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In stamps that are forbid : ’tis all as easy
Falsely to take away a life true made,
As to put mettle in restrained means,
To make a false one9.

Isab. 'Tis set down so in heaven, but not in earth.

Ang. Say you so? then I shall pose you quickly. Which had you rather, That the most just law Now took our brother's life; or, to redeem him, Give up your body to such sweet uncleanness, As she that he hath stain'd? Isab.

Sir, believe this, I had rather give my body than my soulto.

Ang. I talk not of your soul: Our compelld sins Stand more for number than accompt "1. Isab.

How say you? Ang. Nay, I'll not warrant that; for I can speak Against the thing I say. Answer to this;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? Isab.

Please you to do't, I'll take it as a peril to my soul, It is no sin at all, but charity.

Ang. Pleas'd you to do't, at peril of your soul, Were equal poise of sin and charity.

Isab. That I do beg his life, if it be sin, Heaven, let me bear it! you granting of my suit,

9 The thought is simply, that murder is as easy as fornication ; and the inference which Angelo would draw is, that it is as improper to pardon the latter as the former.

10 Isabel appears to use the words 'give my body,' in a different sense to Angelo. Her meaning appears to be, ' I had rather die than forfeit my eternal happiness by the prostitution of my person.'

11 i. e. actions that we are compelled to, however namerous, are not imputed to us by heaven as crimes.

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.

Nay, but hear me: Your sense pursues not mine: either you are ig

norant, Or seem so, craftily; and that's not good.

Isab. Let me be ignorant, and in nothing good, But graciously to know I am no better.

Ang. Thus wisdom wishes to appear most bright, When it doth tax itself: as these black masks 12 Proclaim an enshield 13 beauty ten times louder Than beauty could displayed.-But mark me; To be received plain, I'll speak more gross: Your brother is to die.

Isab. So.

Ang. And his offence is so, as it appears Accountant to the law upon that pain 14.

Isab. True.

Ang. Admit no other way to save his life, (As I subscribe 15 not that, nor any other. But in the loss of question 16), that you, his sister, Finding yourself desir'd of such a person, Whose credit with the judge, or own great place, Could fetch


brother from the manacles Of the all-binding law; and that there were No earthly mean to save him, but that either

12 The masks worn by female spectators of the play are here probably meant; however improperly, a compliment to them is put into the mouth of Angelo: unless the demonstrative pronoun is put for the prepositive article? At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, we have a passage of similar import :

*These happy masks that kiss fair ladies' brows,

Being black, put us in mind they hide the fair.' 13 i.e. enshielded, covered. 14 Pain, penalty.

15 Subscribe, agree to. 16 i. e. conversation that tends to nothing.

You must lay down the treasures of your body
To this supposed, or else to let him suffer;
What would


do? Isab. As much for my poor brother, as myself: That is, Were I under the terms of death, The impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies, And strip myself to death, as to a bed That longing I have been sick for, ere I'd yield My body up to shame. Ang.

Then must your brother die. Isab. And 'twere the cheaper way: Better it were, a brother died at once, Than that a sister, by redeeming him, Should die for ever.

Ang. Were not you then as cruel as the sentence That you

have slander'd so? Isab. Ignomy 17 in ransom, and free pardon, Are of two houses : lawful


is Nothing

akin to foul redemption. Ang. 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.

Isab. O pardon me, my lord; it oft falls out, To have what we'd have, we speak not what we


I something do excuse the thing I hate,
For his advantage that I dearly love.

Ang. We are all frail.

Else let


brother die, If not a feodary, but only he, Owe, and succeed by weakness 18.

17 Ignomy, ignominy.

18 I adopt Mr. Nares' explanation of this difficult passage as the most satisfactory yet offered :— If he is the only feodary, i. e. subject who holds by the common tenure of human frailty.' Owes, i.e. possesses and succeeds by, holds his right of succession by it. Believe me, on mine honour, My words express my purpose. Warburton says that the allusion is so fine that it deserves to be explained. The comparing mankind lying under the weight of original sin, to a feodary who owes suit and service to his lord, is not ill imagined.'


Nay, women are frail too. Isab. Ay, as the glasses where they view them

selves; Which are as easy broke as they make forms. Women !-Help heaven! men their creation mar In profiting by them 19. Nay, call us ten times frail; For we are soft as our complexions are, And credulous to false prints 20. Ang.

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.

Isab. I have no tongue but one: gentle my lord, Let me entreat you speak the former language.

Ang. Plainly conceive, I love you.

Isab. My brother did love Juliet; and you That he shall die for it.

Ang. He shall not, Isabel, if you give me love.

Isab. I know, your virtue hath a licence in't,
Which seems a little fouler than it is,
To pluck on others 21.

19 The meaning appears to be, that 'men debase their natures by taking advantage of women's weakness. She therefore calls on Heaven to assist them.

20 i. e. impressions.

2 i. e. “your virtue assumes an air of licentiousness, which is not natural to you, on purpose to try me.'

tell me, Isab. Ha! little honour to be much believ'd, And most pernicious purpose !-Seeming, seem


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I will proclaim thee, Angelo; look fort:
Sign me a present pardon for my brother,
Or, with an outstretch'd throat, I'll tell the world
Aloud, what man thou art.

Who will believe thee, Isabel ?
My unsoild name, the austereness of my life,
My vouch 23 against you, and my place i’the state,
Will so your accusation overweigh,

shall stifle in your own report, And smell of calumny 24. 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 25, 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 26, But thy unkindness shall his death draw out To lingering 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. Isab. To whom shall 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!

22 Seeming is hypocrisy. 23 Vouch, assertion.

24 A metaphor from a lamp or candle extinguished in its own grease.

25 Prolixious blushes mean what Milton has elegantly called"Sweet reluctant delay,'

26 The death. This phrase seems originally to have been a mistaken translation of the French La mort. Chaucer uses it frequently, and it is common to all writers of Shakspeare's age.

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