Enter Angelo, Escalus, Servants, and a Justice.
We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape till custom make it
Their perch and not their terror.
ESCALUS Ay, but yet 5
Let us be keen and rather cut a little
Than fall and bruise to death. Alas, this gentleman
Whom I would save had a most noble father.
Let but your Honor know,
Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue, 10
That, in the working of your own affections,
Had time cohered with place, or place with wishing,
Or that the resolute acting of your blood
Could have attained th’ effect of your own purpose,
Whether you had not sometime in your life 15
Erred in this point which now you censure him,
And pulled the law upon you.
’Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall. I not deny
The jury passing on the prisoner’s life 20
May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try. What’s open made to
That justice seizes. What knows the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? ’Tis very pregnant, 25
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take ’t
Because we see it; but what we do not see,
We tread upon and never think of it.
You may not so extenuate his offense
For I have had such faults; but rather tell me, 30
When I that censure him do so offend,
Let mine own judgment pattern out my death,
And nothing come in partial. Sir, he must die.
Be it as your wisdom will.
ANGELO Where is the Provost? 35
Here, if it like your Honor.
ANGELO See that Claudio
Be executed by nine tomorrow morning.
Bring him his confessor, let him be prepared,
For that’s the utmost of his pilgrimage. 40
Well, heaven forgive him and forgive us all.
Some rise by sin and some by virtue fall.
Some run from brakes of ice and answer none,
And some condemnèd for a fault alone.
Enter Elbow and Officers, with Froth
ELBOW, to Officers Come, bring them away. If these 45
be good people in a commonweal that do nothing
but use their abuses in common houses, I know no
law. Bring them away.
ANGELO How now, sir, what’s your name? And what’s
the matter? 50
ELBOW If it please your Honor, I am the poor duke’s
constable, and my name is Elbow. I do lean upon
justice, sir, and do bring in here before your good
Honor two notorious benefactors.
ANGELO Benefactors? Well, what benefactors are they? 55
Are they not malefactors?
ELBOW If it please your Honor, I know not well what
they are, but precise villains they are, that I am sure
of, and void of all profanation in the world that
good Christians ought to have. 60
ESCALUS, to Angelo This comes off well. Here’s a wise
ANGELO, to Elbow Go to. What quality are they of?
Elbow is your name? Why dost thou not speak,
POMPEY He cannot, sir. He’s out at elbow.
ANGELO What are you, sir?
ELBOW He, sir? A tapster, sir, parcel bawd; one that
serves a bad woman, whose house, sir, was, as they
say, plucked down in the suburbs, and now she 70
professes a hothouse, which I think is a very ill
ESCALUS How know you that?
ELBOW My wife, sir, whom I detest before heaven and
your Honor— 75
ESCALUS How? Thy wife?
ELBOW Ay, sir, whom I thank heaven is an honest
ESCALUS Dost thou detest her therefore?
ELBOW I say, sir, I will detest myself also, as well as she, 80
that this house, if it be not a bawd’s house, it is pity
of her life, for it is a naughty house.
ESCALUS How dost thou know that, constable?
ELBOW Marry, sir, by my wife, who, if she had been a
woman cardinally given, might have been accused 85
in fornication, adultery, and all uncleanliness
ESCALUS By the woman’s means?
ELBOW Ay, sir, by Mistress Overdone’s means; but as
she spit in his face, so she defied him. 90
POMPEY, to Escalus Sir, if it please your Honor, this is
ELBOW Prove it before these varlets here, thou honorable
man, prove it.
ESCALUS, to Angelo Do you hear how he misplaces? 95
POMPEY Sir, she came in great with child, and longing,
saving your Honor’s reverence, for stewed prunes.
Sir, we had but two in the house, which at that very
distant time stood, as it were, in a fruit dish, a dish
of some threepence; your Honors have seen such 100
dishes; they are not china dishes, but very good
ESCALUS Go to, go to. No matter for the dish, sir.
