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Measure for Measure
Act 3, scene 1

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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 1
Enter Duke as a Friar, Claudio, and Provost.

DUKE, as Friar 
 So then you hope of pardon from Lord Angelo?
CLAUDIO 
 The miserable have no other medicine
 But only hope.
 I have hope to live and am prepared to die.
DUKE, as Friar 
5 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
10 That doth this habitation where thou keep’st
 Hourly afflict. Merely, thou art death’s fool,
 For him thou labor’st by thy flight to shun,
 And yet runn’st toward him still. Thou art not noble,
 For all th’ accommodations that thou bear’st
15 Are nursed by baseness. Thou ’rt 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
20 Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself,
 For thou exists on many a thousand grains
93

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ACT 3. SC. 1

 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,
25 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,
30 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,
35 But as it were an after-dinner’s sleep
 Dreaming on both, for all thy blessèd youth
 Becomes as agèd and doth beg the alms
 Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich,
 Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty
40 To make thy riches pleasant. What’s yet in this
 That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
 Lie hid more thousand deaths; yet death we fear,
 That makes these odds all even.
CLAUDIO  I humbly thank you.
45 To sue to live, I find I seek to die,
 And seeking death, find life. Let it come on.
ISABELLA, within 
 What ho! Peace here, grace, and good company.
PROVOST 
 Who’s there? Come in. The wish deserves a welcome.
DUKE, as Friar, to Claudio 
 Dear sir, ere long I’ll visit you again.
CLAUDIO 50Most holy sir, I thank you.

Enter Isabella.

ISABELLA, to Provost 
 My business is a word or two with Claudio.

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ACT 3. SC. 1

PROVOST 
 And very welcome.—Look, signior, here’s your
 sister.
DUKE, as Friar Provost, a word with you.
PROVOST 55As many as you please.
DUKE, as Friar, aside to Provost 
 Bring me to hear them speak, where I may be
 concealed.
Duke and Provost exit.
CLAUDIO Now, sister, what’s the comfort?
ISABELLA Why,
60 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.
65 Tomorrow you set on.
CLAUDIO  Is there no remedy?
ISABELLA 
 None but such remedy as, to save a head,
 To cleave a heart in twain.
CLAUDIO But is there any?
ISABELLA 70Yes, 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.
CLAUDIO  Perpetual durance?
ISABELLA 
75 Ay, just; perpetual durance, a restraint,
 Though all the world’s vastidity you had,
 To a determined scope.
CLAUDIO  But in what nature?
ISABELLA 
 In such a one as, you consenting to ’t,
80 Would bark your honor from that trunk you bear
 And leave you naked.

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ACT 3. SC. 1

CLAUDIO  Let me know the point.
ISABELLA 
 O, I do fear thee, Claudio, and I quake
 Lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain,
85 And six or seven winters more respect
 Than a perpetual honor. 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
90 As when a giant dies.
CLAUDIO 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,
95 And hug it in mine arms.
ISABELLA 
 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 deputy—
100 Whose settled visage and deliberate word
 Nips youth i’ th’ head, and follies doth enew
 As falcon doth the fowl—is yet a devil.
 His filth within being cast, he would appear
 A pond as deep as hell.
CLAUDIO 105 The prenzie Angelo?
ISABELLA 
 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
110 Thou mightst be freed?
CLAUDIO  O heavens, it cannot be!
ISABELLA 
 Yes, he would give ’t thee; from this rank offense,
 So to offend him still. This night’s the time

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 That I should do what I abhor to name,
115 Or else thou diest tomorrow.
CLAUDIO Thou shalt not do ’t.
ISABELLA O, were it but my life,
 I’d throw it down for your deliverance
 As frankly as a pin.
CLAUDIO 120 Thanks, dear Isabel.
ISABELLA 
 Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow.
CLAUDIO Yes. Has he affections in him
 That thus can make him bite the law by th’ nose,
 When he would force it? Sure it is no sin,
125 Or of the deadly seven it is the least.
ISABELLA Which is the least?
CLAUDIO 
 If it were damnable, he being so wise,
 Why would he for the momentary trick
 Be perdurably fined? O, Isabel—
ISABELLA 
130 What says my brother?
CLAUDIO  Death is a fearful thing.
ISABELLA And shamèd life a hateful.
CLAUDIO 
 Ay, but to die, and go we know not where,
 To lie in cold obstruction and to rot,
135 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-ribbèd ice,
 To be imprisoned in the viewless winds
140 And blown with restless violence round about
 The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
 Of those that lawless and incertain thought
 Imagine howling—’tis too horrible.
 The weariest and most loathèd worldly life
145 That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment

