ESCALUS My lord.
Of government the properties to unfold
Would seem in me t’ affect speech and discourse,
Since I am put to know that your own science 5
Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice
My strength can give you. Then no more remains
But that, to your sufficiency, as your worth is able,
And let them work. The nature of our people,
Our city’s institutions, and the terms 10
For common justice, you’re as pregnant in
As art and practice hath enrichèd any
That we remember. There is our commission,
He hands Escalus a paper.
From which we would not have you warp.—Call
I say, bid come before us Angelo.
An Attendant exits.
What figure of us think you he will bear?
For you must know, we have with special soul
Elected him our absence to supply,
Lent him our terror, dressed him with our love, 20
And given his deputation all the organs
Of our own power. What think you of it?
If any in Vienna be of worth
To undergo such ample grace and honor,
It is Lord Angelo. 25
DUKE Look where he comes.
Always obedient to your Grace’s will,
I come to know your pleasure.
There is a kind of character in thy life 30
That to th’ observer doth thy history
Fully unfold. Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine own so proper as to waste
Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee.
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do, 35
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, ’twere all alike
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touched
But to fine issues, nor nature never lends
The smallest scruple of her excellence 40
But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines
Herself the glory of a creditor,
Both thanks and use. But I do bend my speech
To one that can my part in him advertise.
Hold, therefore, Angelo. 45
In our remove be thou at full ourself.
Mortality and mercy in Vienna
Live in thy tongue and heart. Old Escalus,
Though first in question, is thy secondary.
Take thy commission. He hands Angelo a paper. 50
ANGELO Now, good my lord,
Let there be some more test made of my mettle
Before so noble and so great a figure
Be stamped upon it.
DUKE No more evasion. 55
We have with a leavened and preparèd choice
Proceeded to you. Therefore, take your honors.
Our haste from hence is of so quick condition
That it prefers itself and leaves unquestioned
Matters of needful value. We shall write to you, 60
As time and our concernings shall importune,
How it goes with us, and do look to know
What doth befall you here. So fare you well.
To th’ hopeful execution do I leave you
Of your commissions. 65
ANGELO Yet give leave, my lord,
That we may bring you something on the way.
DUKE My haste may not admit it.
Nor need you, on mine honor, have to do
With any scruple. Your scope is as mine own, 70
So to enforce or qualify the laws
As to your soul seems good. Give me your hand.
I’ll privily away. I love the people,
But do not like to stage me to their eyes.
Though it do well, I do not relish well 75
Their loud applause and aves vehement,
Nor do I think the man of safe discretion
That does affect it. Once more, fare you well.
The heavens give safety to your purposes.
Lead forth and bring you back in happiness. 80
DUKE I thank you. Fare you well. He exits.
ESCALUS, to Angelo
I shall desire you, sir, to give me leave
To have free speech with you; and it concerns me
To look into the bottom of my place.
A power I have, but of what strength and nature 85
I am not yet instructed.
’Tis so with me. Let us withdraw together,
And we may soon our satisfaction have
Touching that point.
ESCALUS I’ll wait upon your Honor. 90
Enter Lucio and two other Gentlemen.
LUCIO If the Duke, with the other dukes, come not to
composition with the King of Hungary, why then all
the dukes fall upon the King.
FIRST GENTLEMAN Heaven grant us its peace, but not
the King of Hungary’s! 5
SECOND GENTLEMAN Amen.
LUCIO Thou conclud’st like the sanctimonious pirate
that went to sea with the ten commandments but
scraped one out of the table.
SECOND GENTLEMAN “Thou shalt not steal”? 10
LUCIO Ay, that he razed.
FIRST GENTLEMAN Why, ’twas a commandment to command
the Captain and all the rest from their functions!
They put forth to steal. There’s not a soldier of
us all that in the thanksgiving before meat do relish 15
the petition well that prays for peace.
SECOND GENTLEMAN I never heard any soldier dislike it.
LUCIO I believe thee, for I think thou never wast where
grace was said.
SECOND GENTLEMAN No? A dozen times at least. 20
FIRST GENTLEMAN What? In meter?
LUCIO In any proportion or in any language.
FIRST GENTLEMAN I think, or in any religion.
