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The date most generally agreed on for the composition of Measure for Measure is 1603-4, and though external evidence is even more scanty than usual, internal evidence tends to corroborate this conjecture. The entry in the Revels accounts of a performance on December 26, 1604, is a forgery, but is founded on a good guess. Barksted's Myrrha (1607) contains an apparent reminiscence of the simile in II. iv. 24-26, and thus affords a later limit. The lines in I. i. 68-73 and 11. iv. 27–30 may have been written in allusion to James I's attitude towards the populace, and, if so, place the play soon after his accession in 1603. Similarities in tone, in metre, and in details of thought, to All's Well and Hamlet all tend in the same direction.
There is no trace of the play's having been printed before 1623, and the present text is based on the far from perfect version in the First Folio.
Stories containing the central situation of Measure for Measure, the perfidy of Angelo, are com mon in European literature. The direct source, however, of Shakespeare's play is clearly to be found in the double drama of Promos and Cassandra, written by George Whetstone before he left England in 1578, the plot of which he later threw into narrative form in his Heptameron of Civil Discourses (1582). Whetstone's source seems to have been the fifth novel of the tenth day in the Hecatommithi of Giraldi Cinthio, who dramatized the same story in his Epitia. There is no evidence of Shakespeare's having used any version of the story but Whetstone's drama, except that in the Heptameron the narrator of the tale is a Madam Isabella, the identity of whose name with that of Shakespeare's heroine may point to his having seen the book.
The scene of Whetstone's comedy is Julio in Hungary, governed by Promos as representative of Corvinus, King of Bohemia. The society of this city is described as seething with moral corruption, a picture transferred by Shakespeare to Vienna. But the typical characters chosen to represent this society are all re-created in Measure for Measure, Pompey alone bearing some resemblance to a prototype, the Rosko of Whetstone. The function of the King in the older play is practically confined to the redressing of wrongs in the last act, so that the Duke's disguise as a monk, all his activity in the intrigue, and his final offer of marriage to Isabella, are Shakespeare's. The Deputy in Whetstone is honest in his severity before he sees Isabella, but the subtle portrayal of his austere Puritanism, so carefully made in the earlier scenes of the present play, is altogether absent. Shakespeare spares him the additional villainy of a false promise of marriage in his attempt to seduce the heroine, and also the cruelty of ordering the head of her brother to be sent to her.
The most profound change is in the creation of the rôle of Mariana. In the older forms of the story, the main heroine yields to the Deputy, who is forced to marry her at the end. But for such an Isabella as Shakespeare conceived, this fate was clearly impossible. So the device of substitution, which Shakespeare had used in All's Well, was again employed, and a much loftier type of character made possible for the heroine. This elevation appears in all the great scenes, in her argument on mercy and justice, in her immediate rejection of Angelo's proposal, and in her scorn for her brother's weakness, — all of which are found in Whetstone in a crude form. It is suggestive of the level of Whetstone's Cassandra that considerations of reputation play a great part in the discussion between brother and sister. The first appearance of Isabella in Shakespeare is as a novice about to enter a sisterhood; the last is as the prospective bride of the Duke. Neither of these is in Whetstone; and the first may be regarded as indicating Shakespeare's view of the essential ideal quality in Isabella's character, the second as a concession to the convention of the happy ending. It is perhaps significant that she does not explicitly accept the Duke's proposal.
The increased delicacy of characterization is seen again in the brother. His first sound reaction in horror against Angelo's infamous proposal is wholly Shakespearean, and serves to place him on a plane which, in spite of his later cowardice, makes it possible to conceive him as Isabella's brother. The Provost is a development of Whetstone's gaoler; but Escalus is a creation of Shakespeare's, serving as a foil to the severity of Angelo.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
[DRAMATIS PERSONÆ] VINCENTIO, the Duke.
ELBOW, a simple constable. ANGELO, the Deputy.
FROTH, a foolish gentleman. ESCALUS, an ancient Lord.
(POMPEY,) clown (servant to Mistress Overdone). CLAUDIO, a young gentleman.
ABHORSON, an executioner.
BARNARDINE, a dissolute prisoner.
ISABELLA, sister to Claudio.
MARIANA, betrothed to Angelo.
JULIET, beloved of Claudio. (A Justice.)
FRANCISCA, & nun.
MISTRESS OVERDONE, a bawd.
