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Measure for Measure


ACT I SCENE IAn apartment in the DUKE’S palace.
Enter DUKE VINCENTIO, ESCALUS, Lords and Attendants
DUKE VINCENTIOOf government the properties to unfold,
Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse;
Since I am put to know that your own science 5
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 10
For common justice, you’re as pregnant in
As art and practise 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. 15
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, dress’d him with our love,
And given his deputation all the organs 20
Of our own power: what think you of it?
ESCALUSIf any in Vienna be of worth
To undergo such ample grace and honour,
It is Lord Angelo.
DUKE VINCENTIOLook where he comes.
ANGELOAlways obedient to your grace’s will, 25
I come to know your pleasure.
There is a kind of character in thy life,
That to the observer doth thy history
Fully unfold. Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine own so proper as to waste 30
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 35
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 40
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, 45
Though first in question, is thy secondary.
Take thy commission.
ANGELONow, good my lord,
Let there be some more test made of my metal,
Before so noble and so great a figure
Be stamp’d upon it.
DUKE VINCENTIONo more evasion: 50
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, 55
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.
ANGELOYet give leave, my lord, 60
That we may bring you something on the way.
DUKE VINCENTIOMy 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 65
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:
Through 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. 75
ANGELOThe heavens give safety to your purposes!
ESCALUSLead forth and bring you back in happiness!
DUKEI thank you. Fare you well.
ESCALUSI 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 power I have, but of what strength and nature
I am not yet instructed. 80
ANGELO‘Tis so with me. Let us withdraw together,
And we may soon our satisfaction have
Touching that point.
ESCALUSI’ll wait upon your honour.


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1

From Measure for Measure. Ed. William J. Rolfe. New York: Harper & Brothers., 1899.

5. Put to know. “Compelled to acknowledge” (Steevens). Cf. 2 Hen, Vl, iii. I. 43: “had I first been put to speak my mind; “and Cymb, ii. 3. 1 10: “You put me to forget a lady’s manners.” Pope changed put to “not,” and the Coll. MS. has “apt.”
6. Lists. “Bounds, limits” (Johnson). Cf. Oth. iv. i. 76: “Confine yourself within a patient list;” and see also Ham, p. 249.
7, 8. No more remains But that, etc. A passage which has perplexed the commentators. The folio reads;

“Then no more remaines
But that, to your sufficiency, as your worth is able,
And let them worker.”

Theo. conjectured that something had been lost, and attempted to supply it thus:

“But that to your sufficiency you add
Due diligency as your worth is able.”

Hanmer gave:

“But that to your sufficiency you join
A will to serve us as your worth is able;”

and Tyrwhitt conjectured:

But that to your sufficiency you put
A zeal as willing as your worth is able.”

Sundry other ways of filling the supposed gap have been proposed, but these will serve as samples. Others have assumed that the passage is not defective but corrupt, and have tried to emend it by reading “But that to your sufficiencies your worth is abled” (Johnson); “But your sufficiency as worth is able” (Farmer); “But thereto your sufficiency,” etc. (Sr.); “But add to your sufficiency your worth. And let,” etc. (Coll. MS.); “But t’ add to your sufficiency” (H.), and so on. The pointing in the text is due to W., who takes that to be the demonstrative referring to science, and remains to be = is wanting. The meaning then is: “then, as your worth is able [that is, your high character rendering you competent], no more is wanting to complete your capacity for the fulfilment of your trust but that [that is, that knowledge of government of which I have just spoken] ; and let them [that is, that knowledge and your worth] work together.” If that does not refer to science, it may refer, as V. suggests, “to the commission, which the Duke must have in his hand, or before him,” as is evident from 13 just below. St. explains that in the same way, and would read:

“But that [tendering his commission] to your sufficiency,
And, as your worth is able, let them work.”

Clarke finds the antecedent of that in strength — “the governing power embodied in the commission he gives him.” Any one of these interpretations of the original text is to be preferred to any of the proposed emendations.
10. Terms. “The technical language of the courts. An old book called ‘Les Termes de la Ley’ (written in Henry the Eighth’s time) was in Shakespeare’s days, and is now, the accidence of young students in the law” (Blackstone).
11. Pregnant. Ready. Cf. Trolius and Cressida. iv. 4. 90 : “most prompt and pregnant.” See also Lear, p. 198.
16. What figure of us, etc. How do you think he will represent or personate us?
17. With special soul. This expression has troubled some of the critics, and “roll” (Warb.) and “seal” (Johnson) have been suggested in its place. Of course it is = with special preference, soul being used as heart often is. Steevens compares Temp. iii. i. 44:

“for several virtues
Have I lik’d several women, never any
With so full soul,” etc.