LUCIO Ay, why not? Grace is grace, despite of all
controversy; as, for example, thou thyself art a 25
wicked villain, despite of all grace.
FIRST GENTLEMAN Well, there went but a pair of shears
LUCIO I grant, as there may between the lists and the
velvet. Thou art the list. 30
FIRST GENTLEMAN And thou the velvet. Thou art good
velvet; thou ’rt a three-piled piece, I warrant thee. I
had as lief be a list of an English kersey as be piled,
as thou art piled, for a French velvet. Do I speak
feelingly now? 35
LUCIO I think thou dost, and indeed with most painful
feeling of thy speech. I will, out of thine own
confession, learn to begin thy health, but, whilst I
live, forget to drink after thee.
FIRST GENTLEMAN I think I have done myself wrong, 40
have I not?
SECOND GENTLEMAN Yes, that thou hast, whether thou
art tainted or free.
Enter Mistress Overdone, a Bawd.
LUCIO Behold, behold, where Madam Mitigation
comes! I have purchased as many diseases under 45
her roof as come to—
SECOND GENTLEMAN To what, I pray?
SECOND GENTLEMAN To three thousand dolors a year.
FIRST GENTLEMAN Ay, and more. 50
LUCIO A French crown more.
FIRST GENTLEMAN Thou art always figuring diseases in
me, but thou art full of error. I am sound.
LUCIO Nay, not, as one would say, healthy, but so sound
as things that are hollow. Thy bones are hollow. 55
Impiety has made a feast of thee.
FIRST GENTLEMAN, to Bawd How now, which of your
hips has the most profound sciatica?
BAWD Well, well. There’s one yonder arrested and
carried to prison was worth five thousand of you all. 60
SECOND GENTLEMAN Who’s that, I pray thee?
BAWD Marry, sir, that’s Claudio, Signior Claudio.
FIRST GENTLEMAN Claudio to prison? ’Tis not so.
BAWD Nay, but I know ’tis so. I saw him arrested, saw
him carried away; and, which is more, within these 65
three days his head to be chopped off.
LUCIO But, after all this fooling, I would not have it so!
Art thou sure of this?
BAWD I am too sure of it. And it is for getting Madam
Julietta with child. 70
LUCIO Believe me, this may be. He promised to meet
me two hours since, and he was ever precise in
SECOND GENTLEMAN Besides, you know, it draws something
near to the speech we had to such a purpose. 75
FIRST GENTLEMAN But most of all agreeing with the
LUCIO Away. Let’s go learn the truth of it.
Lucio and Gentlemen exit.
BAWD Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat,
what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am 80
How now? What’s the news with you?
POMPEY Yonder man is carried to prison.
BAWD Well, what has he done?
POMPEY A woman. 85
BAWD But what’s his offense?
POMPEY Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.
BAWD What? Is there a maid with child by him?
POMPEY No, but there’s a woman with maid by him.
You have not heard of the proclamation, have you? 90
BAWD What proclamation, man?
POMPEY All houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be
BAWD And what shall become of those in the city?
POMPEY They shall stand for seed. They had gone down 95
too, but that a wise burgher put in for them.
BAWD But shall all our houses of resort in the suburbs
be pulled down?
POMPEY To the ground, mistress.
BAWD Why, here’s a change indeed in the commonwealth! 100
What shall become of me?
POMPEY Come, fear not you. Good counselors lack no
clients. Though you change your place, you need
not change your trade. I’ll be your tapster still.
Courage. There will be pity taken on you. You that 105
have worn your eyes almost out in the service, you
will be considered.
Enter Provost, Claudio, Juliet, and Officers.
BAWD What’s to do here, Thomas Tapster? Let’s
POMPEY Here comes Signior Claudio, led by the Provost 110
to prison. And there’s Madam Juliet.
Bawd and Pompey exit.
CLAUDIO, to Provost
Fellow, why dost thou show me thus to th’ world?
Bear me to prison, where I am committed.
I do it not in evil disposition,
But from Lord Angelo by special charge. 115
Thus can the demigod Authority
Make us pay down for our offense, by weight,
The words of heaven: on whom it will, it will;
On whom it will not, so; yet still ’tis just.
Enter Lucio and Second Gentleman.
Why, how now, Claudio? Whence comes this 120
From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty.
