William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure in the complete original text.
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Measure for Measure

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Act II. Scene I.

Act II. Scene I.—A Hall in ANGELO'S House.

Officers, and other Attendants.

Ang. 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.
Escal. Ay, but yet
Let us be keen and rather cut a little,
Than fall, and bruise to death. Alas! this
Whom I would save, had a most noble father.
Let but your honour know,—
Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue,—
That, in the working of your own affections,
Had time coher'd with place or place with
Or that the resolute acting of your blood
Could have attain'd the effect of your own pur-
Whether you had not, some time in your life,
Err'd in this point which now you censure him,
And pull'd the law upon you.
Ang. 'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall. I not deny,
The jury, passing on the prisoner's life,
May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try; what's open made
to justice,
That justice seizes: what know the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? 'Tis very preg-
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take it
Because we see it; but what we do not see
We tread upon, and never think of it.
You may not so extenuate his offence
For I have had such faults; but rather tell me,
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.
Escal. Be it as your wisdom will.
Ang. Where is the provost?
prov. Here, if it like your honour.
Ang. See that Claudio
Be executed by nine to-morrow morning:
Bring him his confessor, let him be prepar'd;
For that's the utmost of his pilgrimage.
Escal. 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 condemned for a fault alone.

Enter ELBOW and Officers, with FROTH and
Elb. Come, bring them away: if these be
good people in a common-weal that do nothing
but use their abuses in common houses, I know
no law: bring them away.
Ang. How now, sir! What's your name, and
what's the matter?
Elb. If it please your honour, 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 honour two notorious bene-
Ang. Benefactors! Well; what benefactors
are they? are they not malefactors?
Elb. If it please your honour, 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.
Escal. This comes off well: here's a wise
Ang. Go to: what quality are they of? Elbow
is your name? why dost thou not speak, Elbow?
Pom. He cannot, sir: he's out at elbow.
Ang. What are you, sir?
Elb. 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 professes a hot-house, which, I think, is
a very ill house too.
Escal. How know you that?
Elb. My wife, sir, whom I detest before heaven
and your honour,—
Escal. How! thy wife?
Elb. Ay, sir; whom, I thank heaven, is an
honest woman,—
Escal. Dost thou detest her therefore?
Elb. I say, sir, I will detest myself also, as
well as she, that this house, if it be not a bawd's
house, it is pity of her life, for it is a naughty
Escal. How dost thou know that, constable?
Elb. Marry, sir, by my wife; who, if she had
been a woman cardinally given, might have
been accused in fornication, adultery, and all
uncleanliness there.
Escal. By the woman's means?
Elb. Ay, sir, by Mistress Overdone's means;
but as she spit in his face, so she defied him.
Pom. Sir, if it please your honour, this is
not so.
Elb. Prove it before these varlets here, thou
honourable man, prove it.
Escal. [To ANGELO.] Do you hear how he
Pom. Sir, she came in, great with child, and
longing,—saving your honour'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 three-
pence; your honours have seen such dishes;
they are not China dishes, but very good dishes.
Escal. Go to, go to: no matter for the dish, sir.
Pom. No, indeed sir, not of a pin; you are
therein in the right: but to the point. As I
say, this Mistress 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 you
know, Master Froth, I could not give you three-
pence again.
Froth. No, indeed.
Pom. Very well: you being then, if you be re-
membered, cracking the stones of the foresaid
Froth. Ay, so I did, indeed.
Pom. 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, un-
less they kept very good diet, as I told you,—
Froth. All this is true.
Pom. Why, very well then.—
Escal. 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.
Pom. Sir, your honour cannot come to that
Escal. No, sir, nor I mean it not.
Pom. Sir, but you shall come to it, by your
honour's leave. And, I beseech you, look into
Master Froth here, sir; a man of fourscore
pound a year, whose father died at Hallowmas.
Was't not at Hallowmas, Master Froth?
Froth. All-hallownd eve.
Pom. Why, very well: I hope here be truths.
He, sir, sitting, as I say, in a lower chair, sir;
'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 for winter.
Pom. Why, very well then: I hope here be
Ang. This will last out a night in Russia,
When nights are longest there: I'll take my
