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Measure for Measure
Act 2, scene 4

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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 4
Enter Angelo.

ANGELO 
 When I would pray and think, I think and pray
 To several subjects. Heaven hath my empty words,
 Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue,
 Anchors on Isabel. God in my mouth,
5 As if I did but only chew His name,
 And in my heart the strong and swelling evil
 Of my conception. The state whereon I studied
 Is, like a good thing being often read,
 Grown sere and tedious. Yea, my gravity,
10 Wherein—let no man hear me—I take pride,
 Could I with boot change for an idle plume
 Which the air beats for vain. O place, O form,
 How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,
 Wrench awe from fools, and tie the wiser souls
15 To thy false seeming! Blood, thou art blood.
 Let’s write “good angel” on the devil’s horn.
 ’Tis not the devil’s crest. Knock within. How now,
 who’s there?

Enter Servant.

SERVANT 
 One Isabel, a sister, desires access to you.
ANGELO 
20 Teach her the way. Servant exits. O heavens,
 Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,
 Making both it unable for itself
 And dispossessing all my other parts
 Of necessary fitness?
25 So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons,
 Come all to help him, and so stop the air
 By which he should revive. And even so
 The general subject to a well-wished king

79
Measure for Measure
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Quit their own part, and in obsequious fondness
30 Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love
 Must needs appear offense.

Enter Isabella.

 How now, fair maid?
ISABELLA I am come to know your pleasure.
ANGELO 
 That you might know it would much better please me
35 Than to demand what ’tis. Your brother cannot live.
ISABELLA Even so. Heaven keep your Honor.
ANGELO 
 Yet may he live a while. And it may be
 As long as you or I. Yet he must die.
ISABELLA Under your sentence?
ANGELO 40Yea.
ISABELLA 
 When, I beseech you? That in his reprieve,
 Longer or shorter, he may be so fitted
 That his soul sicken not.
ANGELO 
 Ha! Fie, these filthy vices! It were as good
45 To pardon him that hath from nature stolen
 A man already made, as to remit
 Their saucy sweetness that do coin God’s image
 In stamps that are forbid. ’Tis all as easy
 Falsely to take away a life true made
50 As to put metal in restrainèd means
 To make a false one.
ISABELLA 
 ’Tis set down so in heaven, but not in Earth.
ANGELO 
 Say you so? Then I shall pose you quickly:
 Which had you rather, that the most just law
55 Now took your brother’s life, or, to redeem him,

81
Measure for Measure
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Give up your body to such sweet uncleanness
 As she that he hath stained?
ISABELLA  Sir, believe this:
 I had rather give my body than my soul.
ANGELO 
60 I talk not of your soul. Our compelled sins
 Stand more for number than for accompt.
ISABELLA How say you?
ANGELO 
 Nay, I’ll not warrant that, for I can speak
 Against the thing I say. Answer to this:
65 I, now the voice of the recorded law,
 Pronounce a sentence on your brother’s life.
 Might there not be a charity in sin
 To save this brother’s life?
ISABELLA  Please you to do ’t,
70 I’ll take it as a peril to my soul,
 It is no sin at all, but charity.
ANGELO 
 Pleased you to do ’t, at peril of your soul,
 Were equal poise of sin and charity.
ISABELLA 
 That I do beg his life, if it be sin
75 Heaven let me bear it. You granting of my suit,
 If that be sin, I’ll make it my morn prayer
 To have it added to the faults of mine
 And nothing of your answer.
ANGELO  Nay, but hear me.
80 Your sense pursues not mine. Either you are
 ignorant,
 Or seem so, crafty, and that’s not good.
ISABELLA 
 Let me be ignorant and in nothing good,
 But graciously to know I am no better.
ANGELO 
85 Thus wisdom wishes to appear most bright

