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ACT III SCENE I
A room in the prison.
Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before, CLAUDIO, and Provost
So then you hope of pardon from Lord Angelo?
The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope:
I've hope to live, and am prepared to die.
Be absolute for death; either death or life
Shall thereby be the sweeter. Reason thus with life:
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art,
Servile to all the skyey influences,
That dost this habitation, where thou keep'st,
Hourly afflict: merely, thou art death's fool;
For him thou labour'st by thy flight to shun
And yet runn'st toward him still. Thou art not noble;
For all the accommodations that thou bear'st
Are nursed by baseness. Thou'rt by no means valiant;
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
Of a poor worm. Thy best of rest is sleep,
And that thou oft provokest; yet grossly fear'st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself;
For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou strivest to get,
And what thou hast, forget'st. Thou art not certain;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,
After the moon. If thou art rich, thou'rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear's thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none;
For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,
For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth nor age,
But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,
Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth
Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich,
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,
To make thy riches pleasant. What's yet in this
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid moe thousand deaths: yet death we fear,
That makes these odds all even.
I humbly thank you.
To sue to live, I find I seek to die;
And, seeking death, find life: let it come on.
Who's there? come in: the wish deserves a welcome.
Dear sir, ere long I'll visit you again.
Most holy sir, I thank you.
My business is a word or two with Claudio.
And very welcome. Look, signior, here's your sister.
Provost, a word with you.
As many as you please.
Bring me to hear them speak, where I may be concealed.
Exeunt DUKE VINCENTIO and Provost.
Now, sister, what's the comfort?
As all comforts are; most good, most good indeed.
Lord Angelo, having affairs to heaven,
Intends you for his swift ambassador,
Where you shall be an everlasting leiger:
Therefore your best appointment make with speed;
To-morrow you set on.
Is there no remedy?
None, but such remedy as, to save a head,
To cleave a heart in twain.
But is there any?
Yes, brother, you may live:
There is a devilish mercy in the judge,
If you'll implore it, that will free your life,
But fetter you till death.
Ay, just; perpetual durance, a restraint,
Though all the world's vastidity you had,
To a determined scope.
But in what nature?
In such a one as, you consenting to't,
Would bark your honour from that trunk you bear,
And leave you naked.
Let me know the point.
O, I do fear thee, Claudio; and I quake,
Lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain,
And six or seven winters more respect
Than a perpetual honour. Darest thou die?
The sense of death is most in apprehension;
And the poor beetle, that we tread upon,
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies.
Why give you me this shame?
Think you I can a resolution fetch
From flowery tenderness? If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride,
And hug it in mine arms.
There spake my brother; there my father's grave
Did utter forth a voice. Yes, thou must die:
Thou art too noble to conserve a life
In base appliances. This outward-sainted deputy,
Whose settled visage and deliberate word
Nips youth i' the head and follies doth emmew
As falcon doth the fowl, is yet a devil
His filth within being cast, he would appear
A pond as deep as hell.
The prenzie Angelo!
O, 'tis the cunning livery of hell,
The damned'st body to invest and cover
In prenzie guards! Dost thou think, Claudio?
If I would yield him my virginity,
Thou mightst be freed.
O heavens! it cannot be.
Yes, he would give't thee, from this rank offence,
So to offend him still. This night's the time
That I should do what I abhor to name,
Or else thou diest to-morrow.
Thou shalt not do't.
O, were it but my life,
I'ld throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.
Thanks, dear Isabel.
Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow.
Yes. Has he affections in him,
That thus can make him bite the law by the nose,
When he would force it? Sure, it is no sin,
Or of the deadly seven, it is the least.
Which is the least?
If it were damnable, he being so wise,
Why would he for the momentary trick
Be perdurably fined? O Isabel!
What says my brother?
Death is a fearful thing.
And shamed life a hateful.
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling: 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
Sweet sister, let me live:
What sin you do to save a brother's life,
Nature dispenses with the deed so far
That it becomes a virtue.