Fully unfold. Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine own so proper as to waste SCENE I. (An apartment in the Duke's palace.) Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee. Enter DUKE, ESCALUS, Lords (and Attendants).
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves; for if our virDuke. Escalus.
tues Escal, My lord.
Did not go forth of us, 't were all alike Duke. Of government the properties to un- As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely fold
touch'd Would seem in me to affect speech and dis- But to fine issues, nor Nature never lends course,
The smallest scruple of her excellence Since I am put to know that your own sciences But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice
Herself the glory of a creditor, My strength can give you. Then no more re- Both thanks and use. But I do bend my speech mains,
To one that can my part in him advertise. But that to your sufficiency
Hold therefore, Angelo:
Live in thy tongue and heart. Old Escalus, For common justice, you 're as pregnant in Though first in question, is thy secondary. As art and practice hath enriched any
Take thy commission. That we remember. There is our commission, Ang.
Now, good my lord, From which we would not have you warp. Call Let there be some more test made of my metal hither,
Before so noble and so great a figure I say, bid come before us Angelo.
Be stamp'd upon it. (Exit an attendant.] Duke.
No more evasion. What figure of us think you he will bear? We have with a leaven'd and prepared choice For you must know, we have with special soul Proceeded to you; therefore take your honours. Elected him our absence to supply,
Our haste from hence is of so quick condition Lent him our terror, dress'd him with our love, That it prefers itself and leaves unquestion'd 65 And given his deputation all the organs
Matters of needful value. We shall write to Of our own power. What think you of it?
yon, Escal. If any in Vienna be of worth
As time and our concernings shall importune, To undergo such ample grace and honour, How it goes with us, and do look to know It is Lord Angelo.
What doth befall you here. So, fare you well. Enter ANGELO.
To the hopeful execution do I leave you
Of your commissions.
Yet give leave, my lord, Ang. Always obedient to your Grace's will, That we may bring you something on the way. I come to know your pleasure.
Duke. My haste may not admit it ; Duke.
Nor need you, on mine honour, have to do There is a kind of character in thy life,
With any scruple. Your scope is as mine own, as That to the observer doth thy history
So to enforce or qualify the laws
As to your soul seems good. Give me your hand; most painful feeling of thy speech. I will, out I'll privily away. I love the people,
of thine own confession, learn to begin thy But do not like to stage me to their eyes. health ; but, whilst I live, forget to drink after Though it do well, I do not relish well
thee. Their loud applause and Aves vehement;
1. Gent. I think I have done myself wrong, Nor do I think the man of safe discretion
have I not? That does affect it. Once more, fare you well. 2. Gent. Yes, that thou hast, whether thou Ang. The heavens give safety to your pur- art tainted or free.
poses ! Escal. Lead forth and bring you back in
Enter Bawd (MISTRESS OVERDONE). happiness!
Lucio. Behold, behold, where Madam MitiDuke. I thank you. Fare you well. (Exit. | gation comes! I have purchas'd as many disEscal. I shall desire you, sir, to give me
eases under her roof as come to leave
2. Gent. To what, I pray? To have free speech with you ; and it concerns Lucio. Judge.
2. Gent. To three thousand dolours a year. To look into the bottom of my place.
1. Gent. Ay, and more. A power I have, but of what strength and na- Lucio. A French crown more. ture
1. Gent. Thou art always figuring diseases in I am not yet instructed.
me; but thou art full of error; I am sound. S Ang. 'T is so with me. Let us withdraw to- Lucio. Nay, not as one would say, healthy; gether,
but so sound as things that are hollow. Thy And we may soon our satisfaction have
bones are hollow; impiety has made a feast of Touching that point.
thee. Escal. I'll wait upon your honour. (Exeunt. 1. Gent. How now! which of your hips has
the most profound sciatica ? SCENE II. (A street.]
Mrs. Ov. Well, well; there's one yonder Enter Lucio and two other GENTLEMEN.
arrested and carried to prison was worth five
thousand of you all. Lucio. If the Duke with the other dukes 2. Gent. Who's that, I pray thee? come not to composition with the King of Hun- Mrs. Ov. Marry, sir, that 's Claudio, Signior gary, why then all the dukes fall upon the Claudio. King.