POMPEY No, indeed, sir, not of a pin; you are therein in
the right. But to the point: as I say, this Mistress 105
Elbow, being, as I say, with child, and being great-bellied,
and longing, as I said, for prunes; and
having but two in the dish, as I said, Master Froth
here, this very man, having eaten the rest, as I said,
and, as I say, paying for them very honestly—for, as 110
you know, Master Froth, I could not give you threepence
FROTH No, indeed.
POMPEY Very well. You being then, if you be remembered,
cracking the stones of the foresaid prunes— 115
FROTH Ay, so I did indeed.
POMPEY Why, very well. I telling you then, if you be
remembered, that such a one and such a one were
past cure of the thing you wot of, unless they kept
very good diet, as I told you— 120
FROTH All this is true.
POMPEY Why, very well then—
ESCALUS Come, you are a tedious fool. To the purpose:
what was done to Elbow’s wife that he hath cause to
complain of? Come me to what was done to her. 125
POMPEY Sir, your Honor cannot come to that yet.
ESCALUS No, sir, nor I mean it not.
POMPEY Sir, but you shall come to it, by your Honor’s
leave. And I beseech you, look into Master Froth
here, sir, a man of fourscore pound a year, whose 130
father died at Hallowmas—was ’t not at Hallowmas,
FROTH All-hallond Eve.
POMPEY Why, very well. I hope here be truths.—He,
sir, sitting, as I say, in a lower chair, sir—To Froth. 135
’Twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where indeed you
have a delight to sit, have you not?
FROTH I have so, because it is an open room, and good
POMPEY Why, very well then. I hope here be truths. 140
ANGELO, to Escalus
This will last out a night in Russia
When nights are longest there. I’ll take my leave,
And leave you to the hearing of the cause,
Hoping you’ll find good cause to whip them all.
I think no less. Good morrow to your Lordship 145
Now, sir, come on. What was done to Elbow’s wife,
POMPEY Once, sir? There was nothing done to her
ELBOW, to Escalus I beseech you, sir, ask him what 150
this man did to my wife.
POMPEY, to Escalus I beseech your Honor, ask me.
ESCALUS Well, sir, what did this gentleman to her?
POMPEY I beseech you, sir, look in this gentleman’s
face.—Good Master Froth, look upon his Honor. 155
’Tis for a good purpose.—Doth your Honor mark
ESCALUS Ay, sir, very well.
POMPEY Nay, I beseech you, mark it well.
ESCALUS Well, I do so. 160
POMPEY Doth your Honor see any harm in his face?
ESCALUS Why, no.
POMPEY I’ll be supposed upon a book, his face is the
worst thing about him. Good, then, if his face be the
worst thing about him, how could Master Froth do 165
the Constable’s wife any harm? I would know that
of your Honor.
ESCALUS He’s in the right, constable. What say you to
ELBOW First, an it like you, the house is a respected 170
house; next, this is a respected fellow, and his
mistress is a respected woman.
POMPEY By this hand, sir, his wife is a more respected
person than any of us all.
ELBOW Varlet, thou liest; thou liest, wicked varlet! The 175
time is yet to come that she was ever respected with
man, woman, or child.
POMPEY Sir, she was respected with him before he
married with her.
ESCALUS Which is the wiser here, Justice or Iniquity? 180
Is this true?
ELBOW, to Pompey O thou caitiff! O thou varlet! O
thou wicked Hannibal! I respected with her before I
was married to her?—If ever I was respected with
her, or she with me, let not your Worship think me 185
the poor duke’s officer.—Prove this, thou wicked
Hannibal, or I’ll have mine action of batt’ry on thee.
ESCALUS If he took you a box o’ th’ ear, you might have
your action of slander too.
ELBOW Marry, I thank your good Worship for it. What 190
is ’t your Worship’s pleasure I shall do with this
ESCALUS Truly, officer, because he hath some offenses
in him that thou wouldst discover if thou couldst,
let him continue in his courses till thou know’st 195
what they are.
ELBOW Marry, I thank your Worship for it. To Pompey.
