Measure for Measure, ACT IV
SCENE I. The moated grange at ST. LUKE’s.
Her mad scene (act IV, scene 5) is one of the best known in Western literature. Her madness and death and Hamlet’s behaviour at her graveside
Enter MARIANA and a Boy
Take, O, take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn;
And those eyes, the break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn:
But my kisses bring again, bring again;
Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.
Break off thy song, and haste thee quick away:
Here comes a man of comfort, whose advice
Hath often still’d my brawling discontent.
Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before
I cry you mercy, sir; and well could wish
You had not found me here so musical:
Let me excuse me, and believe me so,
My mirth it much displeased, but pleased my woe.
‘Tis good; though music oft hath such a charm
To make bad good, and good provoke to harm.
I pray, you, tell me, hath any body inquired
for me here to-day? much upon this time have
I promised here to meet.
You have not been inquired after:
I have sat here all day.
I do constantly believe you. The time is come even
now. I shall crave your forbearance a little: may
be I will call upon you anon, for some advantage to yourself.
I am always bound to you.
Very well met, and well come.
What is the news from this good deputy?
He hath a garden circummured with brick,
Whose western side is with a vineyard back’d;
And to that vineyard is a planched gate,
That makes his opening with this bigger key:
This other doth command a little door
Which from the vineyard to the garden leads;
There have I made my promise
Upon the heavy middle of the night
To call upon him.
But shall you on your knowledge find this way?
I have ta’en a due and wary note upon’t:
With whispering and most guilty diligence,
In action all of precept, he did show me
The way twice o’er.
Are there no other tokens
Between you ‘greed concerning her observance?
No, none, but only a repair i’ the dark;
And that I have possess’d him my most stay
Can be but brief; for I have made him know
I have a servant comes with me along,
That stays upon me, whose persuasion is
I come about my brother.
‘Tis well borne up.
I have not yet made known to Mariana
A word of this. What, ho! within! come forth!
I pray you, be acquainted with this maid;
She comes to do you good.
I do desire the like.
Do you persuade yourself that I respect you?
Good friar, I know you do, and have found it.
Take, then, this your companion by the hand,
Who hath a story ready for your ear.
I shall attend your leisure: but make haste;
The vaporous night approaches.
Will’t please you walk aside?
Exeunt MARIANA and ISABELLA
O place and greatness! millions of false eyes
Are stuck upon thee: volumes of report
Run with these false and most contrarious quests
Upon thy doings: thousand escapes of wit
Make thee the father of their idle dreams
And rack thee in their fancies.
Re-enter MARIANA and ISABELLA
Welcome, how agreed?
She’ll take the enterprise upon her, father,
If you advise it.
It is not my consent,
But my entreaty too.
Little have you to say
When you depart from him, but, soft and low,
‘Remember now my brother.’
Fear me not.
Nor, gentle daughter, fear you not at all.
He is your husband on a pre-contract:
To bring you thus together, ’tis no sin,
Sith that the justice of your title to him
Doth flourish the deceit. Come, let us go:
Our corn’s to reap, for yet our tithe’s to sow.
SCENE II. A room in the prison.
Enter Provost and POMPEY
Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off a man’s head?
If the man be a bachelor, sir, I can; but if he be a
married man, he’s his wife’s head, and I can never
cut off a woman’s head.
Come, sir, leave me your snatches, and yield me a
direct answer. To-morrow morning are to die Claudio
and Barnardine. Here is in our prison a common
executioner, who in his office lacks a helper: if
you will take it on you to assist him, it shall
redeem you from your gyves; if not, you shall have
your full time of imprisonment and your deliverance
with an unpitied whipping, for you have been a
Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of mind;
but yet I will be content to be a lawful hangman. I
would be glad to receive some instruction from my
What, ho! Abhorson! Where’s Abhorson, there?
Do you call, sir?
Sirrah, here’s a fellow will help you to-morrow in
your execution. If you think it meet, compound with
him by the year, and let him abide here with you; if
not, use him for the present and dismiss him. He
cannot plead his estimation with you; he hath been a bawd.
A bawd, sir? fie upon him! he will discredit our mystery.
