Measure for Measure, ACT III
SCENE I. A room in the prison.
Antony with Caesar’s body (Act 3, scene 2; mid- to late 19th century)
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.
[Within] What, ho! Peace here; grace and good company!
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 scaled. 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.
SCENE II. The street before the prison.
Enter, on one side, DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before; on the other, ELBOW, and Officers with POMPEY
Nay, if there be no remedy for it, but that you will
needs buy and sell men and women like beasts, we
shall have all the world drink brown and white bastard.
O heavens! what stuff is here
‘Twas never merry world since, of two usuries, the
merriest was put down, and the worser allowed by
order of law a furred gown to keep him warm; and
furred with fox and lamb-skins too, to signify, that
craft, being richer than innocency, stands for the facing.
Come your way, sir. ‘Bless you, good father friar.
And you, good brother father. What offence hath
this man made you, sir?
Marry, sir, he hath offended the law: and, sir, we
take him to be a thief too, sir; for we have found
upon him, sir, a strange picklock, which we have
sent to the deputy.
Fie, sirrah! a bawd, a wicked bawd!
The evil that thou causest to be done,
That is thy means to live. Do thou but think
What ’tis to cram a maw or clothe a back
From such a filthy vice: say to thyself,
From their abominable and beastly touches
I drink, I eat, array myself, and live.
Canst thou believe thy living is a life,
So stinkingly depending? Go mend, go mend.
Indeed, it does stink in some sort, sir; but yet,
sir, I would prove–
Nay, if the devil have given thee proofs for sin,
Thou wilt prove his. Take him to prison, officer:
Correction and instruction must both work
Ere this rude beast will profit.
He must before the deputy, sir; he has given him
warning: the deputy cannot abide a whoremaster: if
he be a whoremonger, and comes before him, he were
as good go a mile on his errand.
That we were all, as some would seem to be,
From our faults, as faults from seeming, free!
His neck will come to your waist,–a cord, sir.
I spy comfort; I cry bail. Here’s a gentleman and a
friend of mine.
How now, noble Pompey! What, at the wheels of
Caesar? art thou led in triumph? What, is there
none of Pygmalion’s images, newly made woman, to be
had now, for putting the hand in the pocket and
extracting it clutch’d? What reply, ha? What
sayest thou to this tune, matter and method? Is’t
not drowned i’ the last rain, ha? What sayest
thou, Trot? Is the world as it was, man? Which is
the way? Is it sad, and few words? or how? The
trick of it?
Still thus, and thus; still worse!
How doth my dear morsel, thy mistress? Procures she
Troth, sir, she hath eaten up all her beef, and she
is herself in the tub.
Why, ’tis good; it is the right of it; it must be
so: ever your fresh whore and your powdered bawd:
an unshunned consequence; it must be so. Art going
to prison, Pompey?
Yes, faith, sir.
Why, ’tis not amiss, Pompey. Farewell: go, say I
sent thee thither. For debt, Pompey? or how?
For being a bawd, for being a bawd.
Well, then, imprison him: if imprisonment be the
due of a bawd, why, ’tis his right: bawd is he
doubtless, and of antiquity too; bawd-born.
Farewell, good Pompey. Commend me to the prison,
Pompey: you will turn good husband now, Pompey; you
will keep the house.
I hope, sir, your good worship will be my bail.
No, indeed, will I not, Pompey; it is not the wear.
I will pray, Pompey, to increase your bondage: If
you take it not patiently, why, your mettle is the
more. Adieu, trusty Pompey. ‘Bless you, friar.
Does Bridget paint still, Pompey, ha?
Come your ways, sir; come.
You will not bail me, then, sir?
Then, Pompey, nor now. What news abroad, friar?
Come your ways, sir; come.
Go to kennel, Pompey; go.
Exeunt ELBOW, POMPEY and Officers
What news, friar, of the duke?
I know none. Can you tell me of any?
Some say he is with the Emperor of Russia; other
some, he is in Rome: but where is he, think you?
I know not where; but wheresoever, I wish him well.
It was a mad fantastical trick of him to steal from
the state, and usurp the beggary he was never born
to. Lord Angelo dukes it well in his absence; he
puts transgression to ‘t.
He does well in ‘t.
A little more lenity to lechery would do no harm in
him: something too crabbed that way, friar.
It is too general a vice, and severity must cure it.
Yes, in good sooth, the vice is of a great kindred;
it is well allied: but it is impossible to extirp
it quite, friar, till eating and drinking be put
down. They say this Angelo was not made by man and
woman after this downright way of creation: is it
true, think you?
How should he be made, then?
Some report a sea-maid spawned him; some, that he
was begot between two stock-fishes. But it is
certain that when he makes water his urine is
congealed ice; that I know to be true: and he is a
motion generative; that’s infallible.
You are pleasant, sir, and speak apace.
Why, what a ruthless thing is this in him, for the
rebellion of a codpiece to take away the life of a
man! Would the duke that is absent have done this?
Ere he would have hanged a man for the getting a
hundred bastards, he would have paid for the nursing
a thousand: he had some feeling of the sport: he
knew the service, and that instructed him to mercy.
I never heard the absent duke much detected for
women; he was not inclined that way.
O, sir, you are deceived.
‘Tis not possible.
Who, not the duke? yes, your beggar of fifty; and
his use was to put a ducat in her clack-dish: the
duke had crotchets in him. He would be drunk too;
that let me inform you.
You do him wrong, surely.