Thou seest, thou wicked varlet, now, what’s
come upon thee. Thou art to continue now, thou
varlet, thou art to continue. 200
ESCALUS, to Froth Where were you born, friend?
FROTH Here in Vienna, sir.
ESCALUS Are you of fourscore pounds a year?
FROTH Yes, an ’t please you, sir.
ESCALUS So. To Pompey. What trade are you of, sir? 205
POMPEY A tapster, a poor widow’s tapster.
ESCALUS Your mistress’ name?
POMPEY Mistress Overdone.
ESCALUS Hath she had any more than one husband?
POMPEY Nine, sir. Overdone by the last. 210
ESCALUS Nine?—Come hither to me, Master Froth.
Master Froth, I would not have you acquainted with
tapsters; they will draw you, Master Froth, and you
will hang them. Get you gone, and let me hear no
more of you. 215
FROTH I thank your Worship. For mine own part, I
never come into any room in a taphouse but I am
ESCALUS Well, no more of it, Master Froth. Farewell.
Come you hither to me, Master Tapster. What’s your 220
name, Master Tapster?
ESCALUS What else?
POMPEY Bum, sir.
ESCALUS Troth, and your bum is the greatest thing 225
about you, so that in the beastliest sense you are
Pompey the Great. Pompey, you are partly a bawd,
Pompey, howsoever you color it in being a tapster,
are you not? Come, tell me true. It shall be the
better for you. 230
POMPEY Truly, sir, I am a poor fellow that would live.
ESCALUS How would you live, Pompey? By being a
bawd? What do you think of the trade, Pompey? Is it
a lawful trade?
POMPEY If the law would allow it, sir. 235
ESCALUS But the law will not allow it, Pompey, nor it
shall not be allowed in Vienna.
POMPEY Does your Worship mean to geld and splay all
the youth of the city?
ESCALUS No, Pompey. 240
POMPEY Truly, sir, in my poor opinion, they will to ’t
then. If your Worship will take order for the drabs
and the knaves, you need not to fear the bawds.
ESCALUS There is pretty orders beginning, I can tell
you. It is but heading and hanging. 245
POMPEY If you head and hang all that offend that way
but for ten year together, you’ll be glad to give out a
commission for more heads. If this law hold in
Vienna ten year, I’ll rent the fairest house in it after
threepence a bay. If you live to see this come to 250
pass, say Pompey told you so.
ESCALUS Thank you, good Pompey. And in requital of
your prophecy, hark you: I advise you let me not
find you before me again upon any complaint
whatsoever; no, not for dwelling where you do. If I 255
do, Pompey, I shall beat you to your tent and prove
a shrewd Caesar to you. In plain dealing, Pompey, I
shall have you whipped. So, for this time, Pompey,
fare you well.
POMPEY I thank your Worship for your good counsel. 260
Aside. But I shall follow it as the flesh and fortune
shall better determine.
Whip me? No, no, let carman whip his jade.
The valiant heart’s not whipped out of his trade.
ESCALUS Come hither to me, Master Elbow. Come 265
hither, Master Constable. How long have you been
in this place of constable?
ELBOW Seven year and a half, sir.
ESCALUS I thought, by the readiness in the office, you
had continued in it some time. You say seven years 270
ELBOW And a half, sir.
ESCALUS Alas, it hath been great pains to you. They do
you wrong to put you so oft upon ’t. Are there not
men in your ward sufficient to serve it? 275
ELBOW Faith, sir, few of any wit in such matters. As
they are chosen, they are glad to choose me for
them. I do it for some piece of money and go
through with all.
ESCALUS Look you bring me in the names of some six 280
or seven, the most sufficient of your parish.
ELBOW To your Worship’s house, sir?
ESCALUS To my house. Fare you well.
Elbow and Officers exit.
To Justice. What’s o’clock, think you?
JUSTICE Eleven, sir. 285
ESCALUS I pray you home to dinner with me.
JUSTICE I humbly thank you.
It grieves me for the death of Claudio,
But there’s no remedy.
Lord Angelo is severe. 290
ESCALUS It is but needful.
Mercy is not itself that oft looks so.
