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The outline of this Play is taken from a novel of Cinthio, the Italian novelist and cragic author, to whom Shakspeare was likewise indebted for the story of Othello.
Measure for Measure, presents us with one of the most perfect of our author's female characters in the person of Isabella. Dr. Blake says, of this beautiful creation, that “Piety, spotless purity, tenderness combined with firmness, and an eloquence the most persuasive, unite to render her singularly interesting and attractive.” Of the general excellence of this Drama, Mr. Verplanck justly remarks, that “there is no composition, of the same length, in the language, which has left more of its expressive phrases, its moral aphor isms, its brief sentences, crowded with meaning, fixed on the general memory, an bodied by daily use in every form of popular eloquence, argument, and literature."
Our extracts, though necessarily brief, will be found to embody the principal striking beauties of this truly impressive composition.
VICENTIO, Duke of Vienna.
ANGELO, lord deputy in the Duke's absence.
ESCALUs, an ancient lord, joined with Angelo in the degresion,
CLAUDIO, a young gentleman.
Lucio, a fantastic.
Two other like gentlemen.
VARRIUS, a gentleman, servant to the Duke.
THOMAS, PETER, two friars.
ELBOW, a simple constable.
FROTH, a foolish gentleman.
Clown, servant to Mrs. Over-done.
ABHORSON, an executioner.
BARNARDINE, a dissolute prisoner.
ISABELLA, sister to Claudio.
MARIANA, betrothed to Angelo.
JULIET, beloved by Claudio.
FRANCISCA, a nun.
Lords, Gentlemen, Guards, Officers, and other Attendants.
The Duke of Vienna, determines to examine in person, the condition of his people. To do this effectually he purposes to resign, for a period, his government into the keeping of Lord Angelo, and Escalus, and in disguise to mix with his subjects and learn their actual condition, and ascertain whether the laws are faithfully administered.
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SCENE I.–An Apartment in the Duke's Palace.
Enter DUKE, ESCALUS, Lords, and Attendants.
Escal. My lord.
Duke. Of government the properties to unfold,
Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse ;
Since I am put to know, that your own science
Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice
My strength can give you : Then no more remains
But that to your sufficiency, as your worth is able,
And let them work. The nature of our people,
Our city's institutions, and the terms
For common justice, you are as pregnant in,
As art and practice hath enriched
That we remember: There is our commission,
From which we would not have you warp.-Call hither,
bid come before us Angelo.--
[Exit an Attendant. What figure of us think you he will bear ? For you must know, we have with special soul Elected him our absence to supply ; Lent him our terror, drest him with our love; And given his deputation all the organs Of our own power: What think you of it ?
Escal. If any in Vienna be of worth To undergo such ample grace and honor, It is lord Angelo.
Look, where he comes.
Ang. Always obedient to your grace's will,
I come to know your pleasure.
There is a kind of character in thy life,
That, to the observer, doth thy history
Fully unfold: Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine own so proper, as to waste
Thyself upon thy virtues, them on thee.
Heaven doth with us, as we with torches do;
Not light them for themselves : for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd.
But to fine issues : nor nature never lends
The smallest scruple of her excellence,
But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines
Herself the glory of a creditor,
Both thanks and use. But I do bend my speech
To one that can my part in him advertise;
Hold therefore, Angelo;
In our remove, be thou at full ourself :-
Mortality and mercy in Vienna
Live in thy tongue and heart : Escalus,
Though first in question, is the secondary :
Take thy commission.
Now, good my lord,
Let there be some more test made of my metal,
Before so noble and so great a figure
Be stamp'd upon it.
No more evasion :
We have with a leaven'd and prepared choice
Proceeded to you ; therefore take your honors.
Our haste from hence is of so quick condition,
That it prefers itself, and leaves unquestion'd
Matters of needful value.. We shall write to you,
As time and our concernings shall importune,
How it goes with us; and do look to know
What doth befall you here. So, fare you well :
To the hopeful execution do I leave you
Of your commissions.
Yet, give leave, my lord,
That we may bring you something on the way.
Duke. My haste may not admit it ;
Nor need you, on mine honor, have to do
With any scruple : your scope is as mine own:
So to enforce, or qualify the laws
As to your soul seems good. Give me your
I'll privily away: I love the people,
But do not like to stage me to their eyes :
Though it do well, I do not relish weil
loud applause, and aves vehement :
Nor do I think the man of safe discretion,
That does affect it. Once more, fare you well.
Ang. The heavens give safety to your purposes !
Escal. Lead forth, and bring you back in happiness.
Duke. I thank
Escal. I shall desire you, sir, to give me leave
To bave free speech with you ; and it concerns me
To look into the bottom of my place:
A power I have; but of what strength and nature
I am not yet instructed.
Ang. 'Tis so with me :-Let us withdraw together
And we may soon our satisfaction have
Touching that point.
I'll wait upon your honor.
The Duke proceeds to a Monastery in the city, and assumes the disguise of a Friat
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
More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends
Of burning youth.
May your grace speak of it ?
Duke. My holy sir, none better knows than you
How I have ever lov’d the life removed;
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies,
Where youth, and costs, and witless bravery keeps.
I have deliver'd to lord Angelo
(A man of stricture, and firm abstinence,)
power and place here in Vienna,
And he supposes me travell’d to Poland;
For so I have strew'd it in the common ear,
And so it is receiv’d: Now, pious sir,
You will demand of me, why I do this?
Fri. Gladly, my lord.
Duke. We have strict statutes, and most biting laws,
(The needful bits and curbs for headstrong steeds)
Which for these fourteen years we have let sleep;
Even like an o'ergrown lion in a cave,
That goes not out to prey: Now, as fond fathers
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
Becomes more mock'd, than fear’d, so our decrees,
Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead;
And liberty plucks justice by the nose,
The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
Goes all decorum.
It rested on your grace
To unloose this tied-up justice, when you pleas'd:
And it in you more dreadful would have seem'd,
Than in Lord Angelo.
I do fear, too dreadful :
Sith ’twas my fault to give the people scope,
'Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them
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 impos’d the office;
Who may, in the ambush of my name, strike home,
And yet my nature never in the sight,
To do it slander: And to behold his sway,
I will, as 'twere a brother of your order,
Visit both prince and people : therefore, I pr’ythee,
Supply me with the habit, and instruct me
How I may formally in person bear me
Like a true friar. More reasons for this action,
At our more leisure shall I render you;
Only, this one :-Lord Angelo is precise ;
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.
Angelo assumes the government, with rigid severity; he calls into enactment, old laws, long disused, and makes offenders pay the utmost penalty for their transgressions.
Claudio, a profligate young gentleman, is condemned to death, under one of these revived laws. He prevails on his sister Isabella, a young novice, to leave the cloister, and go in person to Angelo, and endeavor to obtain a pardon from the Lord Deputy.
SCENE.-A hall in Angelo's House.
Enter ANGELO, and ESCALUS.
Ang. We must not make a scare-crow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Their perch, and not their terror.
Ay, but yet
Let us be keen, and rather cut a little,
Than fall, and bruise to death : Alas ! this gentleman,
Whom I would save, had a most noble father.
Let but your honor know,
(Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue,)
That, in the working of your own affections,
Had time coher'd with place, or place with wishing
Or that the resolute acting of your blood
Could have attain'd the effect of your own purpose,
Whether you had not sometime in your life
Errd in this point which now you censure him,
And pulld the law upon you.
Ang. 'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall. I not deny,