Enter Duke as a Friar, Claudio, and Provost.
DUKE, as Friar
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 prepared to die.
DUKE, as Friar
Be absolute for death. Either death or life 5
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 skyey influences
That doth this habitation where thou keep’st 10
Hourly afflict. Merely, thou art death’s fool,
For him thou labor’st by thy flight to shun,
And yet runn’st toward him still. Thou art not noble,
For all th’ accommodations that thou bear’st
Are nursed by baseness. Thou ’rt by no means 15
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, 20
For thou exists 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, forget’st. Thou art not certain,
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects 25
After the moon. If thou art rich, thou ’rt 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, 30
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
But as it were an after-dinner’s sleep 35
Dreaming on both, for all thy blessèd youth
Becomes as agèd 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 40
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.
CLAUDIO I humbly thank you.
To sue to live, I find I seek to die, 45
And seeking death, find life. Let it come on.
What ho! Peace here, grace, and good company.
Who’s there? Come in. The wish deserves a welcome.
DUKE, as Friar, to Claudio
Dear sir, ere long I’ll visit you again.
CLAUDIO Most holy sir, I thank you. 50
ISABELLA, to Provost
My business is a word or two with Claudio.
And very welcome.—Look, signior, here’s your
DUKE, as Friar Provost, a word with you.
PROVOST As many as you please. 55
DUKE, as Friar, aside to Provost
Bring me to hear them speak, where I may be
Duke and Provost exit.
CLAUDIO Now, sister, what’s the comfort?
As all comforts are, most good, most good indeed. 60
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.
Tomorrow you set on. 65
CLAUDIO Is there no remedy?
None but such remedy as, to save a head,
To cleave a heart in twain.
CLAUDIO But is there any?
ISABELLA Yes, brother, you may live. 70
There is a devilish mercy in the judge,
If you’ll implore it, that will free your life
But fetter you till death.
CLAUDIO Perpetual durance?
Ay, just; perpetual durance, a restraint, 75
Though all the world’s vastidity you had,
To a determined scope.
CLAUDIO But in what nature?
In such a one as, you consenting to ’t,
Would bark your honor from that trunk you bear 80
And leave you naked.
CLAUDIO 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 85
Than a perpetual honor. 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. 90
CLAUDIO 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. 95
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 100
Nips youth i’ th’ head, and follies doth enew
As falcon doth the fowl—is yet a devil.
His filth within being cast, he would appear
A pond as deep as hell.
CLAUDIO The prenzie Angelo? 105
O, ’tis the cunning livery of hell
The damned’st body to invest and cover
In prenzie guards. Dost thou think, Claudio,
If I would yield him my virginity
Thou mightst be freed? 110
CLAUDIO O heavens, it cannot be!
Yes, he would give ’t thee; from this rank offense,
So to offend him still. This night’s the time
That I should do what I abhor to name,
Or else thou diest tomorrow. 115
CLAUDIO Thou shalt not do ’t.
ISABELLA O, were it but my life,
I’d throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.
CLAUDIO Thanks, dear Isabel. 120
Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow.
CLAUDIO Yes. Has he affections in him
That thus can make him bite the law by th’ nose,
When he would force it? Sure it is no sin,
Or of the deadly seven it is the least. 125
ISABELLA 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? 130
CLAUDIO Death is a fearful thing.
ISABELLA And shamèd 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 135
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbèd ice,
To be imprisoned in the viewless winds
And blown with restless violence round about 140
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 loathèd worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment 145
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
ISABELLA Alas, alas!
CLAUDIO Sweet sister, let me live.
What sin you do to save a brother’s life, 150
Nature dispenses with the deed so far
That it becomes a virtue.
ISABELLA O, you beast!
O faithless coward, O dishonest wretch,
Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice? 155
Is ’t not a kind of incest to take life
From thine own sister’s shame? What should I think?
Heaven shield my mother played my father fair,
For such a warpèd slip of wilderness
Ne’er issued from his blood. Take my defiance; 160
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.
CLAUDIO Nay, hear me, Isabel— 165
ISABELLA 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.
CLAUDIO O, hear me, Isabella— 170
Enter Duke as a Friar.
DUKE, as Friar, to Isabella
Vouchsafe a word, young sister, but one word.
ISABELLA What is your will?
DUKE, as Friar 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 175
ISABELLA I have no superfluous leisure. My stay must
be stolen out of other affairs, but I will attend you
DUKE, as Friar, taking Claudio aside Son, I have overheard 180
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 practice
his judgment with the disposition of natures. She,
having the truth of honor in her, hath made him 185
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. Tomorrow you must die. Go to your knees 190
and make ready.
CLAUDIO Let me ask my sister pardon. I am so out of
love with life that I will sue to be rid of it.
DUKE, as Friar Hold you there. Farewell.—Provost, a
word with you. 195
PROVOST What’s your will, father?
DUKE, as Friar That now you are come, you will be
gone. Leave me awhile with the maid. My mind
promises with my habit no loss shall touch her by
my company. 200
PROVOST In good time. He exits, with Claudio.