Pardon is still the nurse of second woe.
But yet, poor Claudio. There is no remedy.
Come, sir. 295
Enter Provost and a Servant.
He’s hearing of a cause. He will come straight.
I’ll tell him of you.
PROVOST Pray you do.
His pleasure. Maybe he will relent. Alas, 5
He hath but as offended in a dream.
All sects, all ages smack of this vice, and he
To die for ’t?
ANGELO Now, what’s the matter, provost?
Is it your will Claudio shall die tomorrow? 10
Did not I tell thee yea? Hadst thou not order?
Why dost thou ask again?
PROVOST Lest I might be too rash.
Under your good correction, I have seen
When, after execution, judgment hath 15
Repented o’er his doom.
ANGELO Go to. Let that be mine.
Do you your office, or give up your place
And you shall well be spared.
PROVOST I crave your Honor’s pardon. 20
What shall be done, sir, with the groaning Juliet?
She’s very near her hour.
ANGELO Dispose of her
To some more fitter place, and that with speed.
Here is the sister of the man condemned 25
Desires access to you.
ANGELO Hath he a sister?
Ay, my good lord, a very virtuous maid,
And to be shortly of a sisterhood,
If not already. 30
ANGELO, to Servant Well, let her be admitted.
See you the fornicatress be removed.
Let her have needful but not lavish means.
There shall be order for ’t.
Enter Lucio and Isabella.
PROVOST, beginning to exit Save your Honor. 35
Stay a little while. To Isabella. You’re welcome.
What’s your will?
I am a woeful suitor to your Honor,
Please but your Honor hear me.
ANGELO Well, what’s your 40
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;
For which I must not plead, but that I am 45
At war ’twixt will and will not.
ANGELO Well, the matter?
I have a brother is condemned to die.
I do beseech you let it be his fault
And not my brother. 50
PROVOST, aside Heaven give thee moving
Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?
Why, every fault’s condemned 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.
ISABELLA O just but severe law!
I had a brother, then. Heaven keep your Honor.
LUCIO, aside to Isabella
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.
ISABELLA, to Angelo
Must he needs die? 65
ANGELO Maiden, no remedy.
Yes, I do think that you might pardon him,
And neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy.
I will not do ’t.
ISABELLA But can you if you would? 70
Look what I will not, that I cannot do.
But might you do ’t and do the world no wrong
If so your heart were touched with that remorse
As mine is to him?
ANGELO He’s sentenced. ’Tis too late. 75
LUCIO, aside to Isabella You are too cold.
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 slipped like him, but he like you 85
Would not have been so stern.
ANGELO Pray you begone.
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 Isabella Ay, touch him; there’s the
Your brother is a forfeit of the law,
And you but waste your words. 95
ISABELLA Alas, alas!
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 100
But judge you as you are? O, think on that,
And mercy then will breathe within your lips
Like man new-made.
ANGELO Be you content, fair maid.
It is the law, not I, condemn your brother. 105
Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son,
It should be thus with him. He must die tomorrow.
Tomorrow? O, that’s sudden! Spare him, spare him.
He’s not prepared for death. Even for our kitchens
We kill the fowl of season. Shall we serve heaven 110
With less respect than we do minister
To our gross selves? Good, good my lord, bethink
Who is it that hath died for this offense?
There’s many have committed it. 115
LUCIO, aside to Isabella Ay, well said.
The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept.
Those many had not dared to do that evil
If the first that did th’ edict infringe
Had answered for his deed. Now ’tis awake, 120
Takes note of what is done, and, like a prophet,
Looks in a glass that shows what future evils—
Either now, or by remissness new-conceived,
And so in progress to be hatched and born—
Are now to have no successive degrees 125
But, ere they live, to end.
ISABELLA Yet show some pity.
I show it most of all when I show justice,
For then I pity those I do not know,
Which a dismissed offense would after gall, 130
And do him right that, answering one foul wrong,
Lives not to act another. Be satisfied;
Your brother dies tomorrow; be content.