Go to, sir; you weigh equally; a feather will turn
Pray, sir, by your good favour,–for surely, sir, a
good favour you have, but that you have a hanging
look,–do you call, sir, your occupation a mystery?
Ay, sir; a mystery
Painting, sir, I have heard say, is a mystery; and
your whores, sir, being members of my occupation,
using painting, do prove my occupation a mystery:
but what mystery there should be in hanging, if I
should be hanged, I cannot imagine.
Sir, it is a mystery.
Every true man’s apparel fits your thief: if it be
too little for your thief, your true man thinks it
big enough; if it be too big for your thief, your
thief thinks it little enough: so every true man’s
apparel fits your thief.
Are you agreed?
Sir, I will serve him; for I do find your hangman is
a more penitent trade than your bawd; he doth
oftener ask forgiveness.
You, sirrah, provide your block and your axe
to-morrow four o’clock.
Come on, bawd; I will instruct thee in my trade; follow.
I do desire to learn, sir: and I hope, if you have
occasion to use me for your own turn, you shall find
me yare; for truly, sir, for your kindness I owe you
a good turn.
Call hither Barnardine and Claudio:
Exeunt POMPEY and ABHORSON
The one has my pity; not a jot the other,
Being a murderer, though he were my brother.
Look, here’s the warrant, Claudio, for thy death:
‘Tis now dead midnight, and by eight to-morrow
Thou must be made immortal. Where’s Barnardine?
As fast lock’d up in sleep as guiltless labour
When it lies starkly in the traveller’s bones:
He will not wake.
Who can do good on him?
Well, go, prepare yourself.
But, hark, what noise?
Heaven give your spirits comfort!
By and by.
I hope it is some pardon or reprieve
For the most gentle Claudio.
Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before
The best and wholesomest spirts of the night
Envelope you, good Provost! Who call’d here of late?
None, since the curfew rung.
They will, then, ere’t be long.
What comfort is for Claudio?
There’s some in hope.
It is a bitter deputy.
Not so, not so; his life is parallel’d
Even with the stroke and line of his great justice:
He doth with holy abstinence subdue
That in himself which he spurs on his power
To qualify in others: were he meal’d with that
Which he corrects, then were he tyrannous;
But this being so, he’s just.
Now are they come.
This is a gentle provost: seldom when
The steeled gaoler is the friend of men.
How now! what noise? That spirit’s possessed with haste
That wounds the unsisting postern with these strokes.
There he must stay until the officer
Arise to let him in: he is call’d up.
Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,
But he must die to-morrow?
None, sir, none.
As near the dawning, provost, as it is,
You shall hear more ere morning.
You something know; yet I believe there comes
No countermand; no such example have we:
Besides, upon the very siege of justice
Lord Angelo hath to the public ear
Profess’d the contrary.
Enter a Messenger
This is his lordship’s man.
And here comes Claudio’s pardon.
[Giving a paper]
My lord hath sent you this note; and by me this
further charge, that you swerve not from the
smallest article of it, neither in time, matter, or
other circumstance. Good morrow; for, as I take it,
it is almost day.
I shall obey him.
[Aside] This is his pardon, purchased by such sin
For which the pardoner himself is in.
Hence hath offence his quick celerity,
When it is born in high authority:
When vice makes mercy, mercy’s so extended,
That for the fault’s love is the offender friended.
Now, sir, what news?
I told you. Lord Angelo, belike thinking me remiss
in mine office, awakens me with this unwonted
putting-on; methinks strangely, for he hath not used it before.
Pray you, let’s hear.
‘Whatsoever you may hear to the contrary, let
Claudio be executed by four of the clock; and in the
afternoon Barnardine: for my better satisfaction,
let me have Claudio’s head sent me by five. Let
this be duly performed; with a thought that more
depends on it than we must yet deliver. Thus fail
not to do your office, as you will answer it at your peril.’
What say you to this, sir?
What is that Barnardine who is to be executed in the
A Bohemian born, but here nursed un and bred; one
that is a prisoner nine years old.
How came it that the absent duke had not either
delivered him to his liberty or executed him? I
have heard it was ever his manner to do so.
His friends still wrought reprieves for him: and,
indeed, his fact, till now in the government of Lord
Angelo, came not to an undoubtful proof.
