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Measure for Measure

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Enter LUCIO and two other Gentlemen.
LUCIOIf the duke with the other dukes come not to
composition with the King of Hungary, why then all
the dukes fall upon the king.
First GentlemanHeaven grant us its peace, but not the King of
Hungary’s! 5
Second GentlemanAmen.
LUCIOThou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate, that
went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped
one out of the table.
Second Gentleman‘Thou shalt not steal’? 10
LUCIOAy, that he razed.
First GentlemanWhy, ’twas a commandment to command the captain and
all the rest from their functions: they put forth
to steal. There’s not a soldier of us all, that, in
the thanksgiving before meat, do relish the petition
well that prays for peace. 15
Second GentlemanI never heard any soldier dislike it.
LUCIOI believe thee; for I think thou never wast where
grace was said.
Second GentlemanNo? a dozen times at least. 20
First GentlemanWhat, in metre?
LUCIOIn any proportion or in any language.
First GentlemanI think, or in any religion.
LUCIOAy, why not? Grace is grace, despite of all
controversy: as, for example, thou thyself art a
wicked villain, despite of all grace. 26
First GentlemanWell, there went but a pair of shears between us.
LUCIOI grant; as there may between the lists and the
velvet. Thou art the list.
First GentlemanAnd thou the velvet: thou art good velvet; thou’rt
a three-piled piece, I warrant thee: I had as lief
be a list of an English kersey as be piled, as thou
art piled, for a French velvet. Do I speak
feelingly now? 35
LUCIOI think thou dost; and, indeed, with most painful
feeling of thy speech: I will, out of thine own
confession, learn to begin thy health; but, whilst I
live, forget to drink after thee. 39
First GentlemanI think I have done myself wrong, have I not?
Second GentlemanYes, that thou hast, whether thou art tainted or free.
LUCIOBehold, behold. where Madam Mitigation comes! I
have purchased as many diseases under her roof as come to–
Second GentlemanTo what, I pray?
Second GentlemanTo three thousand dolours a year.
First GentlemanAy, and more.
LUCIOA French crown more.
First GentlemanThou art always figuring diseases in me; but thou
art full of error; I am sound. 52
LUCIONay, not as one would say, healthy; but so sound as
things that are hollow: thy bones are hollow;
impiety has made a feast of thee.
First GentlemanHow now! which of your hips has the most profound sciatica?
MISTRESS OVERDONEWell, well; there’s one yonder arrested and carried
to prison was worth five thousand of you all.
Second GentlemanWho’s that, I pray thee?
MISTRESS OVERDONEMarry, sir, that’s Claudio, Signior Claudio. 65
First GentlemanClaudio to prison? ’tis not so.
MISTRESS OVERDONENay, but I know ’tis so: I saw him arrested, saw
him carried away; and, which is more, within these
three days his head to be chopped off. 70
LUCIOBut, after all this fooling, I would not have it so.
Art thou sure of this?
MISTRESS OVERDONEI am too sure of it: and it is for getting Madam
Julietta with child. 74
LUCIOBelieve me, this may be: he promised to meet me two
hours since, and he was ever precise in
Second GentlemanBesides, you know, it draws something near to the
speech we had to such a purpose.
First GentlemanBut, most of all, agreeing with the proclamation. 81
LUCIOAway! let’s go learn the truth of it.
Exeunt LUCIO and Gentlemen
MISTRESS OVERDONEThus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what
with the gallows and what with poverty, I am
How now! what’s the news with you?
POMPEYYonder man is carried to prison.
MISTRESS OVERDONEWell; what has he done?
POMPEYA woman.
MISTRESS OVERDONEBut what’s his offence?
POMPEYGroping for trouts in a peculiar river.
MISTRESS OVERDONEWhat, is there a maid with child by him?
POMPEYNo, but there’s a woman with maid by him. You have
not heard of the proclamation, have you?
MISTRESS OVERDONEWhat proclamation, man?
POMPEYAll houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be plucked down. 99
MISTRESS OVERDONEAnd what shall become of those in the city?