20. Deputation. Deputyship, vicegerency.
27. Character. In its original sense of writing; as in i. 2. 145 and v. I. II below. Johnson asks, “What is there peculiar in this, that a man’s life informs the observer of his history?” and conjectures “look” for life. Mason thought that character and history should be transposed. Of course, no change is called for, the meaning being simply: in the record of your outward life we read your whole history.
29. Belongings. “Endowments” (Malone).
30. So proper. So personally or peculiarly. Cf. T. of A.i. 2. 106 “What better or properer can we call our own than the riches of our friends?”
31. They on thee. Hanmer “corrected” they to them, and has been followed by many editors. Cf. Gr. 205-216.
33. For if our virtues, etc. Theo. quotes Horace’s

“Paulum sepultae distat inertiae
Celata virtus.”

36. To fine issues, “For high purposes” (Johnson).
38. She determines, etc. “She requires and allots to herself the same advantages that creditors usually enjoy, — thanks for the endowments she has bestowed, and extraordinary exertions in those whom she hath thus favoured, by way of interest for what she has lent” (Malone). For use=interest, cf. Much Ado ii. i. 288: “He lent it me awhile, and I gave him use for it,” etc.
40. But I do bend my speech, etc. “I direct my speech to one who is able to teach me how to govern” (Warb.). My part in him = my office delegated to him. For (advertise = instruct, cf. Hen. VIII. ii. 4. 178:

“Wherein he might the king his lord advertise
Whether our daughter were legitimate,” etc.

The accent in S. is regularly on the penult. Hanmer reads “can in my part me advertise.”
42. Hold therefore, Angelo. If nothing has been lost here, we must accept Steevens’s explanation that this is what the duke says on tendering his commission to him. Johnson explains it : “That is, continue to be Angelo; hold as thou art.” Tyrwhitt thinks that “the duke may be understood to speak of himself: Let me therefore hold, or stop,” as if checking himself in a needless exhortation. W. plausibly conjectures “Hold therefore, Angelo, our place and power.” Cf. i. 3. 13 below.
43. In our remove. In our absence.
44. Mortality and mercy, etc. “That is, ‘I delegate to thy tongue the power of pronouncing sentence of death, and to thy heart the privilege of exercising mercy.’ These are words of great import, and ought to be made clear, as on them depends the chief incident of the play ” (Douce).
46. First in question. “First called for, first appointed” (Johnson). Schmidt makes it = “first in consideration.”
47. Commission. Metrically a quadrisyllable. This making two syllables of –ion is rare in the middle of a line. To the examples given by Abbott (Gr. 479) we can, however, add the present, with i Hen. IV. iv. i. 62 (“division”), 3 Hen. VI. i. i. 133 (“rebellion”), and Hen. VIII. ii. 4. i (“commission”). C£ ” patient ” in 3 Hen. VI. i. i. 215.
51. Leavened. Well considered; “not declared as soon as it fell into the imagination, but suffered to work long in the mind” (Johnson). Warb. changed the word to “level’d.”
54. That it prefers itself, etc. That is, it places itself before the most important business.
56. Importune. Always accented on the penult by S. See Ham. p. 190.
61. Bring you. Escort or accompany you; as often. See W. T. iv. 3. 122, Hen. V. ii. 3. i, etc. Cf. Gen. xviii. 16, Acts, xxi. 5, 2 Cor. i. 16, etc. For the adverbial use of something, see Gr. 68.
64. Your scope. “Your amplitude of power” (Johnson).
68. Stage me. Make a show of myself. For the verb, cf A. and C. iii. 13 and V. 2. 217. On the passage, see p. 10 above.
70. Aves. “All-hails” (Cor. v. 3. 139), acclamations.
72. Does affect it. Is fond of it, or pleased with it.
78. To look into the bottom of my place. That is, to know it thoroughly.

Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 2


Abbott (or Gr.), Abbott’s Shakespearian Grammar (third edition).
A. S., Anglo-Saxon.
A. v.. Authorized Version of the Bible (1611).
B. and F., Beaumont and Fletcher.
B. J., Ben Jonson.
Camb. ed., “Cambridge edition” of Shakespeare, edited by Clark and Wright.
Cf. confer\ compare.
Clarke, “Cassell’s Illustrated Shakespeare,” edited by Charles and Mary Cowden-Clarke (London, n. d.).
Coll., Collier (second edition).
Coll. MS., Manuscript Corrections of Second Folio, edited by Collier.
D., Dyce (second edition).
H., Hudson (“Harvard” edition).
Halliwell, J. O. Halliwell (folio ed. of Shakespeare).
Id. (idem), the same.
J. H., J. Hunter’s ed. M./or M. (London, 1873).
K., Knight (second edition).
Nares, Glossary, edited by Halliwell and Wright Lndon, 1859).
Prol., Prologue.
S., Shakespeare.
Schmidt, A. Schmidt’s Shakespeare-Lexicon (Berlin, 1874).
Sr., Singer.
St, Staunton.
Theo., Theobald.
v., Verplanck.
W., R. Grant White.
Walker, Wm. Sidney Walker’s Critical Examination of the Text of Shakespeare (London, i860).
Warb., Warburton.
Wb., Webster’s Dictionary (revised quarto edition of 1879).
Wore, Worcester’s Dictionary (quarto edition).


How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. Measure for Measure. Ed. William J. Rolfe. New York: Harper & Brothers., 1899.