home contact

Measure for Measure

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

ACT II SCENE II Another room in the same. 
 Enter Provost and a Servant. 
Servant He's hearing of a cause; he will come straight 
 I'll tell him of you. 
Provost Pray 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! 
 Enter ANGELO. 
ANGELO Now, what's the matter. Provost?
Provost Is it your will Claudio shall die tomorrow? 
ANGELO Did not I tell thee yea? hadst thou not order? 
 Why dost thou ask again? 
Provost Lest I might be too rash: 
 Under your good correction, I have seen,
 When, after execution, judgment hath 
 Repented o'er his doom. 
ANGELO Go to; let that be mine: 
 Do you your office, or give up your place, 
 And you shall well be spared.
Provost I crave your honour's pardon. 
 What shall be done, sir, with the groaning Juliet? 15 
 She's very near her hour. 
ANGELO Dispose of her 
 To some more fitter place, and that with speed.
 Re-enter Servant. 
Servant Here is the sister of the man condemn'd 
 Desires access to you. 
ANGELO Hath he a sister? 
Provost Ay, my good lord; a very virtuous maid, 
 And to be shortly of a sisterhood,
 If not already. 
ANGELO Well, 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.
Provost God save your honour! 25 
ANGELO Stay a little while. 
 You're welcome: what's your will? 
ISABELLA I am a woeful suitor to your honour, 
 Please but your honour hear me.
ANGELO Well; what's your suit? 
ISABELLA There 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. 
ANGELO Well; the matter? 
ISABELLA I have a brother is condemn'd to die: 
 I do beseech you, let it be his fault, 
 And not my brother.
Provost Aside. Heaven give thee moving graces! 
ANGELO Condemn 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.
ISABELLA O just but severe law! 
 I had a brother, then. Heaven keep your honour! 
LUCIO Aside 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! 
ISABELLA Must he needs die? 
ANGELO Maiden, no remedy. 
ISABELLA Yes; I do think that you might pardon him,
 And neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy. 50 
ANGELO I will not do't. 
ISABELLA But can you, if you would? 
ANGELO Look, what I will not, that I cannot do. 
ISABELLA But 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? 
ANGELO He's sentenced; 'tis too late. 
LUCIO Aside to ISABELLA. You are too cold. 
ISABELLA Too 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. 
ANGELO Pray you, be gone. 
ISABELLA I 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 
ANGELO Your brother is a forfeit of the law,
 And you but waste your words. 
ISABELLA Alas, 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. 
ANGELO Be 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. 
ISABELLA To-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.
LUCIO Aside to ISABELLA. Ay, well said. 
ANGELO The 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.
ISABELLA Yet show some pity. 
ANGELO I 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. 
ISABELLA So 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! 
LUCIO Aside to ISABELLA. That's wee said. 
ISABELLA Could 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.
LUCIO Aside to ISABELLA O, to him, to him wench! 
 He will relent; 
 He's coming; I perceive 't. 
Provost Aside. Pray heaven she win him! 
ISABELLA We cannot weigh our brother with ourself: 
 Great men may jest with saints; 'tis wit in them, 
 But in the less foul profanation.
LUCIO Thou'rt i' the right, girl; more o, that. 
ISABELLA That in the captain's but a choleric word, 130 
 Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy. 
LUCIO Aside to ISABELLA. Art avis'd o' that? More on't. 
ANGELO Why do you put these sayings upon me? 
ISABELLA Because 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. 
ANGELO Aside. She speaks, and 'tis 
 Such sense, that my sense breeds with it. Fare you well. 
ISABELLA Gentle my lord, turn back. 
ANGELO I will bethink me: come again tomorrow.
ISABELLA Hark how I'll bribe you: good my lord, turn back. 
ANGELO How! bribe me? 
ISABELLA Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you. 
LUCIO Aside to ISABELLA. You had marr'd all else. 
ISABELLA Not 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.
ANGELO Well; come to me to-morrow. 
LUCIO Aside to ISABELLA. Go to: 'tis well. Away! 
ISABELLA Heaven keep your honour safe! 
ANGELO Aside. Amen! 
 For I am that way going to temptation, 
 Where prayers cross. 
ISABELLA At what hour to-morrow
 Shall I attend your lordship? 
ANGELO At any time 'fore noon. 160 
ISABELLA 'Save your honour! 
 Exeunt ISABELLA, LUCIO, and Provost. 
ANGELO From 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


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