And leave you to the hearing of the cause,
Hoping you'll find good cause to whip them all.
Escal. I think no less. Good morrow to your
lordship. [Exit ANGELO.
Now, sir, come on: what was done to Elbow's wife,
once more?
Pom. Once, sir? there was nothing done to
her once.
Elb. I beseech you, sir, ask him what this
man did to my wife.
Pom. I beseech your honour, ask me.
Escal. Well, sir, what did this gentleman to
Pom. I beseech you, sir, look in this gentle-
man's face. Good Master Froth, look upon his
honour; 'tis for a good purpose. Doth your
honour mark his face?
Escal. Ay, sir, very well.
Pom. Nay, I beseech you, mark it well.
Escal. Well, I do so.
Pom. Doth your honour see any harm in his
Escal. Why, no.
Pom. 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 the constable's wife any harm?
I would knew that of your honour.
Escal. He's in the right. Constable, what say
you to it?
Elb. First, an' it like you, the house is a
respected house; next, this is a respected fellow,
and his mistress is a respected woman.
Pom. By this hand, sir, his wife is a more
respected person than any of us all.
Elb. Varlet, thou liest: thou liest, wicked
varlet. The time is yet to come that she was
ever respected with man, woman, or child.
Pom. Sir, she was respected with him before
he married with her.
Escal. Which is the wiser here? Justice, or
Iniquity? Is this true?
Elb. 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 the poor duke's officer. Prove this,
thou wicked Hannibal, or I'll have mine action
of battery on thee.
Escal. If he took you a box o' th' ear, you
might have your action of slander too.
Elb. Marry, I thank your good worship for it.
What is't your worship's pleasure I shall do
with this wicked caitiff?
Escal. Truly, officer, because he hath some
offences in him that thou wouldest discover if
thou couldst, let him continue in his courses till
thou knowest what they are.
Elb. Marry, I thank your worship for it.
Thou seest, thou wicked varlet, now, what's
come upon thee: thou art to continue now,
thou varlet, thou art to continue.
Escal. Where were yon born, friend?
Froth. Here in Vienna, sir.
Escal. Are you of fourscore pounds a year?
Froth. Yes, an't please you, sir.
Escal. So. [To POMPEY.] What trade are
you of, sir?
Pom. A tapster; a poor widow's tapster.
Escal. Your mistress' name?
Pom. Mistress Overdone.
Escal. Hath she had any more than one hus-
Pom. Nine, sir; Overdone by the last.
Escal. 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.
Froth. I thank your worship. For mine own
part, I never come into any room in a taphouse,
but I am drawn in.
Escal. Well: no more of it, Master Froth:
farewell [Exit FROTH.]—Come you hither to
me. Master tapster. What's your name. Master
Pom. Pompey.
Escal. What else?
Pom. Bum, sir.
Escal. Troth, and your bum is the greatest
thing about you, so that, in the beasthest sense,
you are Pompey the Great. Pompey, you are
partly a bawd, Pompey, howsoever you colour it
in being a tapster, are you not? come, tell me
true: it shall be the better for you.
Pom. Truly, sir, I am a poor fellow that
would live.
Escal. How would you live, Pompey? by
being a bawd? What do you think of the trade,
Pompey? is it a lawful trade?
Pom. If the law would allow it, sir.
Escal. But the law will not allow it, Pompey;
nor it shall not be allowed in Vienna.
Pom. Does your worship mean to geld and
splay all the youth of the city?
Escal. No, Pompey.
Pom. Truly, sir, in my humble 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.
Escal. There are pretty orders beginning, I
can tell you: it is but heading and hanging.
Pom. 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 pass, say, Pompey told
you so.
Escal. 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 do, Pompey, I shall beat
you to your tent, and prove a shrewd Cæsar
to you. In plain dealing, Pompey, I shall have
you whipt. So, for this time, Pompey, fare you
Pom. I thank your worship for your good
counsel;—[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 whipt out of his trade.
Escal. Come hither to me, Master Elbow;
come hither. Master constable. How long have
you been in this place of constable?
Elb. Seven year and a half, sir.
Escal. I thought, by your readiness in the
office, you had continued in it some time. You
say, seven years together?
Elb. And a half, sir.
Escal. 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?
Elb. 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.
Escal. Look you bring me in the names of
some six or seven, the most sufficient of your
Elb. To your worship's house, sir?
Escal. To my house. Fare you well.
[Exit ELBOW.
What's o'clock, think you?
Just. Eleven, sir.
Escal. I pray you home to dinner with me.
Just. I humbly thank you.
Escal. It grieves me for the death of Claudio;
But there is no remedy.
Just. Lord Angelo is severe.
Escal. 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's no remedy.
Come, sir. [Exeunt.
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