So you must be the first that gives this sentence,
And he that suffers. O, it is excellent 135
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
LUCIO, aside to Isabella That’s well said.
ISABELLA Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would never be quiet, 140
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder,
Nothing but thunder. Merciful heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Splits the unwedgeable and gnarlèd oak, 145
Than the soft myrtle. But man, proud man,
Dressed in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven 150
As makes the angels weep, who with our spleens
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
LUCIO, aside to Isabella
O, to him, to him, wench. He will relent.
He’s coming. I perceive ’t.
PROVOST, aside Pray heaven she win him. 155
We cannot weigh our brother with ourself.
Great men may jest with saints; ’tis wit in them,
But in the less, foul profanation.
LUCIO, aside to Isabella
Thou ’rt i’ th’ right, girl. More o’ that.
That in the captain’s but a choleric word 160
Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.
LUCIO, aside to Isabella
Art avised o’ that? More on ’t.
Why do you put these sayings upon me?
Because authority, though it err like others,
Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself 165
That skins the vice o’ th’ top. Go to your bosom,
Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know
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 170
Against my brother’s life.
ANGELO, aside She speaks, and ’tis such sense
That my sense breeds with it. He begins to exit.
Fare you well.
ISABELLA Gentle my lord, turn back. 175
I will bethink me. Come again tomorrow.
Hark how I’ll bribe you. Good my lord, turn back.
ANGELO How? Bribe me?
Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you.
LUCIO, aside to Isabella You had marred all else. 180
Not with fond sicles of the tested gold,
Or stones whose rate are either rich or poor
As fancy values them, but with true prayers
That shall be up at heaven and enter there
Ere sunrise, prayers from preservèd souls, 185
From fasting maids whose minds are dedicate
To nothing temporal.
ANGELO Well, come to me tomorrow.
LUCIO, aside to Isabella Go to, ’tis well; away.
Heaven keep your Honor safe. 190
ANGELO, aside Amen.
For I am that way going to temptation
Where prayers cross.
ISABELLA At what hour tomorrow
Shall I attend your Lordship? 195
ANGELO At any time ’fore noon.
ISABELLA Save your Honor.
She exits, with Lucio and Provost.
ANGELO From thee, even from thy virtue.
What’s this? What’s this? Is this her fault or mine?
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most, ha? 200
Not she, nor doth she tempt; but it is I
That, lying by the violet in the sun,
Do as the carrion does, not as the flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be
That modesty may more betray our sense 205
Than woman’s lightness? Having waste ground
Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary
And pitch our evils there? O fie, fie, fie!
What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo? 210
Dost thou desire her foully for those things
That make her good? O, let her brother live.
Thieves for their robbery have authority
When judges steal themselves. What, do I love her
That I desire to hear her speak again 215
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
Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue. Never could the strumpet 220
With all her double vigor, art and nature,
Once stir my temper, but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite. Ever till now
When men were fond, I smiled and wondered how.
Enter Duke, disguised as a Friar, and Provost.
DUKE, as Friar
Hail to you, provost, so I think you are.
I am the Provost. What’s your will, good friar?
DUKE, as Friar
Bound by my charity and my blest order,
I come to visit the afflicted spirits
Here in the prison. Do me the common right 5
To let me see them, and to make me know
The nature of their crimes, that I may minister
To them accordingly.
I would do more than that if more were needful.
Look, here comes one, a gentlewoman of mine, 10
Who, falling in the flaws of her own youth,
Hath blistered her report. She is with child,
And he that got it, sentenced—a young man,
More fit to do another such offense
Than die for this. 15
DUKE, as Friar
When must he die?
PROVOST As I do think, tomorrow.
To Juliet. I have provided for you. Stay awhile
And you shall be conducted.
DUKE, as Friar, to Juliet
Repent you, fair one, of the sin you carry? 20
I do; and bear the shame most patiently.
DUKE, as Friar
I’ll teach you how you shall arraign your conscience,
And try your penitence, if it be sound
Or hollowly put on.
JULIET I’ll gladly learn. 25
DUKE, as Friar Love you the man that wronged you?
