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Measure for Measure


ACT II SCENE IA hall In ANGELO’s house.
Enter ANGELO, ESCALUS, and a Justice, Provost, Officers, and other Attendants, behind.
ANGELOWe 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.
ESCALUSAy, but yet
Let us be keen, and rather cut a little, 5
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 cohered with place or place with wishing,
Or that the resolute acting of your blood 12
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 know the laws 22
That thieves do pass on thieves? ‘Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take’t
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, 28
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.
ESCALUSBe it as your wisdom will.
ANGELOWhere is the provost?
ProvostHere, if it like your honour.
ANGELOSee that Claudio
Be executed by nine to-morrow morning:
Bring him his confessor, let him be prepared;
For that’s the utmost of his pilgrimage.
Exit Provost.
ESCALUSAside. Well, heaven forgive him, and forgive us all!
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall:
Some run from brakes of ice, and answer none: 39
And some condemned for a fault alone.
Enter ELBOW, and Officers with FROTH and POMPEY.
ELBOWCome, 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.
ANGELOHow now, sir! What’s your name? and what’s the matter?
ELBOWIf it Please your honour, I am the poor duke’s
constable, and my name is Elbow: I do lean upon 47
justice, sir, and do bring in here before your good
honour two notorious benefactors.
ANGELOBenefactors? Well; what benefactors are they? are
they not malefactors?
ELBOWIf it? please your honour, I know not well what they
are: but precise villains they are, that I am sure 54
of; and void of all profanation in the world that
good Christians ought to have.
ESCALUSThis comes off well; here’s a wise officer.
ANGELOGo to: what quality are they of? Elbow is your
name? why dost thou not speak, Elbow?
POMPEYHe cannot, sir; he’s out at elbow. 60
ANGELOWhat are you, sir?
ELBOWHe, 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.
ESCALUSHow know you that?
ELBOWMy wife, sir, whom I detest before heaven and your honour,–
ESCALUSHow? thy wife?
ELBOWAy, sir; whom, I thank heaven, is an honest woman,–
ESCALUSDost thou detest her therefore?
ELBOWI 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.
ESCALUSHow dost thou know that, constable?
ELBOWMarry, sir, by my wife; who, if she had been a woman
cardinally given, might have been accused in
fornication, adultery, and all uncleanliness there.
ESCALUSBy the woman’s means?
ELBOWAy, sir, by Mistress Overdone’s means: but as she
spit in his face, so she defied him.
POMPEYSir, if it please your honour, this is not so.
ELBOWProve it before these varlets here, thou honourable
man; prove it.
ESCALUSDo you hear how he misplaces?
POMPEYSir, she came in great with child; and longing,
saving your honour’s reverence, for stewed 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 three-pence; your honours have seen
such dishes; they are not China dishes, but very 91
good dishes,–
ESCALUSGo to, go to: no matter for the dish, sir.
POMPEYNo, 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 three-pence again.
FROTHNo, indeed.
POMPEYVery well: you being then, if you be remembered,
cracking the stones of the foresaid prunes,–
FROTHAy, so I did indeed.
POMPEYWhy, very well; I telling you then, if you be
remembered, that such a one and such a one were past
cure of the thing you wot of, unless they kept very 108
good diet, as I told you,–
FROTHAll this is true.
POMPEYWhy, very well, then,–
ESCALUSCome, 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. 115
POMPEYSir, your honour cannot come to that yet.
ESCALUSNo, sir, nor I mean it not.
POMPEYSir, but you shall come to it, by your honour’s
leave. And, I beseech you, look into Master Froth
here, sir; a man of four-score pound a year; whose
father died at Hallowmas: was’t not at Hallowmas,
Master Froth?
FROTHAll-hallond eve.
POMPEYWhy, very well; I hope here be truths. He, sir,
sitting, as I say, in a lower chair, sir; ’twas in 123
the Bunch of Grapes, where indeed you have a delight
to sit, have you not?
FROTHI have so; because it is an open room and good for winter.
POMPEYWhy, very well, then; I hope here be truths.
ANGELOThis 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.
ESCALUSI think no less. Good morrow to your lordship.