83
Measure for Measure
ACT 2. SC. 4

 When it doth tax itself, as these black masks
 Proclaim an enshield beauty ten times louder
 Than beauty could, displayed. But mark me.
 To be receivèd plain, I’ll speak more gross:
90 Your brother is to die.
ISABELLA So.
ANGELO 
 And his offense is so, as it appears,
 Accountant to the law upon that pain.
ISABELLA True.
ANGELO 
95 Admit no other way to save his life—
 As I subscribe not that, nor any other—
 But, in the loss of question, that you, his sister,
 Finding yourself desired of such a person
 Whose credit with the judge, or own great place,
100 Could fetch your brother from the manacles
 Of the all-binding law, and that there were
 No earthly mean to save him but that either
 You must lay down the treasures of your body
 To this supposed, or else to let him suffer,
105 What would you do?
ISABELLA 
 As much for my poor brother as myself.
 That is, were I under the terms of death,
 Th’ impression of keen whips I’d wear as rubies
 And strip myself to death as to a bed
110 That longing have been sick for, ere I’d yield
 My body up to shame.
ANGELO Then must your brother die.
ISABELLA And ’twere the cheaper way.
 Better it were a brother died at once
115 Than that a sister, by redeeming him,
 Should die forever.
ANGELO 
 Were not you then as cruel as the sentence
 That you have slandered so?

85
Measure for Measure
ACT 2. SC. 4

ISABELLA 
 Ignomy in ransom and free pardon
120 Are of two houses. Lawful mercy
 Is nothing kin to foul redemption.
ANGELO 
 You seemed of late to make the law a tyrant,
 And rather proved the sliding of your brother
 A merriment than a vice.
ISABELLA 
125 O, pardon me, my lord. It oft falls out,
 To have what we would have, we speak not what we
 mean.
 I something do excuse the thing I hate
 For his advantage that I dearly love.
ANGELO 
130 We are all frail.
ISABELLA  Else let my brother die,
 If not a fedary but only he
 Owe and succeed thy weakness.
ANGELO Nay, women are frail too.
ISABELLA 
135 Ay, as the glasses where they view themselves,
 Which are as easy broke as they make forms.
 Women—help, heaven—men their creation mar
 In profiting by them. Nay, call us ten times frail,
 For we are soft as our complexions are,
140 And credulous to false prints.
ANGELO  I think it well.
 And from this testimony of your own sex,
 Since I suppose we are made to be no stronger
 Than faults may shake our frames, let me be bold.
145 I do arrest your words. Be that you are—
 That is, a woman. If you be more, you’re none.
 If you be one, as you are well expressed
 By all external warrants, show it now
 By putting on the destined livery.

87
Measure for Measure
ACT 2. SC. 4

ISABELLA 
150 I have no tongue but one. Gentle my lord,
 Let me entreat you speak the former language.
ANGELO Plainly conceive I love you.
ISABELLA My brother did love Juliet,
 And you tell me that he shall die for ’t.
ANGELO 
155 He shall not, Isabel, if you give me love.
ISABELLA 
 I know your virtue hath a license in ’t
 Which seems a little fouler than it is
 To pluck on others.
ANGELO  Believe me, on mine honor,
160 My words express my purpose.
ISABELLA 
 Ha! Little honor to be much believed,
 And most pernicious purpose. Seeming, seeming!
 I will proclaim thee, Angelo, look for ’t.
 Sign me a present pardon for my brother
165 Or with an outstretched throat I’ll tell the world
 aloud
 What man thou art.
ANGELO  Who will believe thee, Isabel?
 My unsoiled name, th’ austereness of my life,
170 My vouch against you, and my place i’ th’ state
 Will so your accusation overweigh
 That you shall stifle in your own report
 And smell of calumny. I have begun,
 And now I give my sensual race the rein.
175 Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite;
 Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes
 That banish what they sue for. Redeem thy brother
 By yielding up thy body to my will,
 Or else he must not only die the death,
180 But thy unkindness shall his death draw out
 To ling’ring sufferance. Answer me tomorrow,

89
Measure for Measure
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Or by the affection that now guides me most,
 I’ll prove a tyrant to him. As for you,
 Say what you can, my false o’erweighs your true.
He exits.
ISABELLA 
185 To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,
 Who would believe me? O, perilous mouths,
 That bear in them one and the selfsame tongue,
 Either of condemnation or approof,
 Bidding the law make curtsy to their will,
190 Hooking both right and wrong to th’ appetite,
 To follow as it draws. I’ll to my brother.
 Though he hath fall’n by prompture of the blood,
 Yet hath he in him such a mind of honor
 That, had he twenty heads to tender down
195 On twenty bloody blocks, he’d yield them up
 Before his sister should her body stoop
 To such abhorred pollution.
 Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die.
 More than our brother is our chastity.
200 I’ll tell him yet of Angelo’s request,
 And fit his mind to death, for his soul’s rest.
She exits.