O you beast!
O faithless coward! O dishonest wretch!
Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice?
Is't not a kind of incest, to take life
From thine own sister's shame? What should I think?
Heaven shield my mother play'd my father fair!
For such a warped slip of wilderness
Ne'er issued from his blood. Take my defiance!
Die, perish! Might but my bending down
Reprieve thee from thy fate, it should proceed:
I'll pray a thousand prayers for thy death,
No word to save thee.
Nay, hear me, Isabel.
O, fie, fie, fie!
Thy sin's not accidental, but a trade.
Mercy to thee would prove itself a bawd:
'Tis best thou diest quickly.
O hear me, Isabella!
Re-enter DUKE VINCENTIO.
Vouchsafe a word, young sister, but one word.
What is your will?
Might you dispense with your leisure, I would by and
by have some speech with you: the satisfaction I
would require is likewise your own benefit.
I have no superfluous leisure; my stay must be
stolen out of other affairs; but I will attend you awhile.
Son, I have overheard what hath passed between you
and your sister. Angelo had never the purpose to
corrupt her; only he hath made an essay of her
virtue to practise his judgment with the disposition
of natures: she, having the truth of honour in her,
hath made him that gracious denial which he is most
glad to receive. I am confessor to Angelo, and I
know this to be true; therefore prepare yourself to
death: do not satisfy your resolution with hopes
that are fallible: tomorrow you must die; go to
your knees and make ready.
Let me ask my sister pardon. I am so out of love
with life that I will sue to be rid of it.
Hold you there: farewell.
Provost, a word with you!
What's your will, father
That now you are come, you will be gone. Leave me
awhile with the maid: my mind promises with my
habit no loss shall touch her by my company.
In good time.
Exit Provost. ISABELLA comes forward.
The hand that hath made you fair hath made you good:
the goodness that is cheap in beauty makes beauty
brief in goodness; but grace, being the soul of
your complexion, shall keep the body of it ever
fair. The assault that Angelo hath made to you,
fortune hath conveyed to my understanding; and, but
that frailty hath examples for his falling, I should
wonder at Angelo. How will you do to content this
substitute, and to save your brother?
I am now going to resolve him: I had rather my
brother die by the law than my son should be
unlawfully born. But, O, how much is the good duke
deceived in Angelo! If ever he return and I can
speak to him, I will open my lips in vain, or
discover his government.
That shall not be much amiss: Yet, as the matter
now stands, he will avoid your accusation; he made
trial of you only. Therefore fasten your ear on my
advisings: to the love I have in doing good a
remedy presents itself. I do make myself believe
that you may most uprighteously do a poor wronged
lady a merited benefit; redeem your brother from
the angry law; do no stain to your own gracious
person; and much please the absent duke, if
peradventure he shall ever return to have hearing of
Let me hear you speak farther. I have spirit to do
anything that appears not foul in the truth of my spirit.
Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful. Have
you not heard speak of Mariana, the sister of
Frederick the great soldier who miscarried at sea?
I have heard of the lady, and good words went with her name.
She should this Angelo have married; was affianced
to her by oath, and the nuptial appointed: between
which time of the contract and limit of the
solemnity, her brother Frederick was wrecked at sea,
having in that perished vessel the dowry of his
sister. But mark how heavily this befell to the
poor gentlewoman: there she lost a noble and
renowned brother, in his love toward her ever most
kind and natural; with him, the portion and sinew of
her fortune, her marriage-dowry; with both, her
combinate husband, this well-seeming Angelo.
Can this be so? did Angelo so leave her?
Left her in her tears, and dried not one of them
with his comfort; swallowed his vows whole,
pretending in her discoveries of dishonour: in few,
bestowed her on her own lamentation, which she yet
wears for his sake; and he, a marble to her tears,
is washed with them, but relents not.
What a merit were it in death to take this poor maid
from the world! What corruption in this life, that
it will let this man live! But how out of this can she avail?