As surfeit is the father of much fast,
So every scope by the immoderate use
Turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue, 125
Like rats that raven down their proper bane,
A thirsty evil, and when we drink, we die.
LUCIO If I could speak so wisely under an arrest, I
would send for certain of my creditors. And yet, to
say the truth, I had as lief have the foppery of 130
freedom as the mortality of imprisonment. What’s
thy offense, Claudio?
What but to speak of would offend again.
LUCIO What, is ’t murder?
CLAUDIO No. 135
CLAUDIO Call it so.
PROVOST Away, sir. You must go.
One word, good friend.—Lucio, a word with you.
LUCIO A hundred, if they’ll do you any good. Is lechery 140
so looked after?
Thus stands it with me: upon a true contract
I got possession of Julietta’s bed.
You know the lady. She is fast my wife,
Save that we do the denunciation lack 145
Of outward order. This we came not to
Only for propagation of a dower
Remaining in the coffer of her friends,
From whom we thought it meet to hide our love
Till time had made them for us. But it chances 150
The stealth of our most mutual entertainment
With character too gross is writ on Juliet.
With child, perhaps?
CLAUDIO Unhappily, even so.
And the new deputy now for the Duke— 155
Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness,
Or whether that the body public be
A horse whereon the governor doth ride,
Who, newly in the seat, that it may know
He can command, lets it straight feel the spur; 160
Whether the tyranny be in his place
Or in his eminence that fills it up,
I stagger in—but this new governor
Awakes me all the enrollèd penalties
Which have, like unscoured armor, hung by th’ wall 165
So long that nineteen zodiacs have gone round,
And none of them been worn; and for a name
Now puts the drowsy and neglected act
Freshly on me. ’Tis surely for a name.
LUCIO I warrant it is. And thy head stands so tickle on 170
thy shoulders that a milkmaid, if she be in love, may
sigh it off. Send after the Duke and appeal to him.
I have done so, but he’s not to be found.
I prithee, Lucio, do me this kind service:
This day my sister should the cloister enter 175
And there receive her approbation.
Acquaint her with the danger of my state;
Implore her, in my voice, that she make friends
To the strict deputy; bid herself assay him.
I have great hope in that, for in her youth 180
There is a prone and speechless dialect
Such as move men. Besides, she hath prosperous art
When she will play with reason and discourse,
And well she can persuade.
LUCIO I pray she may, as well for the encouragement of 185
the like, which else would stand under grievous
imposition, as for the enjoying of thy life, who I
would be sorry should be thus foolishly lost at a
game of tick-tack. I’ll to her.
CLAUDIO I thank you, good friend Lucio. 190
LUCIO Within two hours.
CLAUDIO Come, officer, away.
Enter Duke and Friar Thomas.
No, holy father, throw away that thought.
Believe not that the dribbling dart of love
Can pierce a complete bosom. Why I desire thee
To give me secret harbor hath a purpose
More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends 5
Of burning youth.
FRIAR THOMAS May your Grace speak of it?
My holy sir, none better knows than you
How I have ever loved the life removed,
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies 10
Where youth and cost witless bravery keeps.
I have delivered to Lord Angelo,
A man of stricture and firm abstinence,
My absolute power and place here in Vienna,
And he supposes me traveled to Poland, 15
For so I have strewed it in the common ear,
And so it is received. Now, pious sir,
You will demand of me why I do this.
FRIAR THOMAS Gladly, my lord.
We have strict statutes and most biting laws, 20
The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds,
Which for this fourteen years we have let slip,
Even like an o’ergrown lion in a cave
That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fathers,
Having bound up the threat’ning twigs of birch 25
Only to stick it in their children’s sight
For terror, not to use—in time the rod
More mocked than feared—so our decrees,
Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead,
And liberty plucks justice by the nose, 30
The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
Goes all decorum.
FRIAR THOMAS It rested in your Grace
To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleased,
And it in you more dreadful would have seemed 35
Than in Lord Angelo.
DUKE I do fear, too dreadful.
