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An apartment in the DUKE'S palace.
Enter DUKE, ESCALUS, Lords and Attendants.


My lord.

Of government the properties to unfold,

Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse;

Since I am put to know that your own science

Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice

My strength can give you: then no more remains,

But that to your sufficiency........ your worth is able,

And let them work. The nature of our people, (11)

Our city's institutions, and the terms

For common justice, you're as pregnant in

As art and practice hath enriched any

That we remember. There is our commission,

From which we would not have you warp. Call hither,

I say, bid come before us Angelo.
[Exit an Attendant.

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, dress'd him with our love, (21)

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 honour,

It is Lord Angelo.

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,

That to the observer doth thy history (30)

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,

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 touch'd

But to fine issues, nor Nature never lends

The smallest scruple of her excellence

But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines (40)

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:--

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.

Now, good my lord,

Let there be some more test made of my metal, (50)

Before so noble and so great a figure

Be stamp'd upon it.

No more evasion:

We have with a leaven'd and prepared choice

Proceeded to you; therefore take your honours.

Our haste from hence is of so quick condition

That it prefers itself and leaves unquestion'd

Matters of needful value. We shall write to you,

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: (60)

To the hopeful execution do I leave you

Of your commissions.

Yet give leave, my lord,

That we may bring you something on the way.

My haste may not admit it;

Nor need you, on mine honour, have to do

With any scruple; your scope is as mine own,

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: (70)

Though it do well, I do not relish well

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!

I thank you. Fare you well.

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 (81)

I am not yet instructed.

'Tis so with me. Let us withdraw together,

And we may soon our satisfaction have

Touching that point.

I'll wait upon your honour.


A street.
Enter Lucio and two Gentlemen.

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 Gent.
Heaven grant us its peace, but
not the King of Hungary's!

Sec. Gent.

Thou concludest like the sanctimonious
pirate, that went to sea with the Ten
Commandments, but scraped one out of the
table. (10)

Sec. Gent.
'Thou shalt not steal'?

Ay, that he razed.

First Gent.
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 the petition well
that prays for peace.

Sec. Gent.
I never heard any soldier dislike it. (19)

I believe thee; for I think thou
never wast where grace was said.

Sec. Gent.
No? a dozen times at least.

First Gent.
What, in metre?

In any proportion or in any language.

First Gent.
I think, or in any religion.

Ay, why not? Grace is grace, despite
of all controversy: as for example, thou thyself
art a wicked villain, despite of all grace.

First Gent.
Well, there went but a pair of
shears between us. (30)

I grant; as there may between the
lists and the velvet. Thou art the list.

First Gent.
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?

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. 40

First Gent.
I think I have done myself
wrong, have I not?

Sec. Gent.
Yes, that thou hast, whether
thou art tainted or free.

Behold, behold, where Madam Mitigation
comes! I have purchased as many diseases
under her roof as come to--

Sec. Gent.
To what, I pray?


Sec. Gent.
To three thousand dolours a year. (51)

First Gent.
Ay, and more.

A French crown more.

First Gent.
Thou art always figuring diseases
in me; but thou art full of error; I am

Nay, not as one would say, healthy;
but so sound as things that are hollow: thy
bones are hollow; impiety has made a feast of

First Gent.
How now! which of your hips
has the most profound sciatica?

Mrs Ov.
Well, well; there's one yonder
arrested and carried to prison was worth five
thousand of you all.

Sec. Gent.
Who's that, I pray thee?

Mrs Ov.
Marry, sir, that's Claudio, Signior

First Gent.
Claudio to prison? 'tis not so.

Mrs Ov.
Nay, but I know 'tis so: I saw
him arrested, saw him carried away; and,
which is more, within these three days his
head to be chopped off. (71)

But, after all this fooling, I would
not have it so. Art thou sure of this?

Mrs Ov.
I am too sure of it: and it is for
getting Madam Julietta with child.

Believe me, this may be: he promised
to meet me two hour? since, and he was
ever precise in promise-keeping.

Sec. Gent.
Besides, you know, it draws
something near to the speech we had to such
a purpose. (80)

First Gent.
But, most of all, agreeing with
the proclamation.

Away! let's go learn the truth of it.
Exeunt Lucio and Gentlemen.

Mrs Ov.
Thus, what with the war, what
with the sweat, what with the gallows and
what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk.
How now! what's the news with you?

Yonder man is carried to prison.

Mrs Ov.
Well; what has he done?

A woman. (90)

Mrs Ov.
But what's his offence?

Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

Mrs Ov.
What, is there a maid with child
by him?

No, but there's a woman with maid
by him. You have not heard of the proclamation,
have you?

Mrs Ov.
What proclamation, man?

All houses in the suburbs of Vienna
in the suburbs be pulled down? (100)

Mrs Ov.
And what shall become of those
in the city?

They shall stand for seed: they had
gone down too, but that a wise burgher put in
for them.

Mrs Ov.
But shall all our houses of resort
in the suburbs be pulled down?

To the ground, mistress.

Mrs Ov.
Why, here's a change indeed in the
commonwealth! What shall become of me?

Come; fear not you: good counsellors
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 have worn your eyes almost
out in the service, you will be considered.