Now, sir, come on: what was done to Elbow’s wife, once more?
POMPEYOnce, sir? there was nothing done to her once.
ELBOWI beseech you, sir, ask him what this man did to my wife.
POMPEYI beseech your honour, ask me.
ESCALUSWell, sir; what did this gentleman to her?
POMPEYI 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?
ESCALUSAy, sir, very well.
POMPEYNay; I beseech you, mark it well.
ESCALUSWell, I do so.
POMPEYDoth your honour see any harm in his face?
POMPEYI’ll be supposed upon a book, his face is the worst 149
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.
ESCALUSHe’s in the right. Constable, what say you to it?
ELBOWFirst, an it like you, the house is a respected
house; next, this is a respected fellow; and his
mistress is a respected woman.
POMPEYBy this hand, sir, his wife is a more respected
person than any of us all.
ELBOWVarlet, thou liest; thou liest, wicked varlet! the
time has yet to come that she was ever respected
with man, woman, or child.
POMPEYSir, she was respected with him before he married with her.
ESCALUSWhich is the wiser here? Justice or Iniquity? Is 165
this true?
ELBOWO 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.
ESCALUSIf he took you a box o’ the ear, you might have your
action of slander too.
ELBOWMarry, I thank your good worship for it. What is’t
your worship’s pleasure I shall do with this wicked caitiff?
ESCALUSTruly, officer, because he hath some offences in him 175
that thou wouldst discover if thou couldst, let him
continue in his courses till thou knowest what they
ELBOWMarry, 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. 182
ESCALUSWhere were you born, friend?
FROTHHere in Vienna, sir.
ESCALUSAre you of fourscore pounds a year?
FROTHYes, an’t please you, sir.
ESCALUSSo. What trade are you of, sir?
POMPHEYTapster; a poor widow’s tapster.
ESCALUSYour mistress’ name?
POMPHEYMistress Overdone.
ESCALUSHath she had any more than one husband?
POMPEYNine, sir; Overdone by the last.
ESCALUSNine! Come hither to me, Master Froth. Master
Froth, I would not have you acquainted with
tapsters: they will draw you, Master Froth, and you 196
will hang them. Get you gone, and let me hear no
more of you.
FROTHI thank your worship. For mine own part, I never
come into any room in a tap-house, but I am drawn
ESCALUSWell, no more of it, Master Froth: farewell.
Come you hither to me, Master tapster. What’s your
name, Master tapster?
POMPEYPompey. 203
ESCALUSWhat else?
POMPEYBum, sir.
ESCALUSTroth, 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, 203
howsoever you colour it in being a tapster, are you
not? come, tell me true: it shall be the better for you.
POMPEYTruly, sir, I am a poor fellow that would live.
ESCALUSHow would you live, Pompey? by being a bawd? What
do you think of the trade, Pompey? is it a lawful trade?
POMPEYIf the law would allow it, sir.
ESCALUSBut the law will not allow it, Pompey; nor it shall
not be allowed in Vienna.
POMPEYDoes your worship mean to geld and spay all the 218
youth of the city?
ESCALUSNo, Pompey.
POMPEYTruly, 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.
ESCALUSThere are pretty orders beginning, I can tell you:
it is but heading and hanging.
POMPEYIf 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 three-pence a bay: if you live to see this 229
come to pass, say Pompey told you so.
ESCALUSThank 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.
POMPEYI 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 is not whipt out of his trade.
ESCALUSCome hither to me, Master Elbow; come hither, Master
constable. How long have you been in this place of constable?
ELBOWSeven year and a half, sir.
ESCALUSI thought, by your readiness in the office, you had 247
continued in it some time. You say, seven years together?
ELBOWAnd a half, sir.
ESCALUSAlas, 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?
ELBOWFaith, 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
ESCALUSLook you bring me in the names of some six or seven,
the most sufficient of your parish.
ELBOWTo your worship’s house, sir?
ESCALUSTo my house. Fare you well.
What’s o’clock, think you?
JusticeEleven, sir. 262
ESCALUSI pray you home to dinner with me.
JusticeI humbly thank you.
ESCALUSIt grieves me for the death of Claudio;
But there’s no remedy.
JusticeLord Angelo is severe.
ESCALUSIt is but needful:
Mercy is not itself, that oft looks so;
Pardon is still the nurse of second woe:
But yet,–poor Claudio! There is no remedy.
Come, sir.