1. Gent. Claudio to prison? 'T is not so. 1. Gent. Heaven grant us its peace, but not Mrs. Ov. Nay, but I know 't is so. I saw the King of Hungary's !
him arrested, saw him carried away; and, 2. Gent. Amen.
which is more, within these three days his head Lucio. Thou conclud'st like the sanctimoni- to be chopp'd off. ous pirate, that went to sea with the Ten Com- Lucio. "But, after all this fooling, I would mandments, but scrap'd one out of the table. not have it so. Art thou sure of this ? 2. Gent. Thou shalt not steal" ?
Mrs. Ov. I am too sure of it, and it is for Lucio. Ay, that he raz'd.
getting Madam Julietta with child. 1. Gent. Why, 't was a commandment to Lucio. Believe
me, this may be. He promis'd command the captain and all the rest from their to meet me two hours since, and he was ever functions; they put forth to steal. There 's precise in promise-keeping. not a soldier of us all, that, in the thanksgiving 2. Gent. Besides, you know, it draws somebefore meat, do relish the petition well that thing near to the speech we had to such a pur prays for peace.
pose. 2. Gent. I never heard any soldier dislike it. 1. Gent. But, most of all, agreeing with the
Lucio. I believe thee; for I think thou never proclamation. wast where grace was said.
Lucio. Away! let's go learn the truth of it. 2. Gent. No? A dozen times at least.
(Exeunt (Lucio and Gentlemen). 1. Gent. What, in metre?
Mrs. Ov. Thus, what with the war, what Lucio. In any proportion or in any language. with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what 1. Gent. I think, or in any religion.
with poverty, I am custom-shrunk. Lucio. Ay, why not? Grace is grace, despite
Enter Clown (POMPEY). of all controversy; as, for example, thou thyself art a wicked villain, despite of all grace. How now! what's the news with you ?
1. Gent. Well, there went but a pair of shears Pom. Yonder man is carried to prison. between us.
Mrs. Ov. Well ; what has he done? Lucio. I grant; as there may between the Pom. A woman. lists and the velvet. Thou art the list.
Mrs. Ov. But what's his offence ? 1. Gent. And thou the velvet. Thou art good Pom. Groping for trouts in a peculiar river. velvet; thou 'rt a three-pil'd piece, I warrant Mrs. Ov. What, is there a maid with child thee. I had as lief be a list of an English ker- by him? sey as be pil'd, as thou art pil'd, for a French Pom. No, but there's a woman with maid by velvet. Do I speak feelingly now?
him. You have not heard of the proclamation, Lucio. I think thou dost; and, eed, with
Mrs. Ov. What proclamation, man?
I got possession of Julietta's bed. Pom. All houses in the suburbs of Vienna You know the lady; she is fast my wife, must be pluck'd down.
Save that we do the denunciation lack Mrs. Ov. And what shall become of those in Of outward order. This we came not to, the city?
Only for propagation of a dower Pom. They shall stand for seed. They had Remaining in the coffer of her friends, gone down too, but that a wise burgher put in From whom we thought it meet to hide our love for them.
Till time had made them for us. But it chances Mrs. Ov. But shall all our houses of resort The stealth of our most mutual entertainment in the suburbs be pull'd down?
With character too gross is writ on Juliet. Pom. To the ground, mistress.
Lucio. With child, perhaps ? Mrs. Ov. Why, here's a change indeed in the Claud.
Unhappily, even so. commonwealth! What shall become of me? And the new deputy now for the Duke
Pom. Come, fear not you; good counsellors Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness, lack no clients. Though you change your Or whether that the body public be place, you need not change your trade. I'll (110 A horse whereon the governor doth ride, be your tapster still. Courage! there will be Who, newly in the seat, that it may know pity taken on you. You that have worn your He can command, lets it straight feel the spur ; eyes almost out in the service, you will be con- Whether the tyranny be in his place, sidered.
Or in his eminence that fills it up, Mrs. Ov. What's to do here, Thomas tap- I stagger in: - but this new governor ster? Let's withdraw.
Awakes me all the enrolled penalties Pom. Here comes Signior Claudio, led by Which have, like unscour'd armour, hung by the provost to prison; and there's Madam Ju
the wall liet.
[Ereunt. So long that nineteen zodiacs have gone round Enter Provost, CLAUDIO, JULIET, and Offi
And none of them been worn; and, for a
Now puts the drowsy and neglected act Claud. Fellow, why dost thou show me thus Freshly on me. 'Tis surely for a name. to the world?