It is a rupture that you may easily heal: and the
cure of it not only saves your brother, but keeps
you from dishonour in doing it.
Show me how, good father.
This forenamed maid hath yet in her the continuance
of her first affection: his unjust unkindness, that
in all reason should have quenched her love, hath,
like an impediment in the current, made it more
violent and unruly. Go you to Angelo; answer his
requiring with a plausible obedience; agree with
his demands to the point; only refer yourself to
this advantage, first, that your stay with him may
not be long; that the time may have all shadow and
silence in it; and the place answer to convenience.
This being granted in course,--and now follows
all,--we shall advise this wronged maid to stead up
your appointment, go in your place; if the encounter
acknowledge itself hereafter, it may compel him to
her recompense: and here, by this, is your brother
saved, your honour untainted, the poor Mariana
advantaged, and the corrupt deputy foiled. The maid
will I frame and make fit for his attempt. If you
think well to carry this as you may, the doubleness
of the benefit defends the deceit from reproof.
What think you of it?
The image of it gives me content already; and I
trust it will grow to a most prosperous perfection.
It lies much in your holding up. Haste you speedily
to Angelo: if for this night he entreat you to his
bed, give him promise of satisfaction. I will
presently to Saint Luke's: there, at the moated
grange, resides this dejected Mariana. At that
place call upon me; and dispatch with Angelo, that
it may be quickly.
I thank you for this comfort. Fare you well, good father.
Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 1
From Measure for Measure. Ed. William J. Rolfe. New York: Harper & Brothers., 1899.
5.Be absolute for death. Make up your mind fully for
10.That dost, etc. The reading of the folios, changed by Hanmer to
"That do." Even if that refers to influences, the irregularity would be
not unlike many others in S.; but possibly Porson was right in making
breath the antecedent. W. says that to "make the breath hourly afflict
its habitation" is "an absurd result." An asthmatic might not admit
this, but all that the duke means is that life itself may become a burden
from being at the mercy of the skyey influences. Indeed, is not this the
meaning with either construction? In the one case the breath is an affliction because servile to the skyey influences; in the other, it is servile
to these influences that afilict it.
W. suggests that we should read influence both here and in W. T. i. 2.
426, as the rhythm seems to require; "for influence was then a word without a plural, and was used, especially when applied to the heavenly bodies (to which service it was then almost set apart) in its radical sense
of in-flowing, and then in the singular form, even when all those bodies
are spoken of." Cf. Milton, P. L. viii. 512, x. 663, Comus. 330, 335, etc. Bacon, however, has the plural in Essay 9: "the evill Influences of the Starrs." See also Job, xxxviii. 31.
11.Death's fool. In the ancient "dumb-shows" Death and the Fool
were common characters. The latter is made to employ all his tricks in
trying to escape from the former, but finally runs into his clutches.
15.Are nurs'd by baseness. "Whatever grandeur can display or luxury
enjoy is procured by baseness, by offices of which the mind shrinks from
the contemplation. All the delicacies of the table may be traced back
to the shambles and the dunghill, all magnificence of building was hewn
from the quarry, and all the pomp of ornament dug from among the
damps and darkness of the mine" (Johnson). Cf. A. ana C. i. I. 35 and
v. 2. 7.
17.Worm. Serpent; as in A. and C. v. 2. 243, 256, etc. For the old
notion that the serpent wounds with its forked tongue, cf. M. N. D. iii. 2.
18.Provok'st. Dost invoke, or seek. Cf. Lear, iv. 4. 13: "that to
provoke in him" (referring to sleep).
19.Death, which is no more. Johnson remarks: "I cannot without indignation find S. saying that death is only sleep, lengthening out his exhortation by a sentence which in the friar is impious, in the reasoner is
foolish, and in the poet trite and vulgar." But, as Malone replies, the
poet means only "that the passage from this life to another is easy as sleep; a position in which there is surely neither folly nor impiety."
20.Exist'st. The folio has "exists," for which see on ii. 2. 116 above.