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 1

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

2. Fear. Affright; as in T. of S. i. 2. 211: “Tush, tush! fear boys with bugs.” Cf. K, John, p. 147.
6. F’all. Generally explained as transitive; as in A, Y. L, iii. 5. 5:

“The common executioner,
Whose heart the accustom’d sight of death makes hard
Falls not the axe,” etc.

It may, however, be intransitive, as J. H. makes it: “Escalus desires that Angelo and he should act as keen instruments and cut a little, rather than fall as heavy weights on an offender and crush him to death.”
8. Know. Reflect, consider.
12. Blood. Animal passion; as in ii. 4. 15, 178, and v. i. 468 below. Cf. also Much Ado, p. 131, note on Faith melteth into blood.
15. Which. In which. See on i. 4. 27 above. Hanmer reads “point you censure now in him,” Capell “censure him for,” and W. “where now.”
18. I not deny. The transposition of not is common. Cf. Temp, ii. I. 121, V. 1. 38, 1 13, 303, etc Gr. 305.
22. What knows the law, etc. The folio reads “What knowes the Lawes,” and some modern eds. give “What know the laws.” Malone paraphrases the passage thus: “How can the administrators of the laws take cognizance of what I have just mentioned? How can they know whether the jurymen, who decide on the life or death of thieves, be themselves as criminal as those whom they try?” Pass on is of course used in the same sense as in 19 just above.
23. Pregnant. Full of probability, evident. Cf. Cymb, p. 209, and see also Lear p. 198.
28. For I have had. Because I have had, on the ground that I have had. See M. of V. p. 134, note on For he is a Christian, Gr. 150, 151.
29. Censure. Judge, sentence. See on i. 4. 72 above.
31. And nothing come in partial. And no partiality be urged or allowed.
39. Some run from brakes of vice, and answer none. The folio reads: “Some run from brakes of Ice, and answere none.” Rowe gave “through brakes of vice;” and Malone, followed by most of the more recent editors, adopted the vice. This seems on the whole the simplest and best emendation, where none is quite satisfactory. Brakes of vice, if it be what S. wrote, must mean thickets of vice, with perhaps the double idea of a complication of vices — many vices, as opposed to the single fault of the next line — and that of thorny entanglements out of which escape would seem difficult. Steevens at first was inclined to read “breaks of ice,” and explain the passage “some run away from danger, and stay to answer none of their faults;” but afterwards adopted brakes of vice, taking brakes to mean “engines of torture,” as in Holinshed and other writers of the time. See also Dr. Ingleby’s Shakes. Hermeneutics, p. 145.
47. The poor duke’s constable. Cf, Much Ado, iii. 5. 22 (Dogberry’s speech): “the poor duke’s officers.”
54. Precise villains. He means of course that they are precisely or literally villains; but, as Clarke notes, the word gives the impression of “strict, severely moral,” as in i. 3. 50 above: “Lord Angelo is precise.”
55. Profanation. A blunder for profession.
57. This comes off well. Johnson makes this = “this is nimbly spoken, this is volubly uttered;” but it seems rather to mean (ironically, of course) this is well told. Cf. T. of A. i.I. 29: “this comes off well and excellent” (=this is well done).
60. Out at elbow. “A hit at the constable’s threadbare coat, and at his being startled and put out by Angelo’s peremptory repetition of his name” (Clarke). Cf. A. Y. L. iv. i. 76: “Very good orators, when they are out, they will spit,” etc.
62. Parcel-bawd. Part bawd. Cf. parcel-gilt in 2 Hen, IV. ii. I. 94, and see our ed. p. 161.
64. Hot-house. Bagnio, or bathing-house.
67. Detest. Mrs. Quickly makes the same blunder in M. W. i. 4. 160: “but, I detest, an honest maid as ever broke bread.”
88. Stewed prunes. A favourite dish in such houses. Cf. M. W. i. I. 296, I Hen. IV. iii. 3. 128, and 2 Hen. IV. ii. 4. 159.
