directory
home contact

Measure for Measure

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes and related resources.

ACT I SCENE IV  A nunnery. 
 Enter ISABELLA and FRANCISCA. 
ISABELLA And have you nuns no farther privileges? 
FRANCISCA Are not these large enough? 
ISABELLA Yes, truly; I speak not as desiring more; 
 But rather wishing a more strict restraint
 Upon the sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare. 5 
LUCIO Within. 
ISABELLA Who's that which calls? 
FRANCISCA It is a man's voice. Gentle Isabella, 
 Turn you the key, and know his business of him; 
 You may, I may not; you are yet unsworn.
 When you have vow'd, you must not speak with men 10 
 But in the presence of the prioress: 
 Then, if you speak, you must not show your face, 
 Or, if you show your face, you must not speak. 
 He calls again; I pray you, answer him.
 Exit. 
ISABELLA Peace and prosperity! Who is't that calls 
 Enter LUCIO 
LUCIO Hail, virgin, if you be, as those cheek-roses 
 Proclaim you are no less! Can you so stead me 17 
 As bring me to the sight of Isabella, 
 A novice of this place and the fair sister
 To her unhappy brother Claudio? 
ISABELLA Why 'her unhappy brother'? let me ask, 
 The rather for I now must make you know 
 I am that Isabella and his sister. 
LUCIO Gentle and fair, your brother kindly greets you:
 Not to be weary with you, he's in prison. 
ISABELLA Woe me! for what? 
LUCIO For that which, if myself might be his judge, 27 
 He should receive his punishment in thanks: 
 He hath got his friend with child.
ISABELLA Sir, make me not your story. 
LUCIO It is true. 
 I would not--though 'tis my familiar sin 
 With maids to seem the lapwing and to jest, 32 
 Tongue far from heart--play with all virgins so:
 I hold you as a thing ensky'd and sainted. 
 By your renouncement an immortal spirit, 
 And to be talk'd with in sincerity, 
 As with a saint. 
ISABELLA You do blaspheme the good in mocking me.
LUCIO Do not believe it. Fewness and truth, 'tis thus: 39 
 Your brother and his lover have embraced: 
 As those that feed grow full, as blossoming time 
 That from the seedness the bare fallow brings 
 To teeming foison, even so her plenteous womb
 Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry. 44 
ISABELLA Some one with child by him? My cousin Juliet? 
LUCIO Is she your cousin? 
ISABELLA Adoptedly; as school-maids change their names 
 By vain though apt affection.
LUCIO She it is. 
ISABELLA O, let him marry her. 
LUCIO This is the point. 
 The duke is very strangely gone from hence; 
 Bore many gentlemen, myself being one, 55
 In hand and hope of action: but we do learn 
 By those that know the very nerves of state, 
 His givings-out were of an infinite distance 
 From his true-meant design. Upon his place, 
 And with full line of his authority,
 Governs Lord Angelo; a man whose blood 
 Is very snow-broth; one who never feels 
 The wanton stings and motions of the sense, 
 But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge 
 With profits of the mind, study and fast.
 He--to give fear to use and liberty, 62 
 Which have for long run by the hideous law, 
 As mice by lions--hath pick'd out an act, 
 Under whose heavy sense your brother's life 
 Falls into forfeit: he arrests him on it;
 And follows close the rigour of the statute, 
 To make him an example. All hope is gone, 
 Unless you have the grace by your fair prayer 69 
 To soften Angelo: and that's my pith of business 
 'Twixt you and your poor brother.
ISABELLA Doth he so seek his life? 
LUCIO Has censured him 
 Already; and, as I hear, the provost hath 
 A warrant for his execution. 
ISABELLA Alas! what poor ability's in me
 To do him good? 
LUCIO Assay the power you have. 
ISABELLA My power? Alas, I doubt-- 
LUCIO Our doubts are traitors 
 And make us lose the good we oft might win
 By fearing to attempt. Go to Lord Angelo, 
 And let him learn to know, when maidens sue, 
 Men give like gods; but when they weep and kneel, 
 All their petitions are as freely theirs 
 As they themselves would owe them. 83
ISABELLA I'll see what I can do. 
LUCIO But speedily. 
ISABELLA I will about it straight; 
 No longer staying but to give the mother 
 Notice of my affair. I humbly thank you:
 Commend me to my brother: soon at night 89 
 I'll send him certain word of my success. 
LUCIO I take my leave of you. 
ISABELLA Good sir, adieu. 
 Exeunt 