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ACT 3. SC. 1

 Can lay on nature is a paradise
 To what we fear of death.
ISABELLA Alas, alas!
CLAUDIO Sweet sister, let me live.
150 What sin you do to save a brother’s life,
 Nature dispenses with the deed so far
 That it becomes a virtue.
ISABELLA  O, you beast!
 O faithless coward, O dishonest wretch,
155 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 played my father fair,
 For such a warpèd slip of wilderness
160 Ne’er issued 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.
CLAUDIO 165 Nay, hear me, Isabel—
ISABELLA 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.
CLAUDIO 170O, hear me, Isabella—

Enter Duke as a Friar.

DUKE, as Friar, to Isabella 
 Vouchsafe a word, young sister, but one word.
ISABELLA What is your will?
DUKE, as Friar Might you dispense with your leisure, I
 would by and by have some speech with you. The
175 satisfaction I would require is likewise your own
 benefit.
ISABELLA I have no superfluous leisure. My stay must

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ACT 3. SC. 1

 be stolen out of other affairs, but I will attend you
 awhile.
DUKE, as Friar, taking Claudio aside 180Son, I have overheard
 what hath passed between you and your
 sister. Angelo had never the purpose to corrupt her;
 only he hath made an assay of her virtue, to practice
 his judgment with the disposition of natures. She,
185 having the truth of honor 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
190 fallible. Tomorrow you must die. Go to your knees
 and make ready.
CLAUDIO Let me ask my sister pardon. I am so out of
 love with life that I will sue to be rid of it.
DUKE, as Friar Hold you there. Farewell.—Provost, a
195 word with you.

Enter Provost.

PROVOST What’s your will, father?
DUKE, as Friar 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
200 my company.
PROVOST In good time.He exits, with Claudio.
DUKE, as Friar, to Isabella The hand that hath made
 you fair hath made you good. The goodness that is
 cheap in beauty makes beauty brief in goodness,
205 but grace, being the soul of your complexion, 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 will
210 you do to content this substitute and to save your
 brother?

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ACT 3. SC. 1

ISABELLA 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
215 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, as Friar That shall not be much amiss. Yet, as
 the matter now stands, he will avoid your accusation:
220 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
225 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.
ISABELLA Let me hear you speak farther. I have spirit to
230 do anything that appears not foul in the truth of my
 spirit.
DUKE, as Friar Virtue is bold, and goodness never
 fearful. Have you not heard speak of Mariana, the
 sister of Frederick, the great soldier who miscarried
235 at sea?
ISABELLA I have heard of the lady, and good words
 went with her name.
DUKE, as Friar She should this Angelo have married,
 was affianced to her oath, and the nuptial appointed.
240 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
245 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

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ACT 3. SC. 1

 both, her combinate husband, this well-seeming
 Angelo.
ISABELLA 250Can this be so? Did Angelo so leave her?
DUKE, as Friar Left her in her tears and dried not one
 of them with his comfort, swallowed his vows
 whole, pretending in her discoveries of dishonor; in
 few, bestowed her on her own lamentation, which
255 she yet wears for his sake; and he, a marble to her
 tears, is washed with them but relents not.
ISABELLA 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! But how out of this
260 can she avail?
DUKE, as Friar It is a rupture that you may easily heal,
 and the cure of it not only saves your brother, but
 keeps you from dishonor in doing it.
ISABELLA Show me how, good father.
DUKE, as Friar 265This 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
270 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
275 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
280 your brother saved, your honor untainted, the poor
 Mariana advantaged, and the corrupt deputy
 scaled. The maid will I frame and make fit for his
 attempt. If you think well to carry this as you may,

111
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ACT 3. SC. 2

 the doubleness of the benefit defends the deceit
285 from reproof. What think you of it?
ISABELLA The image of it gives me content already, and
 I trust it will grow to a most prosperous perfection.
DUKE, as Friar It lies much in your holding up. Haste
 you speedily to Angelo. If for this night he entreat
290 you to his bed, give him promise of satisfaction. I
 will presently to Saint Luke’s. There at the moated
 grange resides this dejected Mariana. At that place
 call upon me, and dispatch with Angelo that it may
 be quickly.
ISABELLA 295I thank you for this comfort. Fare you well,
 good father.
She exits. The Duke remains.