24.Effects. Expressions. Johnson wanted to read "affects" (= "affections, passions of mind"). It is not necessary, however, to refer complexion to the mind, as he and some other critics do; it may mean the
face as expressive of the shifting emotions within. Cf. W. T. i. 2. 381: "Your chang'd complexions are to me a mirror," etc.
29.Sire. The reading of the 4th folio; the earlier folios have "fire."
31.Serpigo. A cutaneous eruption; mentioned again in T. and C. ii.
3. 81. Here the 1st folio has "sapego," the other folios "sarpego."
34.Dreaming on both. "This is exquisitely imagined. When we are
young, we busy ourselves in forming schemes for succeeding time, and
miss the gratifications that are before us; when we are old, we amuse
the languor of age with the recollection of youthful pleasures or performances: so that our life, of which no part is filled with the business of the present time, resembles our dreams after dinner, when the events of the
morning are mingled with the designs of the evening" (Johnson).
For blessed Johnson conjectured "blasted," and the Coll. MS. has
35.Becomes as aged, etc. This has been suspected, not without reason,
and sundry attempts at emendation have been made: "becomes an indigent" (Hanmer); "becomes assuaged" (Warb.); "becomes engaged" (the conjecture of St.); "becomes enaged" (that of W.); "becomes abased" (that of the Camb. editors), etc. Clarke explains the old text thus: "becomes as if it were aged, carkingly coveting those things that
Delong to old people such as riches, experience, etc." J. H. paraphrases it thus: "Thy youth devotes all its freshness, vigour, etc., to make provision for old age; as if old age were present in youth and then craving
36.Eld. Cf. M. W. iv. 4. 36: "The superstitious, idle-headed eld." In
T. and C. ii. 2. 104, the modern reading is "Virgins and boys, mid-age and wrinkled eld;" but the folios have "old " and the quarto "elders."
40.Moe thousand deaths. A thousand more deaths. 46.Sir. Mason thinks this "too courtly" for the friar, who elsewhere
addresses Claudio and Isabella as son and daughter, and conjectures that
we should read "son."
52.Bring me, etc. The 1st folio reads "Bring them to hear me speak,"
and the later folios "Bring them to speak." The emendation was suggested by Steevens.
58.Lieger. A resident ambassador. Cf. Cymb. p. 174. The editors generally follow the folio in spelling the word "leiger." Capell has "ledger." Steevens quotes Leicester's Commonwealth: "a special man
of that hasty king, who was his ledger, or agent, in London." Wb. gives
lieger and leger.
59.Appointment. Equipment, preparation. Cf. Ham. p. 253.
67.Ay, just. Cf. V. I. 200 below. See also Much Ado, ii. i. 29, v. i.
68.Vastidity. Vastness, immensity; used by S. only here. The folios
have "Through" for Though; corrected by Pope.
69.To a determined scope. "A confinement of your mind to one painful idea to ignominy of which the remembrance can neither be suppressed nor escaped" (Johnson).
74.Entertain. Desire to maintain.
78.And the poor beetle, etc. "That is, fear is the principal sensation
in death, which has no pain; and the giant, when he dies, feels no greater
pain than the beetle" (Douce).
79.Sufferance. Suffering; as in 2 Hen. IV. v. 4. 28, Cor. i. i. 22, Lear,
iii. 6. 113, etc.
81.Think you I can, etc. The meaning is not clear, though the editors
generally pass the question without comment. We are inclined to think that Schmidt is right in making from flowery tenderness = "from a tender woman, 'whose action is no stronger than a flower' (Sonn. 65. 4)."
Clarke understands that "Claudio asks his sister whether she thinks he can derive courage from a figurative illustration that of the 'poor beetle.'" H. is doubtful about the meaning, but thinks it may be "Do you
think me so effeminate in soul as to be capable of an unmanly resolution? or, such a milksop as to quail and collapse at the prospect of death?'" Heath would make the sentence imperative, and = "Do me the justice to
think that I am able to draw a resolution even from this tenderness of youth, which is commonly found to be less easily reconciled to so sudden and harsh a fate;" but we cannot imagine Claudio applying the expression flowery tenderness to himself. It seems to be used with a touch of
contempt for the weak girl who thinks that he needs to be nerved up to resolution in the face of death, and that she can inspire him with it.
