Enter Duke Vincentio and Friar Thomas
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 harbour, hath a purpose More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends Of burning youth.
My holy sir, none better knows than you How I have ever loved the life removed And held in idle price to haunt assemblies Where youth, and cost, and witless bravery keeps. I have deliver'd to Lord Angelo, A man of stricture and firm abstinence, My absolute 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 received. Now, pious sir, You will demand of me why I do this?
We have strict statutes and most biting laws. The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds, 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 fathers, 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 Goes all decorum.
It rested in your grace To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleased: 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 imposed the office; Who may, in the ambush of my name, strike home, And yet my nature never in the fight To do in slander. And to behold his sway, I will, as 'twere 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. 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.