Measure for Measure

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ACT I SCENE III A monastery.
DUKE VINCENTIO No, holy father; throw away that thought;
Believe not that the dribbling dart of love
Can pierce a complete bosom. Why I desire thee
To give me secret harbour, hath a purpose
More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends  5
Of burning youth.
FRIAR THOMAS May your grace speak of it?
DUKE VINCENTIO My holy sir, none better knows than you
How I have ever loved the life removed
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies
Where youth, and cost, and witless bravery keeps.  10
I have deliver’d to Lord Angelo,
A man of stricture and firm abstinence,
My absolute power and place here in Vienna,
And he supposes me travell’d to Poland;
For so I have strew’d it in the common ear,  15
And so it is received. Now, pious sir,
You will demand of me why I do this?
FRIAR THOMAS Gladly, my lord.
DUKE VINCENTIO We have strict statutes and most biting laws.
The needful bits and curbs to headstrong steeds,  20
Which for this nineteen years we have let slip;
Even like an o’ergrown lion in a cave,
That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fathers,
Having bound up the threatening twigs of birch,
Only to stick it in their children’s sight
For terror, not to use, in time the rod
Becomes more mock’d than fear’d; so our decrees,  27
Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead;
And liberty plucks justice by the nose;
The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
Goes all decorum.
FRIAR THOMAS It rested in your grace
To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleased:
And it in you more dreadful would have seem’d
Than in Lord Angelo.
DUKE VINCENTIO I do fear, too dreadful:
Sith ’twas my fault to give the people scope,  35
‘Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them
For what I bid them do: for we bid this be done,
When evil deeds have their permissive pass
And not the punishment. Therefore indeed, my father,
I have on Angelo imposed the office;
Who may, in the ambush of my name, strike home,
And yet my nature never in the fight  42
To do in slander. And to behold his sway,
I will, as ’twere a brother of your order,
Visit both prince and people: therefore, I prithee,
Supply me with the habit and instruct me
How I may formally in person bear me  47
Like a true friar. More reasons for this action
At our more leisure shall I render you;
Only, this one: Lord Angelo is precise;
Stands at a guard with envy; scarce confesses  51
That his blood flows, or that his appetite
Is more to bread than stone: hence shall we see,
If power change purpose, what our seemers be.


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 3

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

2. Dribbling. Weak, ineffectual. Possibly the word should be dribbing as dribber, according to Steevens, was a term of contempt in archery.
3. Complete. Accented on the first syllable because coming before the noun. Cf. L. L. L. i. i. 137: “A maid of grace and complete majesty;” Rich, III. iv.4. 189: “Than all the complete armour that thou wear’st,” etc. See, on the other hand, T G. of V. ii. 4. 73: “He is complete in feature and in mind;” K. John, ii. i. 433: “Is the young Dauphin every way complete,” etc. For many examples of this changeable accent of dissyllabic adjectives and participles, see Schmidt, p. 14 13 fol. Cf. Cor. P. 255 (on Divine), and Cymb. p. 1 74 (on Supreme).
8. The life removed. “A life of retirement” (Steevens).
10. Bravery. Finery, showy dress; as in T. of S. iv. 3. 57: “With scarfs and fans and double change of bravery.” See also A. Y. L. p. 165.Keeps = dwells; as it is still used in some parts of this country.
12. Stricture. Strictness; the only instance of the word in S. Strictness, which Davenant substitutes, he does not use at all. Warb. would read “strict ure,” ure being “an old word for use, practice.” Steevens notes that it occurs in Promos and Cassandra: “The crafty man oft puts these wrongs in ure.”
20. Steeds. The folios have “weedes;” corrected by Theo. Walker conjectures “wills.” In the next line, the folios have “slip” for sleep, which is Davenant’s word. Cf. ii. 2. 90 below.
21. This fourteen. Changed by Theo. to “these nineteen.” See on i. 2. 158 above. For this with a plural, cf. Much Ado, iii. 3. 134; “this seven year,” etc. Gr. 87.
27. Becomes. Not in the folio; inserted by Pope.
30. Quite athwart. Cf. i Hen. IV. i.I.36:

“when all athwart there came
A post from Wales loaden with heavy news.”

35. Sith. Since; as in iv. i. 73 below. See Ham. pp. 201, 246, 253, or Gr. 132.
38. Permissive. The only instance of the word in S.
42. And yet my nature never in the fight. And yet I myself never appearing in the fight. Pope changed fight to “sight;” but strike homeand ambush favour its retention as carrying out the metaphor of a contest or struggle.
43. To do me slander. The folios have “To do in slander.” Hanmer reads “To do it slander;” and there is not much choice between that and the reading in the text, which is Halliwell’s. Steevens, in support of Hanmer’s, cites 1 Hen. IV. iv. 3. 8: “Do me no slander, Douglas.” The Coll. MS. has “sight To draw on slander.” Sr. conjectures “right to do him slander;” D. “light To do it slander;” and St. “win the fight To die in slander.”
The meaning of the whole passage is thus put by Clarke: “Angelo may, under cover of my name, enforce the law, while I take no part in the exertion that is opposed to my nature, and might bring me blame.” Clarke reads “do it slander,” it referring of course to nature; and the sense is obviously the same whether we read it or me.
47. Bear me. Bear or conduct myself. The folio omits me, which Capell supplied. Pope reads “my person bear.”
51. Stands at a guard with. Is on his guard against; or “stands cautiously on his defence” (Mason). Johnson makes it = “stands on terms of defiance.”

Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 4