"Proud Man, Dressed In A Little Brief Authority"

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

Context: Claudio, a young gentleman of Vienna, is arrested on a charge of fornication under an old and long unobserved law. He faces a penalty of death for a technical violation of the law, for upon a true contract and promise of marriage, delayed only because of some formal difficulties about dowry, Claudio has got his beloved, Juliet, pregnant. Arrested, Claudio sends to his sister, Isabella, for help. She, a novice in a convent, goes to the duke's deputy, Angelo, who holds power and enforces the strict law in Duke Vincentio's absence. She pleads for Claudio's life to no avail. But, as she gains confidence, she attacks man's presumptuous exercise of authority.

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ISABELLA
. . .
O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
. . .
Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Splits the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle. But man, proud man,
Dressed in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
. . .
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep;
. . .

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