Measure for Measure


Scene I. A Room in Mariana's House.

[MARIANA discovered sitting; a Boy singing.]


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 seal'd 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. -

[Exit BOY.]

[Enter DUKE.]

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 displeas'd, but pleas'd 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 anybody 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 welcome.

What is the news from this good deputy?


He hath a garden circummur'd 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 to call on him

Upon the heavy middle of the night.


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.

[Re-enter MARIANA.]

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?



O place and greatness, millions of false eyes

Are stuck upon thee! volumes of report

Run with these false, and most contrarious quest

Upon thy doings! Thousand 'scapes of wit

Make thee the father of their idle dream,

And rack thee in their fancies! - Welcome! how agreed?

[Re-enter MARIANA and ISABELLA.]


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 CLOWN.]


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 notorious bawd.


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 fellow-partner.


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 the scale.



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.

[Re-enter PROVOST.]


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



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 CLOWN and ABHORSON.]

One has my pity; not a jot the other,

Being a murderer, though he were my brother.

[Enter CLAUDIO.]

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?

[Knocking within.]

Heaven give your spirits comfort!


By and by! -

I hope it is some pardon or reprieve

For the most gentle Claudio. - Welcome, father.

[Enter DUKE.]


The best and wholesom'st spirits of the night

Envelop you, good provost! Who call'd here of late?


None, since the curfew rung.


Not Isabel?




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.

[Knocking within - PROVOST goes out.]

This is a gentle provost: seldom when

The steeled gaoler is the friend of men. -

How now? what noise? That spirit's possess'd with haste

That wounds the unsisting postern with these strokes.

[PROVOST returns, speaking to one at the door.]


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.


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.

[Exit Messenger.]


[Aside.] This is his pardon, purchas'd by such sin,

For which the pardoner himself is in:

Hence hath offence his quick celerity,

When it is borne 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.


[Reads.] '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 afternoon?


A Bohemian born; but here nursed up 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 borne himself penitently in prison? How seems he to be



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

dangerous courtesy.


Pray, sir, in what?


In the delaying death.


Alack! 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 borne 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 anything 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 tenour: 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.

[Enter CLOWN.]


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, nine score

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 Threepile 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 Deepvow, and Master Copperspur, and

Master Starvelackey, the rapier and dagger man, and young

Dropheir that killed lusty Pudding, and Master Forthlight the

tilter, and brave Master Shoetie the great traveller, and wild

Halfcan 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, Master



What ho, Barnardine!


[Within.] A pox o' your throats! Who makes that noise there? What

are you?


Your friend, 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



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.

[Enter DUKE.]


Look you, sir, here comes your ghostly father. Do we jest now,

think you?


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 persuasion.


But hear you, -


Not a word; if you have anything 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 CLOWN.]

[Enter PROVOST.]


Now, sir, how do you find the prisoner?


A creature unprepar'd, unmeet for death;

And to transport him in the mind he is

Were damnable.


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!

Despatch 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.

[Re-enter PROVOST.]


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?

[Enter LUCIO.]


Good even. Friar, where is 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.



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 re-deliver 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 against us.


Well, I beseech you, let it be proclaim'd:

Betimes i' the morn I'll call you at your house:

Give notice to such men of sort and suit

As are to meet him.


I shall, sir: fare you well.



Good night. -

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 a so credent bulk,

That no particular scandal once can touch

But it confounds the breather. He should have liv'd,

Save that his 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 liv'd!

Alack, when once our grace we have forgot,

Nothing goes right; we would, and we would not.


SCENE V. Fields without the town.

[Enter DUKE in his own habit, and Friar PETER.]


These letters at fit time deliver me. [Giving letters.]

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.

[Exit FRIAR.]

[Enter VARRIUS.]


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.



To speak so indirectly I am loath;

I would say the truth; but to accuse him so,

That is your part: yet I am advis'd to do it;

He says, to 'vailfull 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.



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.