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

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Act III. Scene I.

Act III. Scene I.—A Room in the Prison.

Enter DUKE, as a friar, CLAUDIO, and PROVOST.

Duke. So then you hope of pardon from Lord
Angelo?
Claud. The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope:
I have hope to live, and am prepar'd to die.
Duke. Be absolute for death; either death
or life
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 dost this habitation, where thou keep'st,
Hourly afflict. Merely, thou art death's fool;
For him thou labour'st by thy flight to shun,
And yet run'st toward him still. Thou art not
noble:
For all th' accommodations that thou bear'st
Are nurs'd by baseness. Thou art by no means
valiant;
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;
For thou exist'st 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,
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,
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 age;
But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,
Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth
Becomes as aged, 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
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
Lie hid moe thousand deaths: yet death we fear,
That makes these odds all even.
Claud. I humbly thank you.
To sue to live, I find I seek to die,
And, seeking death, find life: let it come on.
Isab. [Within.] What ho! Peace here; grace
and good company!
Prov. Who's there? come in: the wish de-
serves a welcome.
Duke. Dear sir, ere long I'll visit you again.
Claud. Most holy sir, I thank you.
Isab. My business is a word or two with
Claudio.
Prov. And very welcome. Look, signior;
here's your sister.
Duke. Provost, a word with you.
Prov. As many as you please.
Duke. Bring me to hear them speak, where I
may be conceal'd.
[Exeunt DUKE and PROVOST.
Claud. Now, sister, what's the comfort?
Isab. Why, as all comforts are; most good,
most good indeed.
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;
To-morrow you set on.
Claud. Is there no remedy?
Isab. None, but such remedy, as to save a
head
To cleave a heart in twain.
Claud. But is there any?
Isab. Yes, brother, you may live:
There is a devilish mercy in the judge,
If you'll implore it, that will free your life,
But fetter you till death.
Claud. Perpetual durance?
Isab. Ay, just; perpetual durance, a restraint,
Though all the world's vastidity you had,
To a determin'd scope.
Claud. But in what nature?
Isab. In such a one as, you consenting to't,
Would bark your honour from that trunk you
bear,
And leave you naked.
Claud. Let me know the point.
Isab. O, I do fear thee, Claudio; and I quake,
Lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain,
And'six or seven winters more respect
Than a perpetual honour. 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.
Claud. 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.
Isab. 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 de-
puty,
Whose settled visage and deliberate word
Nips youth i' the head, and follies doth enmew
As falcon doth the fowl, is yet a devil;
His filth within being cast, he would appear
A pond as deep as hell.
Claud. The prenzie Angelo?
Isab. 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.
Claud. O heavens! it cannot be.
Isab. Yes, he would give't thee, from this
rank offence,
So to offend him still. This night's the time
That I should do what I abhor to name,
Or else thou diest to-morrow.
Claud. Thou shalt not do't.
Isab. O! were it but my life,
I'd throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.
Claud. Thanks, dear Isabel.
Isab. Be ready, Claudio, for your death to-
morrow.
Claud. Yes. Has he affections in him,
That thus can make him bite the law by the nose,
When he would force it? Sure, it is no sin;
Or of the deadly seven it is the least.
Isab. Which is the least?
Claud. If it were damnable, he being so wise,
Why would he for the momentary trick
Be perdurably fin'd? O Isabel!
Isab. What says my brother?
Claud. Death is a fearful thing.
Isab. And shamed life a hateful
Claud. Ay, but to die, and go we know not
where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thoughts
Imagine howling: 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
Isab. Alas! alas!
Claud. Sweet sister, let me live:
What sin you do to save a brother's life,
Nature dispenses with the deed so far
That it becomes a virtue.
Isab. O you beast!
O faithless coward! O dishonest wretch!
Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice?
Is't not a kind of incest, to take life
From thine own sister's shame? What should I
think?
Heaven shield my mother play'd my father fair;
For such a warped slip of wilderness
Ne'er issu'd from his blood. Take my defiance;
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.
Claud. Nay, hear me, Isabel.
Isab. 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. [Going.
Claud. O hear me, Isabella.

Re-enter DUKE.
Duke. Vouchsafe a word, young sister, but one
word.
Isab. What is your will?
Duke. 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 benefit.
Isab. I have no superfluous leisure: my stay
must be stolen out of other affairs; but I will
attend you a while.
Duke. [Aside to CLAUDIO.] Son, I have over-
heard what hath past between you and your
sister. Angelo had never the purpose to corrupt
her; only he hath made an assay of her virtue
to practise his judgment with the disposition of
natures. She, having the truth of honour in her;
hath made him 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: to-morrow you must
die; go to your knees and make ready.
Claud. Let me ask my sister pardon. I am
so out of love with life that I will sue to be rid
of it
Duke. Hold you there: farewell.
[Exit CLAUDIO.

Re-enter PROVOST.
Provost, a word with you.
Prov. What's your will, father?
Duke. 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,
Prov. In good time. [Exit.
Duke. The hand that hath made you fair
hath made you good: the goodness that is
cheap in beauty makes beauty brief in good-
ness; but grace, being the soul of your com-
plexion, shall 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 would you do
to content this substitute, and to save your
brother?
Isab. 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 can speak to him, I will open my
lips in vain, or discover his government.
Duke. That shall not be much amiss: yet, as
the matter now stands, he will avoid your accu-
sation; ' he made trial of you only.' Therefore,
fasten 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 gracious person, and
much please the absent duke, if peradventure
he shall ever return to have hearing of this
business.
Isab. Let me hear you speak further. I have
spirit to do anything that appears not foul in
the truth of my spirit.
Duke. 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?
Isab. I have heard of the lady, and good
words went with her name.
Duke. She should this Angelo have married;
was affianced to her by oath, and the nuptial
appointed: between which time of the contract,
and 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 most kind and natural; with
him the portion and sinew of her fortune, her
marriage-dowry; with both, her combinate hus-
band, this well-seeming Angelo.
Isab. Can this be so? Did Angelo so leave her?
Duke. Left her in her tears, and dried not
one of them with his comfort; swallowed his
vows whole, pretending in her discoveries of
dishonour: in few, bestowed her on her own
lamentation, which she yet wears for his sake;
and he, a marble to her tears, is washed with
them, but relents not.
Isab. 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 I But
how out of this can she avail?
Duke. It is a rupture that you may easily
heal; and the cure of it not only saves your
brother, but keeps you from dishonour in
doing it.
Isab. Show me how, good father.
Duke. This forenamed maid hath yet in her
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: 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 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 honour un-
tainted, the poor Mariana advantaged, and the
corrupt deputy scaled. The maid will I frames
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?
Isab. The image of it gives me content
already, and I trust it will grow to a most
prosperous perfection.
Duke. 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 will presently to St. Luke's;
there, at the moated grange, resides this dejected
Mariana: at that place call upon me, and dis-
patch with Angelo, that it may be quickly.
Isab. I thank you for this comfort. Fare you
well, good father. [Exeunt.
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