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Measure for Measure


ACT II SCENE IIAnother room in the same.
Enter Provost and a Servant.
ServantHe’s hearing of a cause; he will come straight
I’ll tell him of you.
ProvostPray you, do.
Exit Servant.
I’ll know
His pleasure; may be he will relent. Alas,
He hath but as offended in a dream! 4
All sects, all ages smack of this vice; and he
To die for’t!
ANGELONow, what’s the matter. Provost?
ProvostIs it your will Claudio shall die tomorrow?
ANGELODid not I tell thee yea? hadst thou not order?
Why dost thou ask again?
ProvostLest I might be too rash:
Under your good correction, I have seen,
When, after execution, judgment hath
Repented o’er his doom.
ANGELOGo to; let that be mine:
Do you your office, or give up your place,
And you shall well be spared.
ProvostI crave your honour’s pardon.
What shall be done, sir, with the groaning Juliet? 15
She’s very near her hour.
ANGELODispose of her
To some more fitter place, and that with speed.
Re-enter Servant.
ServantHere is the sister of the man condemn’d
Desires access to you.
ANGELOHath he a sister?
ProvostAy, my good lord; a very virtuous maid,
And to be shortly of a sisterhood,
If not already.
ANGELOWell, let her be admitted.
Exit Servant.
See you the fornicatress be removed:
Let have needful, but not lavish, means;
There shall be order for’t.
ProvostGod save your honour! 25
ANGELOStay a little while.
You’re welcome: what’s your will?
ISABELLAI am a woeful suitor to your honour,
Please but your honour hear me.
ANGELOWell; what’s your suit?
ISABELLAThere is a vice that most I do abhor,
And most desire should meet the blow of justice; 30
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.
ANGELOWell; the matter?
ISABELLAI have a brother is condemn’d to die:
I do beseech you, let it be his fault,
And not my brother.
ProvostAside. Heaven give thee moving graces!
ANGELOCondemn 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 fine the faults whose fine stands in record, 40
And let go by the actor.
ISABELLAO just but severe law!
I had a brother, then. Heaven keep your honour!
LUCIOAside 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!
ISABELLAMust he needs die?
ANGELOMaiden, no remedy.
ISABELLAYes; I do think that you might pardon him,
And neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy. 50
ANGELOI will not do’t.
ISABELLABut can you, if you would?
ANGELOLook, what I will not, that I cannot do.
ISABELLABut 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?
ANGELOHe’s sentenced; ’tis too late.
LUCIOAside to ISABELLA. You are too cold.
ISABELLAToo 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, 60
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 slipt like him; but he, like you,
Would not have been so stern.
ANGELOPray you, be gone.
ISABELLAI 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.
Ay, touch him; there’s the vein. 70
ANGELOYour brother is a forfeit of the law,
And you but waste your words.
ISABELLAAlas, 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.
ANGELOBe you content, fair maid;
It is the law, not I condemn your brother: 80
Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son,
It should be thus with him: he must die tomorrow.
ISABELLATo-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.
LUCIOAside to ISABELLA. Ay, well said.
ANGELOThe law hath not been dead, though it hath slept: 90
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 new, or by remissness new-conceived,
And so in progress to be hatch’d and born,
Are now to have no successive degrees,
But, ere they live, to end.
ISABELLAYet show some pity.
ANGELOI show it most of all when I show justice; 100
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.
ISABELLASo you must be the first that gives this sentence,
And he, that suffer’s. O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant!
LUCIOAside to ISABELLA. That’s wee said.
ISABELLACould great men thunder 110
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
Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape, 120
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
LUCIOAside to ISABELLA O, to him, to him wench!
He will relent;
He’s coming; I perceive ‘t.
ProvostAside. Pray heaven she win him!
ISABELLAWe cannot weigh our brother with ourself:
Great men may jest with saints; ’tis wit in them,
But in the less foul profanation.
LUCIOThou’rt i’ the right, girl; more o, that.
ISABELLAThat in the captain’s but a choleric word, 130
Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.
LUCIOAside to ISABELLA. Art avis’d o’ that? More on’t.
ANGELOWhy do you put these sayings upon me?
ISABELLABecause 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 140
Against my brother’s life.
ANGELOAside. She speaks, and ’tis
Such sense, that my sense breeds with it. Fare you well.
ISABELLAGentle my lord, turn back.
ANGELOI will bethink me: come again tomorrow.
ISABELLAHark how I’ll bribe you: good my lord, turn back.
ANGELOHow! bribe me?
ISABELLAAy, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you.
LUCIOAside to ISABELLA. You had marr’d all else.
ISABELLANot with fond shekels of the tested gold,
Or stones whose rates are either rich or poor 150
As fancy values them; but with true prayers
That shall be up at heaven and enter there
Ere sun-rise, prayers from preserved souls,
From fasting maids whose minds are dedicate
To nothing temporal.
ANGELOWell; come to me to-morrow.
LUCIOAside to ISABELLA. Go to: ’tis well. Away!
ISABELLAHeaven keep your honour safe!
ANGELOAside. Amen!
For I am that way going to temptation,
Where prayers cross.
ISABELLAAt what hour to-morrow
Shall I attend your lordship?
ANGELOAt any time ‘fore noon. 160
ISABELLA‘Save your honour!
Exeunt ISABELLA, LUCIO, and Provost.
ANGELOFrom 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?
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 170
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 180
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. Even till now,
When men were fond, I smiled and wonder’d how.


