1605 Measure For Measure
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Better it were a brother died at once
Than that a sister, by redeeming him,
Should die for ever.
ANGELO. Were not you, then, as cruel as the sentence
That you have slander'd so?
ISABELLA. Ignominy in ransom and free pardon
Are of two houses: lawful mercy
Is nothing kin to foul redemption.
ANGELO. You seem'd of late to make the law a tyrant;
And rather prov'd the sliding of your brother
A merriment than a vice.
ISABELLA. 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. 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. 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,
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.
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 express'd
By all external warrants, show it now
By putting on the destin'd livery.
ISABELLA. I have no tongue but one; gentle, my lord,
Let me intreat 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. 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 honour,
My words express my purpose.
ISABELLA. Ha! little honour to be much believ'd,
And most pernicious purpose! Seeming, seeming!
I will proclaim thee, Angelo, look for't.
Sign me a present pardon for my brother
Or, with an outstretch'd throat, I'll tell the world aloud
What man thou art.
ANGELO. Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil'd name, th' austereness of my life,
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:
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,
But thy unkindness shall his death draw out
To ling'ring sufferance. Answer me to-morrow,
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. Exit
ISABELLA. To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,
Who would believe me? O perilous mouths
That bear in them one and the self-same tongue
Either of condemnation or approof,
Bidding the law make curtsy to their will;
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 honour
That, had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he'd yield them up
Before his sister should her body stoop
To such abhorr'd pollution.
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity.
I'll tell him yet of Angelo's request,
And fit his mind to death, for his soul's rest. Exit
ACT III. SCENE I.
Enter DUKE, disguised as before, CLAUDIO, and PROVOST
DUKE. So, then you hope of pardon from Lord Angelo?
CLAUDIO. The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope:
I have hope to Eve, 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 '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
Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself;
For thou exists 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.
CLAUDIO. I humbly thank you.
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. Dear sir, ere long I'll visit you again.
CLAUDIO. Most holy sir, I thank you.
ISABELLA. My business is a word or two with Claudio.
PROVOST. And very welcome. Look, signior, here's your sister.
DUKE. Provost, a word with you.
PROVOST. As many as you please.
DUKE. Bring me to hear them speak, where I may be conceal'd.
Exeunt DUKE and PROVOST
CLAUDIO. Now, sister, what's the comfort?
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.
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. 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.
CLAUDIO. Perpetual durance?
ISABELLA. Ay, just; perpetual durance, a restraint,
Though all the world's vastidity you had,
To a determin'd scope.
CLAUDIO. But in what nature?
ISABELLA. In such a one as, you consenting to't,
Would bark your honour from that trunk you bear,
And leave you naked.
CLAUDIO. Let me know the point.
ISABELLA. 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.
CLAUDIO. Why give you me this shame?
Think you I can a resolution fetch
From flow'ry tenderness? If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride
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,
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. The precise Angelo!
ISABELLA. O, 'tis the cunning livery of hell
The damned'st body to invest and cover