___________

Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 4

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

5. Votarists. For the feminine use, cf. Oth. iv. 2. 190. In T. of A. iv. 3. 27, Pope reads " Upon the sister votarists," etc.
17. Stead. Help, be of service to; as in M of V. i. 3. 7: "May you stead me?" Cf. Oth. p. 169.
27. For that which. Malone conjectured "That for which;" but the preposition is often omitted in the relative clause when it has been used with the antecedent. Cf. ii. i. 15 and ii. 2. 119 below. See also Gr. 394.
30. Make me not your story. Make me not your subject of mirth, or your jest. Cf. M. W. v. 5. 170: "I am your theme" (that is, the subject of your jests, your laughing-stock). The commentators have needlessly tinkered the passage. Malone reads "Mock me not; your story;" the Coll. MS. changes story to "scorn," and Sr. to "sport."
32. The lapwing. The bird builds its nest on the ground, and diverts attention from it by running or flying to a distance and attracting the sportsman thither by fluttering and crying. Cf. C. of E. iv. 2. 27:

"Far from her nest the lapwing cries away;
My heart prays for him, though my tongue do curse."

See our ed. p. 135.
35. Renouncement. Renunciation of the world as a nun. S. uses the word only here, renunciation not at all.
39. Fewness and truth. Briefly and truly. Cf. in few = in few words, in Hen. V. 1. 2. 245, etc. See also iii. i. 219 below, where it is = in short.
40. Lover. For the feminine use, cf. A. Y. L. iii. 4. 46, A. and C. iv. 14. 101, and Cymb. v. 5. 172. The poet's Lover's Complaint is the lament of a deserted maiden. Blakeway remarks that the word was used in this feminine sense long after the time of S., as by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in her Letters.
42. Seedness. A word not found elsewhere. The Coll. MS. has "seeding."
43. Foison. Plenty, harvest; as in Temp, ii. i. 163: "all foison, all abundance;" Id. iv. i. 1 10:" Earth's increase, foison plenty," etc.
44. Tilth. Tillage; as in Temp, ii. I. 152, and probably also in iv. i. 75 below, where the folio has "tithe." For the figure, cf. Sonn. 3. 5.
50. Is. The Coll. MS. has "who 's."
51. Bore many gentlemen, etc. To bear in hand was a common phrase for "keep in expectation, flatter with false hopes." See Macb. p. 208. Johnson wished to read "with hope of action."
54. Givings-out. The folio has "giving-out;" corrected by Rowe.
56. With full line. "With the full extent, with the whole length" (Johnson).
59. The wanton stings, etc. Cf. Oth. i. 3. 335: "our raging motions, our carnal stings."
60. Rebate. Make dull (Fr. rebattre); used by S. nowhere else.
62. To give fear to use. "To intimidate use, that is, practices long countenanced by custom " (Johnson). Schmidt makes use and liberty = "the practice of liberty, licentious practice."
69. Grace. Either "power of gaining favour" (Johnson), or "good fortune, happiness" (Schmidt); as in M. N, D. ii. 2. 89: "The more my prayer, the lesser is my grace," etc.
70. My pith of business. The pith of my business. Pope omits pith of.
72. Censur'd. Judged, passed sentence upon; as in ii. I. 15, 29 below.
Cf. Lear, v. 3. 3:" That are to censure them," etc.
82. Freely. The later folios have "truely."
83. Would owe them. Would have them. For owe = have, possess, cf. ii. 4. 123 below.
86. The mother. The abbess, or prioress.
89. Soon at night. This very night. See 2 Hen, IV, p. 204.

Measure for Measure, Act 2, Scene 1

________

Related Articles

 How to Pronounce the Names in Measure for Measure
 Measure for Measure: Detailed Plot Summary
 Shakespeare on Lawyers and the Law
 Introduction to Isabella from Measure for Measure
 Introduction to Angelo from Measure for Measure
 Introduction to the Duke from Measure for Measure
 Shakespeare's Sources for Measure for Measure
 Famous Quotations from Measure for Measure
 Shakespeare Quotations (by Play and Theme)
 Quotations About William Shakespeare

 Shakespeare's Language
 Exploring the Nature of Shakespearean Comedy
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels