Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Measure for Measure
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
Measure for Measure
Act II. Scene II.
Another Room in the Same.
Enter PROVOST and a Servant.
  Serv.  He’s hearing of a cause: he will come straight:
I’ll tell him of you.
  Prov.        Pray you, do.  [Exit Serv.]  I’ll know        5
His pleasure; may be he will relent. Alas!
He hath but as offended in a dream:
All sects, all ages smack of this vice, and he
To die for it!
  Ang.        Now, what’s the matter, provost?
  Prov.  Is it your will Claudio shall die to-morrow?
  Ang.  Did I not tell thee, yea? hadst thou not order?
Why dost thou ask again?
  Prov.        Lest I might be too rash.        15
Under your good correction, I have seen,
When, after execution, Judgment hath
Repented o’er his doom.
  Ang.        Go to; let that be mine:
Do you your office, or give up your place,        20
And you shall well be spar’d.
  Prov.        I crave your honour’s pardon.
What shall be done, sir, with the groaning Juliet?
She’s very near her hour.
  Ang.        Dispose of her        25
To some more fitter place; and that with speed.
Re-enter Servant.
  Serv.  Here is the sister of the man condemn’d Desires access to you.
  Ang.        Hath he a sister?
  Prov.  Ay, my good lord; a very virtuous maid,        30
And to be shortly of a sisterhood,
If not already.
  Ang.        Well, let her be admitted.  [Exit Servant.
See you the fornicatress be remov’d:
Let her have needful, but not lavish, means;        35
There shall be order for ’t.
  Prov.        God save your honour!  [Offering to retire.
  Ang.  Stay a little while.—[To ISAB.]  You’re welcome: what’s your will?
  Isab.  I am a woful suitor to your honour,        40
Please but your honour hear me.
  Ang.        Well; what’s your suit?
  Isab.  There is a vice that most I do abhor,
And most desire should meet the blow of justice,
For which I would not plead, but that I must;        45
For which I must not plead, but that I am
At war ’twixt will and will not.
  Ang.        Well; the matter?
  Isab.  I have a brother is condemn’d to die:
I do beseech you, let it be his fault,        50
And not my brother.
  Prov.        [Aside.]  Heaven give thee moving graces!
  Ang.  Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?
Why, every fault’s condemn’d ere it be done.
Mine were the very cipher of a function,        55
To fine the faults whose fine stands in record,
And let go by the actor.
  Isab.        O just, but severe law!
I had a brother, then.—Heaven keep your honour!  [Retiring.
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  Give ’t not o’er so: to him again, entreat him;        60
Kneel down before him, hang upon his gown;
You are too cold; if you should need a pin,
You could not with more tame a tongue desire it.
To him, I say!
  Isab.  Must he needs die?        65
  Ang.        Maiden, no remedy.
  Isab.  Yes; I do think that you might pardon him,
And neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy.
  Ang.  I will not do ’t.
  Isab.        But can you, if you would?        70
  Ang.  Look, what I will not, that I cannot do.
  Isab.  But might you do ’t, and do the world no wrong,
If so your heart were touch’d with that remorse
As mine is to him?
  Ang.        He’s sentenc’d: ’tis too late.        75
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  You are too cold.
  Isab.  Too late? why, no; I, that do speak a word,
May call it back again. Well, believe this,
No ceremony that to great ones ’longs,
Not the king’s crown, nor the deputed sword,        80
The marshal’s truncheon, nor the judge’s robe,
Become them with one half so good a grace
As mercy does.
If he had been as you, and you as he,
You would have slipt like him; but he, like you,        85
Would not have been so stern.
  Ang.        Pray you, be gone.
  Isab.  I would to heaven I had your potency,
And you were Isabel! should it then be thus?
No; I would tell what ’twere to be a judge,        90
And what a prisoner.
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  Ay, touch him; there’s the vein.
  Ang.  Your brother is a forfeit of the law,
And you but waste your words.
  Isab.        Alas! alas!        95
Why, all the souls that were were forfeit once;
And He that might the vantage best have took,
Found out the remedy. How would you be,
If He, which is the top of judgment, should
But judge you as you are? O! think on that,        100
And mercy then will breathe within your lips,
Like man new made.