Yes, as I love the woman that wronged him.
DUKE, as Friar
So then it seems your most offenseful act
Was mutually committed?
JULIET Mutually. 30
DUKE, as Friar
Then was your sin of heavier kind than his.
I do confess it and repent it, father.
DUKE, as Friar
’Tis meet so, daughter; but lest you do repent
As that the sin hath brought you to this shame,
Which sorrow is always toward ourselves, not 35
Showing we would not spare heaven as we love it,
But as we stand in fear—
I do repent me as it is an evil,
And take the shame with joy. 40
DUKE, as Friar There rest.
Your partner, as I hear, must die tomorrow,
And I am going with instruction to him.
Grace go with you. Benedicite. He exits.
Must die tomorrow? O injurious love 45
That respites me a life, whose very comfort
Is still a dying horror.
PROVOST ’Tis pity of him.
When I would pray and think, I think and pray
To several subjects. Heaven hath my empty words,
Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue,
Anchors on Isabel. God in my mouth,
As if I did but only chew His name, 5
And in my heart the strong and swelling evil
Of my conception. The state whereon I studied
Is, like a good thing being often read,
Grown sere and tedious. Yea, my gravity,
Wherein—let no man hear me—I take pride, 10
Could I with boot change for an idle plume
Which the air beats for vain. O place, O form,
How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,
Wrench awe from fools, and tie the wiser souls
To thy false seeming! Blood, thou art blood. 15
Let’s write “good angel” on the devil’s horn.
’Tis not the devil’s crest. Knock within. How now,
One Isabel, a sister, desires access to you.
Teach her the way. Servant exits. O heavens, 20
Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,
Making both it unable for itself
And dispossessing all my other parts
Of necessary fitness?
So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons, 25
Come all to help him, and so stop the air
By which he should revive. And even so
The general subject to a well-wished king
Quit their own part, and in obsequious fondness
Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love 30
Must needs appear offense.
How now, fair maid?
ISABELLA I am come to know your pleasure.
That you might know it would much better please me
Than to demand what ’tis. Your brother cannot live. 35
ISABELLA Even so. Heaven keep your Honor.
Yet may he live a while. And it may be
As long as you or I. Yet he must die.
ISABELLA Under your sentence?
ANGELO Yea. 40
When, I beseech you? That in his reprieve,
Longer or shorter, he may be so fitted
That his soul sicken not.
Ha! Fie, these filthy vices! It were as good
To pardon him that hath from nature stolen 45
A man already made, as to remit
Their saucy sweetness that do coin God’s image
In stamps that are forbid. ’Tis all as easy
Falsely to take away a life true made
As to put metal in restrainèd means 50
To make a false one.
’Tis set down so in heaven, but not in Earth.
Say you so? Then I shall pose you quickly:
Which had you rather, that the most just law
Now took your brother’s life, or, to redeem him, 55
Give up your body to such sweet uncleanness
As she that he hath stained?
ISABELLA Sir, believe this:
I had rather give my body than my soul.
I talk not of your soul. Our compelled sins 60
Stand more for number than for accompt.
ISABELLA How say you?
Nay, I’ll not warrant that, for I can speak
Against the thing I say. Answer to this:
I, now the voice of the recorded law, 65
Pronounce a sentence on your brother’s life.
Might there not be a charity in sin
To save this brother’s life?
ISABELLA Please you to do ’t,
I’ll take it as a peril to my soul, 70
It is no sin at all, but charity.
Pleased you to do ’t, at peril of your soul,
Were equal poise of sin and charity.
That I do beg his life, if it be sin
Heaven let me bear it. You granting of my suit, 75
If that be sin, I’ll make it my morn prayer
To have it added to the faults of mine
And nothing of your answer.
ANGELO Nay, but hear me.
Your sense pursues not mine. Either you are 80
Or seem so, crafty, and that’s not good.
Let me be ignorant and in nothing good,
But graciously to know I am no better.