It is now apparent?
Most manifest, and not denied by himself.
Hath he born himself penitently in prison? how
seems he to be touched?
A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully but
as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless
of what’s past, present, or to come; insensible of
mortality, and desperately mortal.
He wants advice.
He will hear none: he hath evermore had the liberty
of the prison; give him leave to escape hence, he
would not: drunk many times a day, if not many days
entirely drunk. We have very oft awaked him, as if
to carry him to execution, and showed him a seeming
warrant for it: it hath not moved him at all.
More of him anon. There is written in your brow,
provost, honesty and constancy: if I read it not
truly, my ancient skill beguiles me; but, in the
boldness of my cunning, I will lay myself in hazard.
Claudio, whom here you have warrant to execute, is
no greater forfeit to the law than Angelo who hath
sentenced him. To make you understand this in a
manifested effect, I crave but four days’ respite;
for the which you are to do me both a present and a
Pray, sir, in what?
In the delaying death.
A lack, how may I do it, having the hour limited,
and an express command, under penalty, to deliver
his head in the view of Angelo? I may make my case
as Claudio’s, to cross this in the smallest.
By the vow of mine order I warrant you, if my
instructions may be your guide. Let this Barnardine
be this morning executed, and his head born to Angelo.
Angelo hath seen them both, and will discover the favour.
O, death’s a great disguiser; and you may add to it.
Shave the head, and tie the beard; and say it was
the desire of the penitent to be so bared before his
death: you know the course is common. If any thing
fall to you upon this, more than thanks and good
fortune, by the saint whom I profess, I will plead
against it with my life.
Pardon me, good father; it is against my oath.
Were you sworn to the duke, or to the deputy?
To him, and to his substitutes.
You will think you have made no offence, if the duke
avouch the justice of your dealing?
But what likelihood is in that?
Not a resemblance, but a certainty. Yet since I see
you fearful, that neither my coat, integrity, nor
persuasion can with ease attempt you, I will go
further than I meant, to pluck all fears out of you.
Look you, sir, here is the hand and seal of the
duke: you know the character, I doubt not; and the
signet is not strange to you.
I know them both.
The contents of this is the return of the duke: you
shall anon over-read it at your pleasure; where you
shall find, within these two days he will be here.
This is a thing that Angelo knows not; for he this
very day receives letters of strange tenor;
perchance of the duke’s death; perchance entering
into some monastery; but, by chance, nothing of what
is writ. Look, the unfolding star calls up the
shepherd. Put not yourself into amazement how these
things should be: all difficulties are but easy
when they are known. Call your executioner, and off
with Barnardine’s head: I will give him a present
shrift and advise him for a better place. Yet you
are amazed; but this shall absolutely resolve you.
Come away; it is almost clear dawn.
SCENE III. Another room in the same.
I am as well acquainted here as I was in our house
of profession: one would think it were Mistress
Overdone’s own house, for here be many of her old
customers. First, here’s young Master Rash; he’s in
for a commodity of brown paper and old ginger,
ninescore and seventeen pounds; of which he made
five marks, ready money: marry, then ginger was not
much in request, for the old women were all dead.
Then is there here one Master Caper, at the suit of
Master Three-pile the mercer, for some four suits of
peach-coloured satin, which now peaches him a
beggar. Then have we here young Dizy, and young
Master Deep-vow, and Master Copperspur, and Master
Starve-lackey the rapier and dagger man, and young
Drop-heir that killed lusty Pudding, and Master
Forthlight the tilter, and brave Master Shooty the
great traveller, and wild Half-can that stabbed
Pots, and, I think, forty more; all great doers in
our trade, and are now ‘for the Lord’s sake.’
Sirrah, bring Barnardine hither.
Master Barnardine! you must rise and be hanged.
What, ho, Barnardine!
[Within] A pox o’ your throats! Who makes that
noise there? What are you?
Your friends, sir; the hangman. You must be so
good, sir, to rise and be put to death.
[Within] Away, you rogue, away! I am sleepy.
Tell him he must awake, and that quickly too.
Pray, Master Barnardine, awake till you are
executed, and sleep afterwards.