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 2

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

4. He hath but as offended, etc. “He hath only, as it were, offended in a dream” (D.). W. reads “offended but as;” but the transposition, if we regard it as such, is not more peculiar than others in Elizabethan English. See Gr. 422-427.
15. Groaning. Cf. Rich. II. v. 2.;

“Hadst thou groan’d for him
As I have done, thou wouldst be more pitiful.

17. More fitter. For double comparatives and superlatives in S., see Gr. II. Pope reads “more fitting.”
19. Desires. For the ellipsis of the relative, see Gr. 244.
25. Save your honour! The Camb. ed. has “God save.” Pope filled out the measure by changing for’t to “for it.”
28. Please. If it please. The folio prints “Please.”
32. For which I must not plead, etc. Hanmer reads “must plead, albeit,” and Johnson conjectures “must now plead, but yet.” Malone paraphrases the passage thus: “for which I must not plead, but that there is a conflict in my breast betwixt my affection for my brother, which induces me to plead for him, and my regard to virtue, which forbids me to intercede for one guilty of such a crime; and I find the former more powerful than the latter.”
35. Let it be his fault, etc. “Let his fault be condemned, or extirpated, but let not my brother himself suffer” (Malone).
40. Fine the faults. Here fine evidently has the general sense of punish, as in iii. i. 114 below: “perdurably fin’d.” So the noun here = punishment in general; as in K. John, v. 4. 37:

“Paying the fine of rated treachery
Even with a treacherous fine of all your lives.”