POMPEYThey shall stand for seed: they had gone down too,
but that a wise burgher put in for them.
MISTRESS OVERDONEBut shall all our houses of resort in the suburbs be
pulled down?
POMPEYTo the ground, mistress.
MISTRESS OVERDONEWhy, here’s a change indeed in the commonwealth!
What shall become of me?
POMPEYCome; fear you not: good counsellors lack no
clients: though you change your place, you need not
change your trade; I’ll be your tapster still.
Courage! there will be pity taken on you: you that
have worn your eyes almost out in the service, you
will be considered.
MISTRESS OVERDONEWhat’s to do here, Thomas tapster? let’s withdraw. 104
POMPEYHere comes Signior Claudio, led by the provost to
prison; and there’s Madam Juliet.
Enter Provost, CLAUDIO, JULIET, and Officers.
CLAUDIOFellow, why dost thou show me thus to the world?
Bear me to prison, where I am committed.
ProvostI do it not in evil disposition,
But from Lord Angelo by special charge.
CLAUDIOThus can the demigod Authority
Make us pay down for our offence by weight
The words of heaven; on whom it will, it will; 114
On whom it will not, so; yet still ’tis just.
Re-enter LUCIO and two Gentlemen.
LUCIOWhy, how now, Claudio! whence comes this restraint?
CLAUDIOFrom too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty:
As surfeit is the father of much fast,
So every scope by the immoderate use
Turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue,
Like rats that ravin down their proper bane, 121
A thirsty evil; and when we drink we die.
LUCIOIf could speak so wisely under an arrest, I would
send for certain of my creditors: and yet, to say
the truth, I had as lief have the foppery of freedom
as the morality of imprisonment. What’s thy
offence, Claudio?
CLAUDIOWhat but to speak of would offend again. 125
LUCIOWhat, is’t murder?
CLAUDIOCall it so.
ProvostAway, sir! you must go.
CLAUDIOOne word, good friend. Lucio, a word with you.
LUCIOA hundred, if they’ll do you any good.
Is lechery so look’d after?
CLAUDIOThus stands it with me: upon a true contract 136
I got possession of Julietta’s bed:
You know the lady; she is fast my wife,
Save that we do the denunciation lack
Of outward order: this we came not to,
Only for propagation of a dower 141
Remaining in the coffer of her friends,
From whom we thought it meet to hide our love
Till time had made them for us. But it chances
The stealth of our most mutual entertainment
With character too gross is writ on Juliet.
LUCIOWith child, perhaps?
CLAUDIOUnhappily, even so.
And the new deputy now for the duke–
Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness, 149
Or whether that the body public be
A horse whereon the governor doth ride,
Who, newly in the seat, that it may know
He can command, lets it straight feel the spur;
Whether the tyranny be in his place,
Or in his emmence that fills it up,
I stagger in:–but this new governor
Awakes me all the enrolled penalties 157
Which have, like unscour’d armour, hung by the wall
So long that nineteen zodiacs have gone round
And none of them been worn; and, for a name,
Now puts the drowsy and neglected act
Freshly on me: ’tis surely for a name.
LUCIOI warrant it is: and thy head stands so tickle on
thy shoulders that a milkmaid, if she be in love,
may sigh it off. Send after the duke and appeal to
CLAUDIOI have done so, but he’s not to be found.
I prithee, Lucio, do me this kind service:
This day my sister should the cloister enter
And there receive her approbation: 169
Acquaint her with the danger of my state:
Implore her, in my voice, that she make friends
To the strict deputy; bid herself assay him:
I have great hope in that; for in her youth
There is a prone and speechless dialect,
Such as move men; beside, she hath prosperous art
When she will play with reason and discourse,
And well she can persuade.
LUCIOI pray she may; as well for the encouragement of the
like, which else would stand under grievous
imposition, as for the enjoying of thy life, who I 179
would be sorry should be thus foolishly lost at a
game of tick-tack. I’ll to her.
CLAUDIOI thank you, good friend Lucio.
LUCIOWithin two hours.
CLAUDIOCome, officer, away!


