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Measure for Measure
Act 1, scene 3

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Human nature and the law often collide in Measure for Measure. As the play begins, the Duke of Vienna announces he…

Act 1, scene 1

The Duke of Vienna announces that he has been called away from the city, and that he is leaving Lord…

Act 1, scene 2

Angelo enforces Vienna’s law against fornication, ordering the brothels torn down and having Claudio arrested because his fiancée’s pregnancy exposes…

Act 1, scene 3

The duke obtains the clothing of a friar in order to disguise himself and secretly observe the conduct of Angelo…

Act 1, scene 4

Lucio persuades Isabella to intercede with Angelo.

Act 2, scene 1

Escalus tries to persuade Angelo to be less harsh to Claudio. Angelo instead gives orders that Claudio be executed the…

Act 2, scene 2

Isabella pleads with Angelo for Claudio’s life. Angelo refuses to relent but, overcome by desire for Isabella, tells her that…

Act 2, scene 3

The duke (in the role of a friar) visits the prison and there meets Juliet, who expresses both her love…

Act 2, scene 4

Angelo tells Isabella that only if she sleeps with him will he set Claudio free; if she refuses, Claudio will…

Act 3, scene 1

The duke, in his guise of “Friar,” persuades Claudio that death is preferable to life. When Isabella tells Claudio that…

Act 3, scene 2

Pompey is carried off to prison. Lucio refuses to provide bail money for him, and slanders the absent duke to…

Act 4, scene 1

Isabella reports to the “Friar” about the arrangements made with Angelo for that night’s assignation; Mariana agrees to sleep with…

Act 4, scene 2

At the prison, Pompey agrees to serve as the assistant to Abhorson, the public executioner. The duke, in his role…

Act 4, scene 3

Barnardine declares himself not ready to die. The provost and the “Friar” agree to spare him temporarily and to send…

Act 4, scene 4

Angelo learns of the duke’s return. Alone, he expresses his anguish that he has raped Isabella and had Claudio killed.

Act 4, scene 5

The duke makes plans with Friar Peter, whom he sends away on errands, and then greets Varrius.

Act 4, scene 6

Isabella and Mariana discuss the roles they are to play when they meet the duke, who is about to enter…

Act 5, scene 1

The duke, on his entry, is met by Isabella, who accuses Angelo of violating her chastity. She is arrested for…

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Scene 3
Enter Duke and Friar Thomas.

DUKE 
 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 harbor hath a purpose
5 More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends
 Of burning youth.
FRIAR THOMAS  May your Grace speak of it?
DUKE 
 My holy sir, none better knows than you
 How I have ever loved the life removed,
10 And held in idle price to haunt assemblies
 Where youth and cost witless bravery keeps.
 I have delivered to Lord Angelo,
 A man of stricture and firm abstinence,
 My absolute power and place here in Vienna,
15 And he supposes me traveled to Poland,
 For so I have strewed it in the common ear,

27
Measure for Measure
ACT 1. SC. 3

 And so it is received. Now, pious sir,
 You will demand of me why I do this.
FRIAR THOMAS Gladly, my lord.
DUKE 
20 We have strict statutes and most biting laws,
 The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds,
 Which for this fourteen years we have let slip,
 Even like an o’ergrown lion in a cave
 That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fathers,
25 Having bound up the threat’ning twigs of birch
 Only to stick it in their children’s sight
 For terror, not to use—in time the rod
 More mocked than feared—so our decrees,
 Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead,
30 And liberty plucks justice by the nose,
 The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
 Goes all decorum.
FRIAR THOMAS  It rested in your Grace
 To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleased,
35 And it in you more dreadful would have seemed
 Than in Lord Angelo.
DUKE  I do fear, too dreadful.
 Sith ’twas my fault to give the people scope,
 ’Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them
40 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,
 I have on Angelo imposed the office,
45 Who may in th’ 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
50 Supply me with the habit, and instruct me
 How I may formally in person bear

29
Measure for Measure
ACT 1. SC. 4

 Like a true friar. More reasons for this action
 At our more leisure shall I render you.
 Only this one: Lord Angelo is precise,
55 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.
They exit.