Sir, I was an inward of his. A shy fellow was the
duke: and I believe I know the cause of his
What, I prithee, might be the cause?
No, pardon; ’tis a secret must be locked within the
teeth and the lips: but this I can let you
understand, the greater file of the subject held the
duke to be wise.
Wise! why, no question but he was.
A very superficial, ignorant, unweighing fellow.
Either this is the envy in you, folly, or mistaking:
the very stream of his life and the business he hath
helmed must upon a warranted need give him a better
proclamation. Let him be but testimonied in his own
bringings-forth, and he shall appear to the
envious a scholar, a statesman and a soldier.
Therefore you speak unskilfully: or if your
knowledge be more it is much darkened in your malice.
Sir, I know him, and I love him.
Love talks with better knowledge, and knowledge with
Come, sir, I know what I know.
I can hardly believe that, since you know not what
you speak. But, if ever the duke return, as our
prayers are he may, let me desire you to make your
answer before him. If it be honest you have spoke,
you have courage to maintain it: I am bound to call
upon you; and, I pray you, your name?
Sir, my name is Lucio; well known to the duke.
He shall know you better, sir, if I may live to
I fear you not.
O, you hope the duke will return no more; or you
imagine me too unhurtful an opposite. But indeed I
can do you little harm; you’ll forswear this again.
I’ll be hanged first: thou art deceived in me,
friar. But no more of this. Canst thou tell if
Claudio die to-morrow or no?
Why should he die, sir?
Why? For filling a bottle with a tundish. I would
the duke we talk of were returned again: the
ungenitured agent will unpeople the province with
continency; sparrows must not build in his
house-eaves, because they are lecherous. The duke
yet would have dark deeds darkly answered; he would
never bring them to light: would he were returned!
Marry, this Claudio is condemned for untrussing.
Farewell, good friar: I prithee, pray for me. The
duke, I say to thee again, would eat mutton on
Fridays. He’s not past it yet, and I say to thee,
he would mouth with a beggar, though she smelt brown
bread and garlic: say that I said so. Farewell.
No might nor greatness in mortality
Can censure ‘scape; back-wounding calumny
The whitest virtue strikes. What king so strong
Can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue?
But who comes here?
Enter ESCALUS, Provost, and Officers with MISTRESS OVERDONE
Go; away with her to prison!
Good my lord, be good to me; your honour is accounted
a merciful man; good my lord.
Double and treble admonition, and still forfeit in
the same kind! This would make mercy swear and play
A bawd of eleven years’ continuance, may it please
My lord, this is one Lucio’s information against me.
Mistress Kate Keepdown was with child by him in the
duke’s time; he promised her marriage: his child
is a year and a quarter old, come Philip and Jacob:
I have kept it myself; and see how he goes about to abuse me!
That fellow is a fellow of much licence: let him be
called before us. Away with her to prison! Go to;
no more words.
Exeunt Officers with MISTRESS OVERDONE
Provost, my brother Angelo will not be altered;
Claudio must die to-morrow: let him be furnished
with divines, and have all charitable preparation.
if my brother wrought by my pity, it should not be
so with him.
So please you, this friar hath been with him, and
advised him for the entertainment of death.
Good even, good father.
Bliss and goodness on you!
Of whence are you?
Not of this country, though my chance is now
To use it for my time: I am a brother
Of gracious order, late come from the See
In special business from his holiness.
What news abroad i’ the world?
None, but that there is so great a fever on
goodness, that the dissolution of it must cure it:
novelty is only in request; and it is as dangerous
to be aged in any kind of course, as it is virtuous
to be constant in any undertaking. There is scarce
truth enough alive to make societies secure; but
security enough to make fellowships accurst: much
upon this riddle runs the wisdom of the world. This
news is old enough, yet it is every day’s news. I
pray you, sir, of what disposition was the duke?
One that, above all other strifes, contended
especially to know himself.
What pleasure was he given to?
Rather rejoicing to see another merry, than merry at
any thing which professed to make him rejoice: a
gentleman of all temperance. But leave we him to
his events, with a prayer they may prove prosperous;
and let me desire to know how you find Claudio
prepared. I am made to understand that you have
lent him visitation.
He professes to have received no sinister measure
from his judge, but most willingly humbles himself
to the determination of justice: yet had he framed
to himself, by the instruction of his frailty, many
deceiving promises of life; which I by my good
leisure have discredited to him, and now is he
resolved to die.
You have paid the heavens your function, and the
prisoner the very debt of your calling. I have
laboured for the poor gentleman to the extremest
shore of my modesty: but my brother justice have I
found so severe, that he hath forced me to tell him
he is indeed Justice.
If his own life answer the straitness of his
proceeding, it shall become him well; wherein if he
chance to fail, he hath sentenced himself.
I am going to visit the prisoner. Fare you well.
Peace be with you!
Exeunt ESCALUS and Provost
He who the sword of heaven will bear
Should be as holy as severe;
Pattern in himself to know,
Grace to stand, and virtue go;
More nor less to others paying
Than by self-offences weighing.
Shame to him whose cruel striking
Kills for faults of his own liking!
Twice treble shame on Angelo,
To weed my vice and let his grow!
O, what may man within him hide,
Though angel on the outward side!
How may likeness made in crimes,
Making practise on the times,
To draw with idle spiders’ strings
Most ponderous and substantial things!
Craft against vice I must apply:
With Angelo to-night shall lie
His old betrothed but despised;
So disguise shall, by the disguised,
Pay with falsehood false exacting,
And perform an old contracting.