Measure for Measure Act II
by William Shakespeare

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Act II, Scene 1


Scene I. A hall in ANGELO'S house.

[Enter ANGELO, ESCALUS, a JUSTICE, PROVOST, Officers, and other

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.

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.

'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.

Be it as your wisdom will.

Where is the provost?

Here, if it like your honour.

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.


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.]

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.

How now, sir! What's your name? and what's the matter?

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.

Benefactors! Well; what benefactors are they? are they not

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.

This comes off well; here's a wise officer.

Go to;--what quality are they of? Elbow is your name? Why dost
thou not speak, Elbow?

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

What are you, sir?

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.

How know you that?

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

How! thy wife!

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

Dost thou detest her therefore?

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.

How dost thou know that, constable?

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.

By the woman's means?

Ay, sir, by Mistress Overdone's means: but as she spit in his
face, so she defied him.

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

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

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

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 entire section is 5,884 words.)