Lucio. I warrant it is ; and thy head stands Bear me to prison, where I am committed. so tickle on thy shoulders that a milkmaid, if Prov. I do it not in evil disposition,
she be in love, may sigh it off. Send after the But from Lord Angelo by special charge. Duke and appeal to him. Claud. Thus can the demigod authority
Claud. I have done so, but he's not to be Make us pay down for our offence by weight 125 found. The
words of heaven: on whom it will, it will; I prithee, Lucio, do me this kind service. On whom it will not, so; yet still 't is just. This day my sister should the cloister enter
And there receive her approbation. (Re-enter Lucio and two Gentlemen.)
Acquaint her with the danger of my state; Lucio. Why; how pow,
Claudio! whence Implore her, in my voice, that she make comes this restraint ?
friends Claud. From too much liberty, my Lucio, To the strict deputy ; bid herself assay him. liberty.
I have great hope in that; for in her youth As surfeit is the father of much fast,
There is a prone and speechless dialect, So every scope by the immoderate use
Such as move men; beside, she hath prosperTurns to restraint. Our natures do pursue,
ous art Like rats that ravin down their proper bane, When she will play with reason and discourse, A thirsty evil; and when we drink we die. And well she can persuade.
Lucio. If I could speak so wisely under an Lucio. I pray she may; as well for the enarrest, I would send for certain of my creditors; couragement of the like, which else would and yet, to say the truth, I had as lief have the stand under grievous imposition, as for the foppery of freedom as the morality of imprison- enjoying of thy life, who I would be sorry ment. What's thy offence, Claudio ?
should be thus foolishly lost at a game of tickClaud. What but to speak of would offend tack. I'll to her. again.
Claud. I thank you, good friend Lucio. Lucio. What, is 't murder ?
Lucio. Within two hours. Claud. No.
Come, officer, away! Lucio. Lechery?
[Exeunt. Claud. Call it so. Prov. Away, sir! you must go.
SCENE (III. A monastery.] Claud. One word, good friend. Lucio, a word
Enter DUKE and FRIAR THOMAS. Lucio. A hundred, if they 'll do you any Duke. No, holy father; throw away that good.
thought. Is lechery so look'd after?
Believe not that the dribbling dart of love Claud. Thus stands it with me: upon a true Can pierce a complete bosom. Why I desire contract
To give me secret harbour, hath a purpose More grave and wrinkled 'than the aims and
ends Of burning youth.
Fri. T. 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 cost, and witless bravery
Fri. T. Gladly, my lord.
ing laws, The needful bits and curbs to headstrong
steeds, Which for this nineteen years we have let slip; Even like an o'ergrown lion in a cave, That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fa
thers, Having bound up the threatening 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 30 Goes all decorum. Fri. T.
It rested in 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. Duke.
I do fear, too dreadful. Sith 't was my fault to give the people scope, 85 'T would 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 't were a brother of your order, Visit both prince and people; therefore, I
prithee, Supply me with the habit and instruct me How I may formally in person bear me Like a true friar. Moe 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.
(Ereuni SCENE (IV. A nunnery.) Enter ISABELLA and FRANCISCA, a Nun. Isab. And have you nuns no farther privi
leges ? Fran. Are not these large enough ? Isab. Yes, truly. I speak not as desiring
more, But rather wishing a more strict restraint Upon the sisterhood, the votaries of Saint Clare. Lucio. (Within.) Ho! Peace be in this place! Isab.
Who's that which calls ? Fran. It is a man's voice. Gentle Isabella, Turn you the key, and know his business of
him. You may, I may not; you are yet unsworn. When you have vow'd, you must not speak with But in the presence of the prioress ; Then, if you speak, you must not show your
face, Or, if you show your face, you must not speak. He calls again ; I pray you, answer him.
(Erit. Isab. Peace and prosperity! Who is 'i that calls ?
[Enter LUCIO.) Lucio. Hail, virgin, if you be, as those cheekProclaim you are no less! Can you so stead me As bring me to the sight of Isabella, A ngvice of this place and
the fair sister To her unhappy brother Claudio ?
Isab. Why her unhappy brother ? let me ask, The rather for I now must make you know I am that Isabella and his sister. Lucio. Gentle and fair, your brother kindly
Isab. Woe me! for what ?
his judge, He should receive his punishment in thanks. He hath got his friend with child.
Isab. Sir, make me not your story.
It is true.
Isab. You do blaspheme the good in mocking Lucio. Do not believe it. Fewness and truth,
't is thus : Your brother and his lover have embrac'd. As those that feed grow full, as blossoming time That from the seedness the bare fallow brings