Measure for Measure


SCENE I. A Room in the prison.



So, then you hope of pardon from Lord Angelo?


The miserable have no other medicine

But only hope:

I have hope to live, and am prepar'd 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 skiey influences,

That dost this habitation, where thou keep'st

Hourly afflict; mere'y, 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 nurs'd by baseness. Thou art 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 provok'st; 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 striv'st to get;

And what thou hast, forgett'st. Thou art not certain;

For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,

After the moon. If thou art rich, thou art poor;

For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,

Thou bear'st 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 more 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 conceal'd.

[Exeunt DUKE and PROVOST.]


Now, sister, what's the comfort?



As all comforts are; most good, most good, in deed:

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.


Perpetual durance?


Ay, just; perpetual durance; a restraint,

Though all the world's vastidity you had,

To a determin'd 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. Dar'st 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 precise Angelo?


O, 'tis the cunning livery of hell

The damned'st body to invest and cover

In precise 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 it 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'd throw it down for your deliverance

As frankly as a pin.


Thanks, dear Isabel.


Be ready, Claudio, for your death to-morrow.


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 regions 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.


Alas, alas!


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 that thou diest quickly.



O, hear me, Isabella.

[Re-enter DUKE.]


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.


[To CLAUDIO aside.] 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 assay 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: to-morrow 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.


[Re-enter PROVOST.]

Provost, a word with you.


What's your will, father?


That, now you are come, you will be gone. Leave me a while with

the maid; my mind promises with my habit no loss shall touch her

by my company.


In good time.



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 this business.


Let me hear you speak further; 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, bestow'd 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 despatch with Angelo, that it may be quickly.


I thank you for this comfort. Fare you well, good father.

[Exeunt severally.]

Scene II. The Street before the Prison.

[Enter DUKE, as a Friar; to him, ELBOW, CLOWN and Officers.]


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 on lamb-skins too, to

signify that craft, being richer than innocency, stands for the



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 whoremaster,

and comes before him, he were as good go a mile on his errand.


That we were all, as some would seem to be,

Free 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


[Enter LUCIO.]


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 clutched? What reply, ha? What say'st thou to

this tune, matter, and method? Is't not drowned i' the last rain,

ha? What say'st thou to't? 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 still, ha?


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,



And you.


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? what news?


Come your ways, sir; come.


Go, - to kennel, Pompey, go:

[Exeunt ELBOW, CLOWN, 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 ungenerative; 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 withdrawing.


What, I pr'ythee, 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 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 dearer love.


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 report you.


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 tun-dish. I would the duke we

talk of were returned again: this 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 pr'ythee 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, BAWD, and Officers.]


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 the tyrant.


A bawd of eleven years' continuance, may it please your honour.


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 license: - let him be called

before us. - Away with her to prison. Go to; no more words.

[Exeunt BAWD and Officers.]

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

as 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



What pleasure was he given to?


Rather rejoicing to see another merry, than merry at anything

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



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 he is 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



I am going to visit the prisoner.

Fare you well.


Peace be with you!


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,

Make a practice on the times,

To draw with idle spiders' strings

Most pond'rous and substantial things!

Craft against vice I must apply;

With Angelo to-night shall lie

His old betrothed but despis'd;

So disguise shall, by the disguis'd,

Pay with falsehood false exacting,

And perform an old contracting.