DUKE, as Friar, to Isabella 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 205
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 210
ISABELLA 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 215
can speak to him, I will open my lips in vain, or
discover his government.
DUKE, as Friar 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 220
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 225
gracious person, and much please the absent duke,
if peradventure he shall ever return to have hearing
of this business.
ISABELLA Let me hear you speak farther. I have spirit to
do anything that appears not foul in the truth of my 230
DUKE, as Friar 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? 235
ISABELLA I have heard of the lady, and good words
went with her name.
DUKE, as Friar She should this Angelo have married,
was affianced to her oath, and the nuptial appointed.
Between which time of the contract and 240
limit of the solemnity, her brother Frederick was
wracked 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 245
most kind and natural; with him, the portion and
sinew of her fortune, her marriage dowry; with
both, her combinate husband, this well-seeming
ISABELLA Can this be so? Did Angelo so leave her? 250
DUKE, as Friar Left her in her tears and dried not one
of them with his comfort, swallowed his vows
whole, pretending in her discoveries of dishonor; in
few, bestowed her on her own lamentation, which
she yet wears for his sake; and he, a marble to her 255
tears, is washed with them but relents not.
ISABELLA 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? 260
DUKE, as Friar It is a rupture that you may easily heal,
and the cure of it not only saves your brother, but
keeps you from dishonor in doing it.
ISABELLA Show me how, good father.
DUKE, as Friar This forenamed maid hath yet in her 265
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, 270
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 275
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 honor untainted, the poor 280
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? 285
ISABELLA The image of it gives me content already, and
I trust it will grow to a most prosperous perfection.
DUKE, as Friar 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 290
will presently to Saint Luke’s. There at the moated
grange resides this dejected Mariana. At that place
call upon me, and dispatch with Angelo that it may
ISABELLA I thank you for this comfort. Fare you well, 295
She exits. The Duke remains.
Enter Elbow, Pompey, and Officers.
ELBOW, to Pompey 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.
DUKE, as Friar, aside O heavens, what stuff is here? 5
POMPEY ’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 and lambskins too, to signify
that craft, being richer than innocency, stands for 10
ELBOW Come your way, sir.—Bless you, good father
DUKE, as Friar And you, good brother father. What
offense hath this man made you, sir? 15
ELBOW 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.
DUKE, as Friar, to Pompey
Fie, sirrah, a bawd, a wicked bawd! 20
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 25
I drink, I eat, array myself, and live.
Canst thou believe thy living is a life,
So stinkingly depending? Go mend, go mend.
POMPEY Indeed, it does stink in some sort, sir. But yet,
sir, I would prove— 30
DUKE, as Friar
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.
ELBOW He must before the Deputy, sir; he has given 35
him warning. The Deputy cannot abide a whoremaster.
If he be a whoremonger and comes before
him, he were as good go a mile on his errand.
DUKE, as Friar
That we were all, as some would seem to be,
From our faults, as faults from seeming, free. 40
ELBOW His neck will come to your waist—a cord, sir.
POMPEY I spy comfort, I cry bail. Here’s a gentleman
and a friend of mine.
LUCIO How now, noble Pompey? What, at the wheels of
Caesar? Art thou led in triumph? What, is there 45
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
sayst thou to this tune, matter, and method? Is ’t not
drowned i’ th’ last rain, ha? What sayst thou, trot? Is 50
the world as it was, man? Which is the way? Is it sad
and few words? Or how? The trick of it?
DUKE, as Friar, aside Still thus, and thus; still worse.
LUCIO, to Pompey How doth my dear morsel, thy
mistress? Procures she still, ha? 55
POMPEY Troth, sir, she hath eaten up all her beef, and
she is herself in the tub.
LUCIO 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 60
POMPEY Yes, faith, sir.
LUCIO Why, ’tis not amiss, Pompey. Farewell. Go say I
sent thee thither. For debt, Pompey? Or how?
ELBOW For being a bawd, for being a bawd. 65
LUCIO 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, 70
Pompey; you will keep the house.
POMPEY I hope, sir, your good Worship will be my bail.
LUCIO 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 75
the more. Adieu, trusty Pompey.—Bless you, friar.
DUKE, as Friar And you.
LUCIO, to Pompey Does Bridget paint still, Pompey,
ELBOW, to Pompey Come your ways, sir, come. 80
POMPEY, to Lucio You will not bail me, then, sir?
LUCIO Then, Pompey, nor now.—What news abroad,
friar? What news?
ELBOW, to Pompey Come your ways, sir, come.
LUCIO Go to kennel, Pompey, go. 85
Elbow, Pompey, and Officers exit.
What news, friar, of the Duke?
DUKE, as Friar I know none. Can you tell me of any?
LUCIO Some say he is with the Emperor of Russia;
other some, he is in Rome. But where is he, think
DUKE, as Friar I know not where, but wheresoever, I
wish him well.
LUCIO 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. 95
He puts transgression to ’t.
DUKE, as Friar He does well in ’t.
LUCIO A little more lenity to lechery would do no harm
in him. Something too crabbed that way, friar.
DUKE, as Friar It is too general a vice, and severity 100
must cure it.