87.Conserve. Preserve. The only other instance of the word in S. is in Oth, iii. 4. 75 ]: "Conserved of maidens' hearts;" where, by the way, Schmidt would read "with the skilful Conserves," etc.
90.Follies doth emmew. "Forces follies to lie in cover, without daring to show themselves" (Johnson). Steevens compares 3 Hen. VI. i. 45:
"Neither the king nor he that loves him best,
The proudest he that holds up Lancaster,
Dares siir a wing, if Warwick shake his bells.'"
93.Priestly. The 1st folio has "prenzie," both here and in 96 below;
and attempts have been made to explain that word: by comparison with
the Scottish primsie ( = demure, precise), by connecting it with the old
Fr. prin (= demure), etc. It has not, however, been proved to be English,
and is pretty clearly a misprint for priestly (Hanmer's emendation) or
some other word. The 2nd folio has "princely," K. "precise" (the conjecture of Tieck), and St. "rev'rend." "Saintly," "pensive," "primsie," etc., have also been proposed. W. and H. adopt priestly.
96.Guards. Literally = facings, or trimmings (see Much Ado, p. 124),
and hence applied to outward appearances. Cf. the use of the verb in
M. of V. ii. 2. 164:
"Give him a livery
More guarded than his fellows'," etc.
99.He would give't thee, etc. He would allow thee, in consequence of this offence of mine, to go on offending in this way forever. For still = ever, cf. iv. 2. 129, v. i. 406, 467 below. Gr. 69. Hanmer changes from to "for."
107.Has he affections, etc. "Is he actuated by passions that impel
him to transgress the law, at the very moment that he is enforcing it against others?" (Malone) To bite the law by the nose is rather to treat it with contempt.
110.The deadly seven. These were pride, envy, wrath, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, and lechery (Douce).
114Perdurably fin'd. Everlastingly punished.
120.Delighted. Accustomed to delight; as Warb. and Johnson explained it. Cf. Gr. 375. "Dilated," "delinquent," "benighted," "deiated," etc., have been proposed.
122.Region. Changed by Rowe (followed by many editors) to "regions;" but, as Dr. Ingleby contends, region is here "used as an abstract, and in the radical sense," and = "restricted place, or confinement." He
adds that Carlyle appears so to have understood it; for in his Heroes and
Hero- Worship he paraphrases it as "imprisonment of thick-ribbed ice."
So just below thought (for which Theo. reads "thoughts") is abstract and
the object of imagine. Incertain unsettled. Dr. Ingleby paraphrases
the latter part of the passage thus: "or to be in an infinitely worse case
than those who body forth or render objective their own lawless and
124.And blown, etc. Cf. 0th. v. 2. 279: "Blow me about in winds I
Koast me in sulphur!"
133.What sin you do, etc. The following note is from V.: "'One of
the most dramatic passages in the present play (says Hazlitt, in his
Characters of Shakespeare's Plays), is the interview between Claudio and
his sister, when she comes to inform him of the conditions on which
Angelo will spare his life. What adds to the dramatic beauty of the
scene, and the effect of Claudio's passionate attachment to life, is that it immediately follows the duke's lecture to him, in the character. of the
friar, recommending an absolute indifference to it.' The attempt of
Claudio to prove to his sister that the loss of her chastity, upon such an occasion, will be a virtue, is finely characteristic of the profound knowledge Shakespeare possessed of the intricate complexities of the human
heart. 'Shakespeare was, in one sense, the least moral of all writers, (says Hazlitt); for morality (commonly so called) is made up of antipathies; and his talent consisted in sympathy with human nature, in all
its shapes, degrees, depressions, and elevations. The object of the pedantic moralist is to find out the bad in every thing: his was to show
that "there is some soul of goodness in things evil."' With reference
to the representation of such scenes on the stage, Schlegel observes: 'It is certainly to be wished that decency should be observed on all
public occasions, and consequently also on the stage; but even in this
It is possible to go too far. That censorious spirit, which scents out impurity in every sally of a bold and vivacious description, is at best but an ambiguous criterion of purity of morals; and there is frequently concealed under this hypocrisy the consciousness of an impure imagination. The determination to tolerate nothing which has the least reference to the sensual relation between the two sexes may be carried to a pitch
extremely oppressive to a dramatic poet, and injurious to the boldness and freedom of his composition. If considerations of such a nature were to be attended to, many of the happiest parts of the plays of Shakepeare for example, in Measure for Measure and All's Well that Ends
Well which are handled with a due regard to decency, must be set
aside for their impropriety.'"