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2

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

4. Its, One of the rare instances of the word in S. Here it will be noted that it is emphatic. Gr. 228.
15. That prays for peace. A petition for peace was included in the form of grace then in common use. Hanmer changes before to “after;” and the Camb. editors remark: “Hanmer’s reading is recommended by the fact that in the old forms of grace used in many colleges, and, as we are informed, at the Inns of Court, the prayer for peace comes always after, and never before, meat. But as the mistake may easily have been made by S., or else deliberately put into the mouth of the 1st Gentleman, we have not altered the text.”
21. What, in metre? K. takes this to refer to the ancient metrical graces arranged to be said or sung. Schmidt thinks it may mean “in a play, on the stage.” Proportion in the reply may be = “measure,” as Warb. explains it, or simply = form, arrangement.
24. Grace is grace, etc. “Grace is as immutably grace as his merry antagonist is a wicked villain. Difference in religion cannot make a grace not to be grace, a prayer not to be holy; as nothing can make a villain not to be a villain” (Johnson).
27. There went but a pair of shears between us. “We are both of the same piece” (Johnson). Malone quotes Marston, Malcontent, 1604: “There goes but a pair of shears betwixt an emperor and the son of a bagpiper; only the dyeing, dressing, pressing, and glossing makes the difference.”
32. Had as lief. Good English then as now. See A. Y. L. p. 139.
33. Piled. “A quibble between piled = peeled, stripped of hair, bald (from the French disease), and piled as applied to velvet, three-piled velvet meaning the finest and costliest kind” (D.).
37. Forget to drink after thee. That is, lest I catch the disease in that way.
39. Done myself wrong. “Put myself in the wrong” (J. 1 f.).
44. I have purchased, etc. I have acquired or got, etc. Cf. A. Y. L. p. 177.
The folio continues this speech to Lucio, but the context shows that it belongs to the ist gentleman, to whom Pope transferred it.
48. Dolours. For the play on dollars, cf. Temp. ii. i. 17 and Lear, ii. 4.54.
50. A French crown. A common expression for a bald head, being a kindred joke to that in 33 above. Cf. M. N. D. i. 2. 99: “Some of your French crowns have no hair at all,” etc.
54. Thy bones are hollow. Steevens quotes T. of A. iv. 3. 152:

“Consumptions sow
In hollow bones of man.”

78. The sweat. The plague, which was popularly known as “the sweating sickness.” See p. 10 above.
88. Houses in the suburbs. Houses of ill – fame were chiefly in the suburbs.
104. Thomas. A name commonly applied to tapsters, probably for the sake of the alliteration.
108. Enter Provost, etc. The folio begins a new scene, “Scaena Tertia,” here, and is followed by some modern eds.; but there is evidently no change of scene. The Coll. MS. omits the name of Juliet here; but the preceding line indicates that she is on the stage. Possibly, however, as H. suggests, “Pompey may be supposed to see her just as the others are entering and she is parting from them.” It is evident from 137 below that she is not within hearing, nor near the speaker. The Camb. editors suppose that she was “following at a distance behind, in her anxiety for the fate of her lover.” At the end of the play she appears again without saying anything.
114. The words of heaven, etc. Some editors adopt the conjecture of Roberts, “The sword of heaven;” but we accept Henley’s explanation of the original text: “Authority, being absolute in Angelo, is finely styled by Claudio the demi-god. To this uncontrollable power the poet applies a passage from St, Paul to the Romans, ix. 15, 18, which he properly styles the words of heaven: ‘for he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,’ etc.; and again: ‘Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy,’ etc.”
119. Scope. Liberty, license; as in i. 3. 35 below.
121. Ravin down. Ravenously devour. Cf. Macb. ii. 4. 28:

“Thriftless ambition, that will ravin up
Thine own life’s means!”

