.

DUKE.
Love you the man that wrong'd you?

JULIET.
Yes, as I love the woman that wrong'd him.

DUKE.
So then, it seems, your most offenceful act
Was mutually committed.

JULIET.
Mutually.

DUKE.
Then was your sin of heavier kind than his.

JULIET.
I do confess it, and repent it, father.

DUKE.
'Tis meet so, daughter: but lest you do repent
As that the sin hath brought you to this shame,--
Which sorrow is always toward 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.

DUKE.
There rest.
Your partner, as I hear, must die to-morrow,
And I am going with instruction to him.--
Grace go with you!

DUKE.
Benedicite!

[Exit.]

JULIET.
Must die to-morrow! O, injurious law,
That respites me a life whose very comfort
Is still a dying horror!

PROVOST.
'Tis pity of him.

[Exeunt.]

Act II, Scene 4

SCENE IV. 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,
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 sear'd and tedious; yea, my gravity,
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
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 Servant.]

How now, who's there?

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,
Making both it unable for itself
And dispossessing all the other parts
Of necessary fitness?
So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons;
Come all to help him, and so stop the air
By which he should revive: and even so
The general, subject to a well-wished king
Quit their own part, and in obsequious fondness
Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love
Must needs appear offence.

[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.

ISABELLA.
Even so?--Heaven keep your honour!

[Retiring.]

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.

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
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
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,
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
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,
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
It is no sin at all, but charity.

ANGELO.
Pleas'd 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,
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
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
Proclaim an enshielded beauty ten times louder
Than beauty could, displayed.--But mark me;
To be received plain, I'll speak more gross:
Your brother is to die.

ISABELLA.
So.

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,
But, in the loss of question,--that you, his sister,
Finding yourself desir'd of such a person,
Whose credit with the judge, or own great place,
Could fetch your brother from the manacles
Of the all-binding law; and that there were
No earthly mean to save him but that either
You must lay down the treasures of your body
To this suppos'd, or else to let him suffer;
What would you do?

ISABELLA.
As much for my poor brother as myself:
That is, were I under the terms of death,
The impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies,
And strip myself to death, as to a bed
That longing have been sick for, ere I'd yield
My body up to shame.

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.

ANGELO.
Were not you, then, as cruel as the sentence
That you have slandered so?

ISABELLA.
Ignominy in ransom and free pardon
Are of two houses; lawful mercy
Is nothing kin to foul redemption.

ANGELO.
You seem'd of late to make the law a tyrant;
And rather prov'd 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:
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,
Owe, and succeed by 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
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,--
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
By all external warrants,--show it now
By putting on the destin'd livery.

ISABELLA.
I have no tongue but one: gentle, my lord,
Let me intreat you, speak the former language.

ANGELO.
Plainly conceive, I love you.

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 license in't,
Which seems a little fouler than it is,
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!--
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?
My unsoil'd name, th' 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,
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;
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,
Say what you can, my false o'erweighs your true.

[Exit.]

ISABELLA.
To whom should I complain? Did tell this,
Who would believe me? O perilous mouths
That bear in them one and the self-same tongue
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,
Yet hath he in him such a mind of honour
That, had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he'd yield them up
Before his sister should her body stoop
To such abhorr'd pollution.
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.

[Exit.]