  Ang.        Be you content, fair maid;
It is the law, not I, condemn your brother:
Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son,        105
It should be thus with him: he must die to-morrow.
  Isab.  To-morrow! O! that’s sudden! Spare him, spare him!
He’s not prepar’d for death. Even for our kitchens
We kill the fowl of season: shall we serve heaven
With less respect than we do minister        110
To our gross selves? Good, good my lord, bethink you:
Who is it that hath died for this offence?
There’s many have committed it.
  Lucio.        [Aside to ISAB.]  Ay, well said.
  Ang.  The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept:        115
Those many had not dar’d to do that evil,
If that the first that did th’ edict infringe
Had answer’d for his deed: now ’tis awake,
Takes note of what is done, and, like a prophet,
Looks in a glass, that shows what future evils,        120
Either new, or by remissness new-conceiv’d,
And so in progress to be hatch’d and born,
Are now to have no successive degrees,
But, ere they live, to end.
  Isab.        Yet show some pity.        125
  Ang.  I show it most of all when I show justice;
For then I pity those I do not know,
Which a dismiss’d offence would after gall,
And do him right, that, answering one foul wrong,
Lives not to act another. Be satisfied:        130
Your brother dies to-morrow: be content.
  Isab.  So you must be the first that gives this sentence,
And he that suffers. O! it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.        135
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  That’s well said.
  Isab.  Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne’er be quiet,
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder; nothing but thunder.        140
Merciful heaven!
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle; but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,        145
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.        150
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  O, to him, to him, wench! He will relent:
He’s coming: I perceive ’t.
  Prov.        [Aside.]  Pray heaven she win him!
  Isab.  We cannot weigh our brother with ourself:
Great men may jest with saints; ’tis wit in them,        155
But, in the less foul profanation.
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  Thou ’rt in the right, girl: more o’ that.
  Isab.  That in the captain’s but a choleric word,
Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  Art advis’d o’ that? more on ’t.        160
  Ang.  Why do you put these sayings upon me?
  Isab.  Because authority, though it err like others,
Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself,
That skins the vice o’ the top. Go to your bosom;
Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know        165
That’s like my brother’s fault: if it confess
A natural guiltiness such as is his,
Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue
Against my brother’s life.
  Ang.        She speaks, and ’tis        170
Such sense that my sense breeds with it. Fare you well.
  Isab.  Gentle my lord, turn back.
  Ang.  I will bethink me. Come again to-morrow.
  Isab.  Hark how I’ll bribe you. Good my lord, turn back.
  Ang.  How! bribe me?        175
  Isab.  Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you.
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  You had marr’d all else.
  Isab.  Not with fond sicles of the tested gold,
Or stones whose rates are either rich or poor
As fancy values them; but with true prayers        180
That shall be up at heaven and enter there
Ere sun-rise: prayers from preserved souls,
From fasting maids whose minds are dedicate
To nothing temporal.
  Ang.        Well; come to me to-morrow.        185
  Lucio.  [Aside to ISAB.]  Go to; ’tis well: away!
  Isab.  Heaven keep your honour safe!
  Ang.        [Aside.]  Amen:
For I am that way going to temptation,
Where prayers cross.        190
  Isab.        At what hour to-morrow
Shall I attend your lordship?
  Ang.        At any time ’fore noon.
  Isab.  Save your honour!  [Exeunt ISABELLA, LUCIO, and PROVOST.
  Ang.        From thee; even from thy virtue!        195
What’s this? what’s this? Is this her fault or mine?
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?
Not she; nor doth she tempt: but it is I,
That, lying by the violet in the sun,        200
Do as the carrion does, not as the flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be
That modesty may more betray our sense
Than woman’s lightness? Having waste ground enough,
Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary,        205
And pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie!
What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
Dost thou desire her foully for those things
That make her good? O, let her brother live!
Thieves for their robbery have authority        210
When judges steal themselves. What! do I love her,
That I desire to hear her speak again,
And feast upon her eyes? What is ’t I dream on?
O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint,
With saints dost bait thy hook! Most dangerous        215
Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue: never could the strumpet,
With all her double vigour, art and nature,
Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite. Ever till now,        220
When men were fond, I smil’d and wonder’d how.  [Exit.

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