and Cymb. i. 6. 49: “ravining first the lamb.” Note also the adjective in A. W. iii. 2. 120: “the ravin lion.”
Their proper bane. = their own poison or destruction. Cf. Temp. iii. 3. 60: “Their proper selves,” etc.
122. A thirsty evil. In Sir William Davenant’s Law against Lovers, which is founded on this play and Much Ado, this is changed to “An evil thirst.”
125. Morality. The folios misprint “mortality;” corrected by Rowe (after Davenant).
136. Contract. Accented by S. on the first or second syllable, as suits the measure. Cf. Temp. iv. i. 84 : “A contract of true love to celebrate,” etc.
137. Possession. H. makes this word a quadrisyllable (see on i. i. 47 above), and the line an Alexandrine; but it is clearly better to consider it an ordinary line of five feet, with extra syllables which are easily slurred in pronunciation. Cf. the preceding line and 139 just below.
139. Denunciation. Proclamation, declaration; the only instance of the word in S. The Coll. MS. changes it to “pronunciation,” but, as W. remarks, this only shows the incompetence and the want of authority of the corrector, and, perhaps, the lateness of his labours. Minsheu, 1617, has “To denounce or declare,” and Cooper, 1578, “Denuntiare, — to shew or tell to another, to give knowledge, to signifie, to denounce,” etc.
141. Propagation. The reading of the later folios; the 1st has “propogation- gation.” Malone conjectures “prorogation,” and Jackson “procuration.” W. reads “preservation.” A writer in the Edin, Mag., Nov. 1786, thinks propagation may be from the Italian pagare, to pay, and = payment; but this is improbable. It is more likely = continuing, keeping up. The dowry would appear to have been in some way dependent on her friends’ approval of her chosen husband, and the couple wanted to keep up their hold upon it until they had managed to gain the favour of those in charge of it. For the use of propagate, cf. Chapman, Odyssey, xvi. (quoted by Steevens):

“to try if we,
Alone, may propagate to victory
Our bold encounters;”

and again, Iliad, iv.:

“I doubt not but this night
Even to the fleete to propagate the Greeks’ unturned flight.”

J. H. thinks for propagation means “that she might continue to receive the interest.” He assumes that Julietta was to receive the interest while unmarried, and the principal when married to a man approved by her friends.
149. The fault and glimpse. “The faulty glimpse: a fault arising from the mind being dazzled by a novel authority of which the new governor has yet had only a glimpse, has yet taken only a hasty survey” (Malone). Johnson conjectured “flash” for fault, or that we should read “fault or glimpse.”
156. Stagger. Waver, am perplexed.
157. Awakes me. For the me, see Gr. 220.
158. Like unscour’d armour. Steevens quotes T.and C. iii. 3. 152;

“Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail,
In monumental mockery.”

159. Nineteen zodiacs. Nineteen circuits of the sun, or years. Whalley would change nineteen to “fourteen,” on account of i. 3. 21; just as there Theo. reads “nineteen” for fourteen. Clarke remarks: “It is most characteristic that a young fellow like Claudio should carelessly mention somewhere about the period in question, while the staid duke cites it exactly.” It may, however, be one of the poet’s little slips in numbers. Cf. C. of E.’p. 148 (note on Thirty-three years), or T. of S. p. 128 (on This seven).
160. Worn. Put in use; suggested by the simile of the armour.
163. Tickle. Ticklish, precarious. Cf. 2 Hen. VI. i. i. 216: “on a tickle point.”
169. Receive her approbation. Enter upon her probation (cf. v. i. 72 below), or novitiate. Malone quotes The Merry Devil of Edmonton, 1608:

“Madam, for a twelvemonth’s approbation
We mean to make the trial of our child.”

171. In my voice. In my name; as in A. Y. L. ii. 4. 87 : “And in my voice most welcome shall you be.”
174. Prone. Variously explained by the editors: “prompt, ready” (Nares and H.); “significant, expressive” (Malone); “humble” (Steevens and W.); “deferential, gently submissive and supplicatory” (Clarke); “affectionate” (J. H.), etc. We are inclined to agree with Steevens and Clarke. Davenant changes the word to “sweet;” which, as Steevens remarks, shows, like other of his alterations, “that what appear difficulties to us were difficulties to him, who, living nearer the time of S., might be supposed to have understood his language more intimately.”
175. Move. The folio reading; changed by Rowe to “moves.” Capell changes beside to “besides.”
179. Grievous imposition. “Under grievous penalties imposed” (Johnson).
180. Who. Often = which. Gr. 264. Hanmer and W. read “which.”
181. Tick-tack. A sort of backgammon (Fr. tric-trac).

Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 3


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