Sith ’twas my fault to give the people scope,
’Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them
For what I bid them do; for we bid this be done 40
When evil deeds have their permissive pass
And not the punishment. Therefore, indeed, my
I have on Angelo imposed the office,
Who may in th’ ambush of my name strike home, 45
And yet my nature never in the fight
To do in slander. And to behold his sway
I will, as ’twere a brother of your order,
Visit both prince and people. Therefore I prithee
Supply me with the habit, and instruct me 50
How I may formally in person bear
Like a true friar. More reasons for this action
At our more leisure shall I render you.
Only this one: Lord Angelo is precise,
Stands at a guard with envy, scarce confesses 55
That his blood flows or that his appetite
Is more to bread than stone. Hence shall we see,
If power change purpose, what our seemers be.
Enter Isabella and Francisca, a Nun.
And have you nuns no farther privileges?
NUN Are not these large enough?
Yes, truly. I speak not as desiring more,
But rather wishing a more strict restraint
Upon the sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare. 5
Ho, peace be in this place!
ISABELLA Who’s that which calls?
It is a man’s voice. Gentle Isabella,
Turn you the key and know his business of him.
You may; I may not. You are yet unsworn. 10
When you have vowed, you must not speak with men
But in the presence of the Prioress.
Then, if you speak, you must not show your face;
Or if you show your face, you must not speak.
He calls again. I pray you answer him. 15
Peace and prosperity! Who is ’t that calls?
Hail, virgin, if you be, as those cheek-roses
Proclaim you are no less. Can you so stead me
As bring me to the sight of Isabella,
A novice of this place and the fair sister 20
To her unhappy brother, Claudio?
Why “her unhappy brother”? Let me ask,
The rather for I now must make you know
I am that Isabella, and his sister.
Gentle and fair, your brother kindly greets you. 25
Not to be weary with you, he’s in prison.
ISABELLA Woe me, for what?
For that which, if myself might be his judge,
He should receive his punishment in thanks:
He hath got his friend with child. 30
Sir, make me not your story.
LUCIO ’Tis true.
I would not, though ’tis my familiar sin
With maids to seem the lapwing and to jest,
Tongue far from heart, play with all virgins so. 35
I hold you as a thing enskied and sainted,
By your renouncement an immortal spirit,
And to be talked with in sincerity
As with a saint.
You do blaspheme the good in mocking me. 40
Do not believe it. Fewness and truth, ’tis thus:
Your brother and his lover have embraced;
As those that feed grow full, as blossoming time
That from the seedness the bare fallow brings
To teeming foison, even so her plenteous womb 45
Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry.
Someone with child by him? My cousin Juliet?
LUCIO Is she your cousin?
Adoptedly, as schoolmaids change their names
By vain though apt affection. 50
LUCIO She it is.
O, let him marry her!
LUCIO This is the point.
The Duke is very strangely gone from hence;
Bore many gentlemen, myself being one, 55
In hand, and hope of action; but we do learn,
By those that know the very nerves of state,
His givings-out were of an infinite distance
From his true-meant design. Upon his place,
And with full line of his authority, 60
Governs Lord Angelo, a man whose blood
Is very snow-broth; one who never feels
The wanton stings and motions of the sense,
But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge
With profits of the mind: study and fast. 65
He—to give fear to use and liberty,
Which have for long run by the hideous law
As mice by lions—hath picked out an act
Under whose heavy sense your brother’s life
Falls into forfeit. He arrests him on it, 70
And follows close the rigor of the statute
To make him an example. All hope is gone
Unless you have the grace by your fair prayer
To soften Angelo. And that’s my pith of business
’Twixt you and your poor brother. 75
ISABELLA Doth he so
Seek his life?
LUCIO Has censured him already,
And, as I hear, the Provost hath a warrant
For ’s execution. 80
Alas, what poor ability’s in me
To do him good?
LUCIO Assay the power you have.
My power? Alas, I doubt—
LUCIO Our doubts are traitors 85
And makes us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt. Go to Lord Angelo
And let him learn to know, when maidens sue
Men give like gods; but when they weep and kneel,
All their petitions are as freely theirs 90
As they themselves would owe them.
ISABELLA I’ll see what I can do.
LUCIO But speedily!
ISABELLA I will about it straight,
No longer staying but to give the Mother 95
Notice of my affair. I humbly thank you.
Commend me to my brother. Soon at night
I’ll send him certain word of my success.
I take my leave of you.
ISABELLA Good sir, adieu. 100