LUCIO 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 105
this downright way of creation. Is it true, think
DUKE, as Friar How should he be made, then?
LUCIO Some report a sea-maid spawned him; some,
that he was begot between two stockfishes. But it is 110
certain that when he makes water, his urine is
congealed ice; that I know to be true. And he is a
motion generative, that’s infallible.
DUKE, as Friar You are pleasant, sir, and speak apace.
LUCIO Why, what a ruthless thing is this in him, for the 115
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 120
sport, he knew the service, and that instructed him
DUKE, as Friar I never heard the absent duke much
detected for women. He was not inclined that way.
LUCIO O, sir, you are deceived. 125
DUKE, as Friar ’Tis not possible.
LUCIO 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. 130
DUKE, as Friar You do him wrong, surely.
LUCIO Sir, I was an inward of his. A shy fellow was the
Duke, and I believe I know the cause of his
DUKE, as Friar What, I prithee, might be the cause? 135
LUCIO 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.
DUKE, as Friar Wise? Why, no question but he was. 140
LUCIO A very superficial, ignorant, unweighing fellow.
DUKE, as Friar 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 145
but testimonied in his own bringings-forth, and he
shall appear to the envious a scholar, a statesman,
and a soldier. Therefore you speak unskillfully. Or,
if your knowledge be more, it is much darkened in
your malice. 150
LUCIO Sir, I know him, and I love him.
DUKE, as Friar Love talks with better knowledge, and
knowledge with dearer love.
LUCIO Come, sir, I know what I know.
DUKE, as Friar I can hardly believe that, since you 155
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? 160
LUCIO Sir, my name is Lucio, well known to the Duke.
DUKE, as Friar He shall know you better, sir, if I may
live to report you.
LUCIO I fear you not.
DUKE, as Friar O, you hope the Duke will return no 165
more, or you imagine me too unhurtful an opposite.
But indeed I can do you little harm; you’ll
forswear this again.
LUCIO I’ll be hanged first. Thou art deceived in me,
friar. But no more of this. Canst thou tell if Claudio 170
die tomorrow or no?
DUKE, as Friar Why should he die, sir?
LUCIO Why? For filling a bottle with a tundish. I would
the Duke we talk of were returned again. This
ungenitured agent will unpeople the province with 175
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. 180
Farewell, good friar. I prithee pray for me. The
Duke, I say to thee again, would eat mutton on
Fridays. He’s now 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. 185
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? 190
Enter Escalus, Provost, Officers, and Mistress
Overdone, a Bawd.
ESCALUS, to Officers Go, away with her to prison.
BAWD Good my lord, be good to me. Your Honor is
accounted a merciful man, good my lord.
ESCALUS Double and treble admonition, and still forfeit
in the same kind? This would make mercy 195
swear and play the tyrant.
PROVOST A bawd of eleven years’ continuance, may it
please your Honor.
BAWD, to Escalus My lord, this is one Lucio’s information
against me. Mistress Kate Keepdown was 200
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.
ESCALUS That fellow is a fellow of much license. Let 205
him be called before us. Away with her to prison.—
Go to, no more words. Officers exit with Bawd.
Provost, my brother Angelo will not be altered.
Claudio must die tomorrow. Let him be furnished
with divines and have all charitable preparation. If 210
my brother wrought by my pity, it should not be so
PROVOST So please you, this friar hath been with him,
and advised him for th’ entertainment of death.
ESCALUS Good even, good father. 215
DUKE, as Friar Bliss and goodness on you.
ESCALUS Of whence are you?
DUKE, as Friar
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 220
In special business from his Holiness.
ESCALUS What news abroad i’ th’ world?
DUKE, as Friar 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 it is as dangerous to 225
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 accursed. Much upon
this riddle runs the wisdom of the world. This news 230
is old enough, yet it is every day’s news. I pray you,
sir, of what disposition was the Duke?
ESCALUS One that, above all other strifes, contended
especially to know himself.
DUKE, as Friar What pleasure was he given to? 235
ESCALUS 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 240
Claudio prepared. I am made to understand that
you have lent him visitation.
DUKE, as Friar He professes to have received no
sinister measure from his judge but most willingly
humbles himself to the determination of justice. Yet 245
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
is he resolved to die.
ESCALUS You have paid the heavens your function and 250
the prisoner the very debt of your calling. I have
labored 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. 255
DUKE, as Friar If his own life answer the straitness of
his proceeding, it shall become him well; wherein if
he chance to fail, he hath sentenced himself.
ESCALUS I am going to visit the prisoner. Fare you well.
DUKE, as Friar Peace be with you. 260
Escalus and Provost exit.
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 265
Than by self-offenses 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. 270
O, what may man within him hide,
Though angel on the outward side!
How may likeness made in crimes,
Making practice on the times,
To draw with idle spiders’ strings 275
Most ponderous and substantial things.
Craft against vice I must apply.
With Angelo tonight shall lie
His old betrothèd but despisèd.
So disguise shall, by th’ disguisèd, 280
Pay with falsehood false exacting
And perform an old contracting.