Go in to him, and fetch him out.
He is coming, sir, he is coming; I hear his straw rustle.
Is the axe upon the block, sirrah?
Very ready, sir.
How now, Abhorson? what’s the news with you?
Truly, sir, I would desire you to clap into your
prayers; for, look you, the warrant’s come.
You rogue, I have been drinking all night; I am not
fitted for ‘t.
O, the better, sir; for he that drinks all night,
and is hanged betimes in the morning, may sleep the
sounder all the next day.
Look you, sir; here comes your ghostly father: do
we jest now, think you?
Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before
Sir, induced by my charity, and hearing how hastily
you are to depart, I am come to advise you, comfort
you and pray with you.
Friar, not I I have been drinking hard all night,
and I will have more time to prepare me, or they
shall beat out my brains with billets: I will not
consent to die this day, that’s certain.
O, sir, you must: and therefore I beseech you
Look forward on the journey you shall go.
I swear I will not die to-day for any man’s
But hear you.
Not a word: if you have any thing to say to me,
come to my ward; for thence will not I to-day.
Unfit to live or die: O gravel heart!
After him, fellows; bring him to the block.
Exeunt ABHORSON and POMPEY
Now, sir, how do you find the prisoner?
A creature unprepared, unmeet for death;
And to transport him in the mind he is
Here in the prison, father,
There died this morning of a cruel fever
One Ragozine, a most notorious pirate,
A man of Claudio’s years; his beard and head
Just of his colour. What if we do omit
This reprobate till he were well inclined;
And satisfy the deputy with the visage
Of Ragozine, more like to Claudio?
O, ’tis an accident that heaven provides!
Dispatch it presently; the hour draws on
Prefix’d by Angelo: see this be done,
And sent according to command; whiles I
Persuade this rude wretch willingly to die.
This shall be done, good father, presently.
But Barnardine must die this afternoon:
And how shall we continue Claudio,
To save me from the danger that might come
If he were known alive?
Let this be done.
Put them in secret holds, both Barnardine and Claudio:
Ere twice the sun hath made his journal greeting
To the under generation, you shall find
Your safety manifested.
I am your free dependant.
Quick, dispatch, and send the head to Angelo.
Now will I write letters to Angelo,–
The provost, he shall bear them, whose contents
Shall witness to him I am near at home,
And that, by great injunctions, I am bound
To enter publicly: him I’ll desire
To meet me at the consecrated fount
A league below the city; and from thence,
By cold gradation and well-balanced form,
We shall proceed with Angelo.
Here is the head; I’ll carry it myself.
Convenient is it. Make a swift return;
For I would commune with you of such things
That want no ear but yours.
I’ll make all speed.
[Within] Peace, ho, be here!
The tongue of Isabel. She’s come to know
If yet her brother’s pardon be come hither:
But I will keep her ignorant of her good,
To make her heavenly comforts of despair,
When it is least expected.
Ho, by your leave!
Good morning to you, fair and gracious daughter.
The better, given me by so holy a man.
Hath yet the deputy sent my brother’s pardon?
He hath released him, Isabel, from the world:
His head is off and sent to Angelo.
Nay, but it is not so.
It is no other: show your wisdom, daughter,
In your close patience.
O, I will to him and pluck out his eyes!
You shall not be admitted to his sight.
Unhappy Claudio! wretched Isabel!
Injurious world! most damned Angelo!
This nor hurts him nor profits you a jot;
Forbear it therefore; give your cause to heaven.
Mark what I say, which you shall find
By every syllable a faithful verity:
The duke comes home to-morrow; nay, dry your eyes;
One of our convent, and his confessor,
Gives me this instance: already he hath carried
Notice to Escalus and Angelo,
Who do prepare to meet him at the gates,
There to give up their power. If you can, pace your wisdom
In that good path that I would wish it go,
And you shall have your bosom on this wretch,
Grace of the duke, revenges to your heart,
And general honour.
I am directed by you.
This letter, then, to Friar Peter give;
‘Tis that he sent me of the duke’s return:
Say, by this token, I desire his company
At Mariana’s house to-night. Her cause and yours
I’ll perfect him withal, and he shall bring you
Before the duke, and to the head of Angelo
Accuse him home and home. For my poor self,
I am combined by a sacred vow
And shall be absent. Wend you with this letter:
Command these fretting waters from your eyes
With a light heart; trust not my holy order,
If I pervert your course. Who’s here?