Mrs Ov.
What's to do here, Thomas tapster?
let's withdraw.

Here comes Signior Claudio, led by
the provost to prison; and there's Madam

Fellow, why dost thou show me thus to the world?

Bear me to prison, where I am committed.

I do it not in evil disposition,

But from Lord Angelo by special charge.

Thus can the demigod Authority

Make us pay down for our offence by weight

The words of heaven; on whom it will, it will;

On whom it will not, so; yet still 'tis just. Re-enter Lucio and two Gentlemen.

Why, how now, Claudio! whence comes this restraint?

From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty: (130)

As surfeit is the father of much fast,

So every scope by the immoderate use

Turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue,

Like rats that ravin down their proper bane,

A thirsty evil; and when we drink we die.

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 freedom as the morality of
imprisonment. What's thy offence, Claudio? (140)

What but to speak of would offend again.

What, is't murder?



Call it so.

Away sir! you must go.

One word, good friend. Lucio, a word with you.

A hundred, if they'll do you any good.

Is lechery so look'd after?

Thus stands it with me: upon a true contract (150)

I got possession of Julietta's bed:

You know the lady; she is fast my wife,

Save that we do the deunciation lack

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

The stealth of our most mutual entertainment

With character too gross is writ on Juliet.

With child, perhaps?

Unhappily, even so. (161)

And the new deputy now for the duke--

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;

Whether the tyranny be in his place,

Or in his eminence that fills it up,

I stagger in:--but this new governor (170)

Awakes me all the enrolled penalties

Which have, like unscour'd armour, hung by the wall

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.

I warrant it is: and thy head stands
so tickle on thy shoulders that a milkmaid, if
she be in love, may sigh it off. Send after
the duke and appeal to him. (180)

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

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

There is a prone and speechless dialect,

Such as move men; beside, she hath prosperous art

When she will play with reason and discourse, (191)

And well she can persuade.

I pray she may; as well for the encouragement
of 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.

I thank you, good friend Lucio.

Within two hours.

Come, officer, away!


A monastery.

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 harbour, hath a purpose

More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends

Of burning youth.

Fri. T.
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, and witless bravery keeps.

I have deliver'd to Lord Angelo,

A man of stricture and firm abstinence,

My absolute power and place here in Vienna,

And he supposes me travell'd to Poland;

For so I have strew'd it in the common ear,

And so it is received. Now, pious sir,

You will demand of me why I do this?

Fri. T.
Gladly, my lord. (19)

We have strict statutes and most biting laws,

The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds,

Which for this nineteen 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 threatening twigs of birch,

Only to stick it in their children's sight

For terror, not to use, in time the rod

Becomes more mock'd than fear'd; so our decrees,

Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead;

And liberty plucks justice by the nose;

The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart

Goes all decorum.

Fri. T.
It rested in your grace

To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleased:

And it in you more dreadful would have seem'd

Than in Lord Angelo.

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,

When evil deeds have their permissive pass

And not the punishment. Therefore indeed, my father, (40)

I have on Angelo imposed the office;

Who may, in the ambush of my name, strike home,

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

How I may formally in person bear me

Like a true friar. Moe reasons for this action

At our more leisure shall I render you; (50)

Only, this one: Lord Angelo is precise;

Stands at a guard with envy; scarce confesses

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.


A nunnery.

And have you nuns no farther privileges?

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.



Ho! Peace be in this place!

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 vow'd, 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.

Peace and prosperity! Who is't that calls?
Enter Lucio.

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:

Not to be weary with you, he's in prison.

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.

Sir, make me not your story. (30)

It is 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:

I hold you as a thing ensky'd and sainted,

By your renouncement an immortal spirit,

And to be talk'd with in sincerity,

As with a saint.

You do blaspheme the good in mocking me.

Do not believe it. Fewness and truth, 'tis thus: (40)

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

Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry.

Some one with child by him? My cousin Juliet?

Is she your cousin?

Adoptedly; as school-maids change their names

By vain though apt affection.

She it is.

O, let him marry her.

This is the point.

The duke is very strangely gone from hence;

Bore many gentlemen, myself being one,

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,

Governs Lord Angelo; a man whose blood

Is very snow-broth; one who never feels

The wanton stings and motions of the sense, (60)

But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge

With profits of the mind, study and fast.

He--to give fear to use and liberty,

Which have for long run by the hideous law,

As mice by lions--hath pick'd out an act,

Under whose heavy sense your brother's life

Falls into forfeit: he arrests him on it;

And follows close the rigour of the statute,

To make him an example. All hope is gone,

Unless you have the grace by your fair prayer (70)

To soften Angelo: and that's my pith of business

'Twixt you and your poor brother.

Doth he so seek his life?

Has censured him

Already; and, as I hear, the provost hath

A warrant for his execution.

Alas! What poor ability's in me

To do him good?

Assay the power you have.

My power? Alas, I doubt--

Our doubts are traitors

And make 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, (81)

Men give like gods; but when they weep and kneel,

All their petitions are as freely theirs

As they themselves would owe them.

I'll see what I can do.

But speedily.

I will about it straight;

No longer staying but to give the mother

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. (90)

Good sir, adieu.

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