140.Heaven shield my mother play'd my father fair" God grant that
thou wert not my father's true son!" (Schmidt). 141.Wilderness. Wildness. Slip of wilderness = wild slip. Steevens
quotes Old Fortunatus 1600: "But I in wilderness totter'd out my
142.Defiance. Indignant refusal. Cf. defy = refuse, spurn; as in K. John, iii. 4. 23: "No, I defy all counsel, all redress," etc.
148.A trade. "A custom, a practice, an established habit" (Johnson).
160.Assay. Trial, test.
165.Do not satisfy, etc. "Do not feed your resolution or sustain
your courage with hopes that are groundless" (Clarke). Schmidt
paraphrases it thus: "Do not set yourself at ease, do not gratify yourself, who were just now resolved to die, with false hopes." Hanmer
changes satisfy to "falsify," and H. to "qualify" (= abate, weaken).
170.Hold you there. "There rest" (ii. 3. 36 above), remain in that
frame of mind.
176.In good time. "A la bonne heure, so be it, very well" (Steevens).
178.The goodness that is cheap, etc. "The goodness which, when associated with beauty, is held cheap, does not remain long so associated;
but grace, being the very life of your features, must continue to preserve
their beauty" (V.).
183.How will you, etc. The Var. of 1821 has "would" for will; not
noted in the Camb. ed.
185.Resolve. Inform, answer. Cf. Rich. III. p. 224.
189.Discover. Uncover, expose; as in Lear, ii. 1.68: "I threaten'd
to discover him," etc.
191.He made trial of you only. That is, he will say so.
194.Uprighteously. "Uprightly" (Pope's reading), righteously; used
by S. only here.
203.Miscarried. Was lost. Cf. M. of V. ii. 8. 29: "there miscarried
a vessel of our country;" Id. iii. 2. 318: "my ships have all miscarried," etc.
206.She should this Angelo, etc. Pope "corrected" she to "her." Cf.
207.By oath. The 1st folio omits by, which the 2nd supplies. Nuptial. The plural is not found in the 1st folio. It occurs in the later folios in Temp. v. 1. 308, M. N. D. I. i. 125, v. 1. 75; and in the
quartos in 0th. ii. 2. 8. Cf. Temp. p. 143.
208.Limit. "Appointed time" (Malone).
209.Wracked. The only form in the early eds. Cf. C. of E. p. 144,
note on Wrack of sea.
214.Combinate. Contracted, betrothed; the only instance of the word
219.In few. In short. See on i. 4. 39 above.
Bestowed her on her own lamentation. "Left her to her sorrows"
221.Tears. The later folios misprint "ears."
234.Refer yourself to. "Have recourse to, betake yourself to" (Steevens).
239.Stead up your appointment. That is, keep it in your stead. We
have already had the verb in i. 4. 17 above.
243.Foiled. The early eds. have "scaled," which has been explained
as = "weighed," and by others as = "stripped" or "unmasked." We have little hesitation in accepting White's emendation of foiled.
252.Grange. A solitary farm-house. Cf. Oth. i. i. 106:
"What tell'st thou me of robbing? This is Venice;
My house is not a grange."