Good even. Friar, where’s the provost?
Not within, sir.
O pretty Isabella, I am pale at mine heart to see
thine eyes so red: thou must be patient. I am fain
to dine and sup with water and bran; I dare not for
my head fill my belly; one fruitful meal would set
me to ‘t. But they say the duke will be here
to-morrow. By my troth, Isabel, I loved thy brother:
if the old fantastical duke of dark corners had been
at home, he had lived.
Sir, the duke is marvellous little beholding to your
reports; but the best is, he lives not in them.
Friar, thou knowest not the duke so well as I do:
he’s a better woodman than thou takest him for.
Well, you’ll answer this one day. Fare ye well.
Nay, tarry; I’ll go along with thee
I can tell thee pretty tales of the duke.
You have told me too many of him already, sir, if
they be true; if not true, none were enough.
I was once before him for getting a wench with child.
Did you such a thing?
Yes, marry, did I but I was fain to forswear it;
they would else have married me to the rotten medlar.
Sir, your company is fairer than honest. Rest you well.
By my troth, I’ll go with thee to the lane’s end:
if bawdy talk offend you, we’ll have very little of
it. Nay, friar, I am a kind of burr; I shall stick.
SCENE IV. A room in ANGELO’s house.
Enter ANGELO and ESCALUS
Every letter he hath writ hath disvouched other.
In most uneven and distracted manner. His actions
show much like to madness: pray heaven his wisdom be
not tainted! And why meet him at the gates, and
redeliver our authorities there
I guess not.
And why should we proclaim it in an hour before his
entering, that if any crave redress of injustice,
they should exhibit their petitions in the street?
He shows his reason for that: to have a dispatch of
complaints, and to deliver us from devices
hereafter, which shall then have no power to stand
Well, I beseech you, let it be proclaimed betimes
i’ the morn; I’ll call you at your house: give
notice to such men of sort and suit as are to meet
I shall, sir. Fare you well.
This deed unshapes me quite, makes me unpregnant
And dull to all proceedings. A deflower’d maid!
And by an eminent body that enforced
The law against it! But that her tender shame
Will not proclaim against her maiden loss,
How might she tongue me! Yet reason dares her no;
For my authority bears of a credent bulk,
That no particular scandal once can touch
But it confounds the breather. He should have lived,
Save that riotous youth, with dangerous sense,
Might in the times to come have ta’en revenge,
By so receiving a dishonour’d life
With ransom of such shame. Would yet he had lived!
A lack, when once our grace we have forgot,
Nothing goes right: we would, and we would not.
SCENE V. Fields without the town.
Enter DUKE VINCENTIO in his own habit, and FRIAR PETER
These letters at fit time deliver me
The provost knows our purpose and our plot.
The matter being afoot, keep your instruction,
And hold you ever to our special drift;
Though sometimes you do blench from this to that,
As cause doth minister. Go call at Flavius’ house,
And tell him where I stay: give the like notice
To Valentinus, Rowland, and to Crassus,
And bid them bring the trumpets to the gate;
But send me Flavius first.
It shall be speeded well.
I thank thee, Varrius; thou hast made good haste:
Come, we will walk. There’s other of our friends
Will greet us here anon, my gentle Varrius.
SCENE VI. Street near the city gate.
Enter ISABELLA and MARIANA
To speak so indirectly I am loath:
I would say the truth; but to accuse him so,
That is your part: yet I am advised to do it;
He says, to veil full purpose.
Be ruled by him.
Besides, he tells me that, if peradventure
He speak against me on the adverse side,
I should not think it strange; for ’tis a physic
That’s bitter to sweet end.
I would Friar Peter–
O, peace! the friar is come.
Enter FRIAR PETER
Come, I have found you out a stand most fit,
Where you may have such vantage on the duke,
He shall not pass you. Twice have the trumpets sounded;
The generous and gravest citizens
Have hent the gates, and very near upon
The duke is entering: therefore, hence, away!