Stands in record. Is set down in the statute. S. accents the noun record on either syllable, as suits the measure. Cf. Sonn, 55. 8 with 123. II, etc.
41. Severe. Accented on the first syllable because coming before the noun; as in I Hen. VI, v. 4. 114: “It shall be with such strict and severe covenants.” On the other hand, see A. Y. L. ii. 7. 155: “With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,” etc. See also on i. 3. 3 above.
45. You are too cold. “It is noteworthy that Lucio twice reproaches Isabella with coldness; and this is the impression that more than one critic has received and given of her character. But the restraint that sways her throughout this scene is just the powerful one which deceives imperfectly judging lookers-on into believing a woman of reticence to be a woman wanting in warmth. See how her upright soul – clear in virtuous perception, honest in righteous avowal — allows the justice of the case against her brother, though pleading against its severity: ‘O just but severe law!’ Then, again, consider the natural timidity and reluctance with which a young girl — a modest, pure girl, a girl who has voluntarily commenced her novitiate for the cloistered life of a nun — would enter upon such a subject as she has undertaken to plead for; a subject hard even to speak of, most hard to advocate ” (Clarke).
53. But might you, etc. Walker conjectures “But you might.” The Camb. ed. puts a period at the end of the sentence.
54. Remorse. Pity; as very often. Cf. v. i. 100 below; and see also Macb, p. 171.
58. Back again. The 1st folio omits back which the 2nd supplies. Hanmer changes Well to “and.” Well believe this = “be thoroughly assured of this” (Theo.).
59. Longs. Belongs; but not a contraction of that word. See Schmidt or Wb.
On the passage, see p. 21 above.
73. That were. Warb. reads “that are.”
76. Top. The Coll. MS. has “God.” Cf. Temp, iii. i. 38: “the top of admiration,” etc It has been pointed out that Dante uses the same expression, “Cima di giudicio.”
79. Like man new made. “In familiar speech, ‘You would be quite another man'” (Johnson). Malone explained it thus: “You will then appear as tender-hearted and merciful as the first man was in his days of innocence, immediately after his creation;” and Holt White thought it meant: “And you, Angelo, will breathe new life into Claudio, as the Creator animated Adam, by breathing into his nostrils the breath of life.”
80. Condemn. Changed by Rowe to “condemns.”
85. Of season. When it is in season. Steevens compares M. W. iii. 3. 169: “I warrant you, buck; and of the season too, it shall appear.”
90. The law hath not been dead, etc. As Holt White remarks, “Dormiunt aliquando ieges, moriuntur nunquam” is a maxim in law.
92. If the first, etc. The folio reading, retained by the Camb. editors, Clarke, and K. Pope reads “the first man,” Capell “he, the first,” the Coll. MS. “the first one,” and W. “but the first.”
Edict is accented by S. on either syllable, according to the measure.
95. Looks in a glass. Alluding to the magic mirrors used by conjurers and fortune-tellers. Ci. Macb. IV. i. 119.
98. Successive. Here accented on the first syllable. Cf. successors in Hen. VIII. i. 1. 60. Gr. 492.
99. Ere. The folio has “here;” corrected by Hanmer. Malone reads “where.”
107. And he that suffers. That is, the first that suffers.
109. Like a giant. Alluding to the savage conduct of giants in ancient romances (Steevens).
112. Pelting. Paltry; as in M. N. D. ii. i. 91: “every pelting river,” etc.
116. Split’st. The folio has “splits,” a euphonic contraction found elsewhere in second persons ending in –test. See on iii. I. 20 below. Gr. 340.
119. Most assur’d. For the ellipsis of the of, cf. 1. 4- 27 and ii. I. 15 above. Gr. 394.
120. Glassy essence. “That essential nature of man which is like glass from its faculty to reflect the image of others in its own, and from its fragility, its liability to injury or destruction” (Clarke).
122. With our spleens. If they had our human spleens, they would laugh away their immortal natures, and become mortal like us. The spleen was thought to be the seat of sudden and uncontrollable fits of mirth, as of melancholy or anger.
126. We cannot weigh our brother, etc. “We mortals, proud and foolish, cannot prevail on our passions to weigh or compare our brother, a being of like nature and like frailty, with ourself. We have different names and different judgments for the same faults committed by persons of different condition ” (Johnson). The Coll. MS. has “You” for We, and Theo. “yourself for ourself; but Isabella is speaking in a general way.
132. Avis’d. Advised, or aware. Cf. M. W. i. I. 169: “Be avised, sir” (that is, listen to reason); and Id. i. 4. 106: “Are you avised o’ that?” J. H. says: “Lucio means, does Angelo bear that in mind?” but the expression is probably an indirect compliment to Isabella, like the preceding speeches of Lucio aside to her. It was a common phrase of the time, and = you may be sure of that.
136. That skins the vice, etc. Steevens compares Ham. iii. 4. 147: “It will but skin and film the ulcerous place.” S. uses the verb skin only in these two passages.
142. Breeds. Changed by Pope to “bleeds;” but the meaning is “My sense breeds with her sense, that is, new thoughts are stirring in my mind, new conceptions are hatched in my imagination” (Johnson). Douce explains it thus : “Her arguments are enforced with so much good sense as to increase that stock of sense which I already possess.”
149. Fond. The word often means foolish (cf. v. I. 105 below), and here is = “foolishly overprized” (Clarke).
153. Preserved. “That is, preserved from the corruption of the world” (Warb.). The good bishop adds that “the metaphor is taken from fruits preserved in sugar;” but as Boswell says, “surely our author had ‘no such stuff in his thoughts.'”
154. Dedicate. For the form, cf. 2 Hen. VI. v. 2. 37: “He that is truly dedicate to war,” etc.
159. Where prayers cross. Johnson complained that he could not understand this; but the meaning seems to be that the prayer or desire of his heart (to seduce Isabella) crosses or conflicts with hers that his honour (the word suggests that sense to his mind) may be safe. This is evident from what he says in reply to her repetition of Save your honour! just below. Henley explains the passage thus: “The petition, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ is here considered as crossing or intercepting the onward way in which Angelo was going; this appointment of his for the morrow’s meeting being a premeditated exposure of himself to temptation, which it was the general object of prayer to thwart.”
163. Ha! Omitted by Pope. Some editors make it a line by itself.
164. It is I, etc. “I am not corrupted by her, but my own heart, which excites foul desires under the same benign influences that exalt her purity, as the carrion grows putrid by those beams which increase the fragrance of the violet ” (Johnson). With virtuous season = with the sweet influences of summer and sunshine.
171. Evils. Privies; as in Hen. VIII. ii. 1.67: “Nor build their evils on the graves of great men.” Henley compares 2 Kings, x. 27, and adds: “The desecration of edifices devoted to religion, by converting them to the most abject purposes of nature, was an Eastern method of expressing contempt.” The Coll. MS. reads “offals.”
185. Ever. The later folios have “Even.” Pope fills out the measure by reading “Even till this very now,” and the Coll. MS. by “Even from youth till now.”
186. Fond. Foolishly doting. When the word in S. expresses fondness in the modern sense, it generally carries the idea of folly (see on 149 above) with it. Cf. i. 3. 23 above; and see also M. N. D. p, 163, note on Fond pageant.

Measure for Measure, Act 2, Scene 3