Thus wisdom wishes to appear most bright 85
When it doth tax itself, as these black masks
Proclaim an enshield beauty ten times louder
Than beauty could, displayed. But mark me.
To be receivèd plain, I’ll speak more gross:
Your brother is to die. 90
And his offense is so, as it appears,
Accountant to the law upon that pain.
Admit no other way to save his life— 95
As I subscribe not that, nor any other—
But, in the loss of question, that you, his sister,
Finding yourself desired of such a person
Whose credit with the judge, or own great place,
Could fetch your brother from the manacles 100
Of the all-binding law, and that there were
No earthly mean to save him but that either
You must lay down the treasures of your body
To this supposed, or else to let him suffer,
What would you do? 105
As much for my poor brother as myself.
That is, were I under the terms of death,
Th’ impression of keen whips I’d wear as rubies
And strip myself to death as to a bed
That longing have been sick for, ere I’d yield 110
My body up to shame.
ANGELO Then must your brother die.
ISABELLA And ’twere the cheaper way.
Better it were a brother died at once
Than that a sister, by redeeming him, 115
Should die forever.
Were not you then as cruel as the sentence
That you have slandered so?
Ignomy in ransom and free pardon
Are of two houses. Lawful mercy 120
Is nothing kin to foul redemption.
You seemed of late to make the law a tyrant,
And rather proved the sliding of your brother
A merriment than a vice.
O, pardon me, my lord. It oft falls out, 125
To have what we would have, we speak not what we
I something do excuse the thing I hate
For his advantage that I dearly love.
We are all frail. 130
ISABELLA Else let my brother die,
If not a fedary but only he
Owe and succeed thy weakness.
ANGELO Nay, women are frail too.
Ay, as the glasses where they view themselves, 135
Which are as easy broke as they make forms.
Women—help, heaven—men their creation mar
In profiting by them. Nay, call us ten times frail,
For we are soft as our complexions are,
And credulous to false prints. 140
ANGELO I think it well.
And from this testimony of your own sex,
Since I suppose we are made to be no stronger
Than faults may shake our frames, let me be bold.
I do arrest your words. Be that you are— 145
That is, a woman. If you be more, you’re none.
If you be one, as you are well expressed
By all external warrants, show it now
By putting on the destined livery.
I have no tongue but one. Gentle my lord, 150
Let me entreat you speak the former language.
ANGELO Plainly conceive I love you.
ISABELLA My brother did love Juliet,
And you tell me that he shall die for ’t.
He shall not, Isabel, if you give me love. 155
I know your virtue hath a license in ’t
Which seems a little fouler than it is
To pluck on others.
ANGELO Believe me, on mine honor,
My words express my purpose. 160
Ha! Little honor to be much believed,
And most pernicious purpose. Seeming, seeming!
I will proclaim thee, Angelo, look for ’t.
Sign me a present pardon for my brother
Or with an outstretched throat I’ll tell the world 165
What man thou art.
ANGELO Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoiled name, th’ austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i’ th’ state 170
Will so your accusation overweigh
That you shall stifle in your own report
And smell of calumny. I have begun,
And now I give my sensual race the rein.
Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite; 175
Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes
That banish what they sue for. Redeem thy brother
By yielding up thy body to my will,
Or else he must not only die the death,
But thy unkindness shall his death draw out 180
To ling’ring sufferance. Answer me tomorrow,
Or by the affection that now guides me most,
I’ll prove a tyrant to him. As for you,
Say what you can, my false o’erweighs your true.
To whom should I complain? Did I tell this, 185
Who would believe me? O, perilous mouths,
That bear in them one and the selfsame tongue,
Either of condemnation or approof,
Bidding the law make curtsy to their will,
Hooking both right and wrong to th’ appetite, 190
To follow as it draws. I’ll to my brother.
Though he hath fall’n by prompture of the blood,
Yet hath he in him such a mind of honor
That, had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he’d yield them up 195
Before his sister should her body stoop
To such abhorred pollution.
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die.
More than our brother is our chastity.
I’ll tell him yet of Angelo’s request, 200
And fit his mind to death, for his soul’s rest.