91. China dishes. These, though not rare in the poet’s day, were so costly that it was superfluous to say that they would not be found in common use in a house like Mistress Overdone’s.
103. If you be remembered. If you recollect. Cf. A. Y. L. p. 184.
108. Wot. Know; used only in the present tense and the participle, for which see W. T. iii. 2. 77.
114. Come me. The me is probably the “dativus ethicus,” as in i. 2. 156 above and iv. 2. 6 below; but W. prefers to read “Come we.”
123. A lower chair. That is, an easy-chair.
The Bunch of Grapes. It was the custom in the time of S., and long after, to give names to particular rooms in taverns. See i Hen, IV. p. 164, note on The Half-Moon.
126. An open room and good for winter. The confusion of ideas is sufficiently characteristic of the speaker, but some of the critics have tried to make the passage logical. Talbot makes the preposterous suggestion that open is “perhaps from the same root as oven, a warm room;” and the Coll. MS. substitutes “windows” for winter.
129. Russia. Metrically a trisyllable.
149. Supposed. “He means deposed” (Malone).
155. An it like you. If it please you. Cf. Hen. V. iii. prol. 32: “The offer likes not,” etc. Gr. 297.
165. Justice or Iniquity. “That is, the constable or the fool. Escalus calls the latter Iniquity in allusion to the old Vice a familiar character in the ancient moralities and dumb-shows” (Ritson). Cf. i Hen, IV. ii. 4. 499: “that reverend vice, that grey iniquity ;” Rich. III. iii. i. 82: “like the formal Vice, Iniquity,” etc. See also T. N, p. 159.
168. Hannibal. “Mistaken by the constable for cannibal” (Johnson). Cf. 2 Hen. IV. u. 4. 180 (Pistol’s speech): “Compare with Caesars and with Cannibals.”
182. Thou art to continue. Elbow evidently takes the “continue” of Escalus to refer to some penalty or other.
196. Draw you. “Draw has here a cluster of senses. As it refers to the tapster, it signifies to drain, to empty; as it is related to hang it means to be conveyed to execution on a hurdle. In Froth’s answer, it is the same as to bring along by some motive or power” (Johnson). For the play upon drawing and hangings cf Much Ado, iii. 2. 22 and K. John ii. i. 504.
199. Drawn in. That is, taken in, swindled.
203. Pompey. As he is called Thomas in i. 2. 104, Clarke suggests that Pompey was a name given him by waggish customers and adopted by himself; but it is quite as likely that the Thomas was the nickname. See on i. 2. 104 above.
206. The greatest thing about you. Probably an allusion to the enormous breeches then worn.
218. Spay. The folios have “splay,” which some take to be an old form of the word.
229. Day. The folios have “bay;” corrected by Pope. Some retain “bay” because it was an architectural term for a division of a building; but, as W. asks, “threepence a bay for how long?” After = at the rate of.
235. Shrewd. Mischievous, evil. See J. C, p. 145, or Hen. VIII. p. 202.
239. But I shall follow it, etc. St. was the first to mark this as Aside.
241. Jade. A common term for a worthless nag. See Hen. V. p. 170.
247. Your readiness. The folios have “the” for your (doubtless from confounding y(r) and y(e) in the MS.); corrected by Pope.
Though Elbow says seven year and Escalus seven years, it must not be supposed that the former is a vulgarism. Cf. Temp. i. 2. 53: “Twelve year since, Miranda, twelve year since,” etc. See Matzner, Eng. Gram. vol. j. pp. 230, 240.
262. Eleven, sir. Harrison, in his Description of England (p. 166 of Mr. Furnivall’s ed.), says: “With vs the nobilitie, gentrie, and students, doo ordinarilie go to dinner at eleuen before noone, and to supper at fine, or betweene fine and six at afternoone. The merchants dine and sup seldome before twelue at noone, and six at night especiallie in London. The husbandmen dine also at high noone as they call it, and sup at seuen or eight: but out of the tearme in our vniuersities the scholers dine at ten.”

Measure for Measure, Act 2, Scene 2