William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene II
Enter Provost and a Servant
Pray you, do.
I'll know His pleasure; may be he will relent. Alas, He hath but as offended in a dream! All sects, all ages smack of this vice; and he To die for't!
Lest I might be too rash: Under your good correction, I have seen, When, after execution, judgment hath Repented o'er his doom.
Go to; let that be mine: Do you your office, or give up your place, And you shall well be spared.
I crave your honour's pardon. What shall be done, sir, with the groaning Juliet? She's very near her hour.
Well, let her be admitted.
See you the fornicatress be removed: Let have needful, but not lavish, means; There shall be order for't.
Enter Isabella and Lucio
There is a vice that most I do abhor, And most desire should meet the blow of justice; For which I would not plead, but that I must; For which I must not plead, but that I am At war 'twixt will and will not.
I have a brother is condemn'd to die: I do beseech you, let it be his fault, And not my brother.
Condemn the fault and not the actor of it? Why, every fault's condemn'd ere it be done: Mine were the very cipher of a function, To fine the faults whose fine stands in record, And let go by the actor.
Aside to Isabella
Give't not o'er so: to him again, entreat him; Kneel down before him, hang upon his gown: You are too cold; if you should need a pin, You could not with more tame a tongue desire it: To him, I say!
But might you do't, and do the world no wrong, If so your heart were touch'd with that remorse As mine is to him?
Too late? why, no; I, that do speak a word. May call it back again. Well, believe this, No ceremony that to great ones 'longs, Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword, The marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe, Become them with one half so good a grace As mercy does. If he had been as you and you as he, You would have slipt like him; but he, like you, Would not have been so stern.
I would to heaven I had your potency, And you were Isabel! should it then be thus? No; I would tell what 'twere to be a judge, And what a prisoner.
Alas, alas! Why, all the souls that were were forfeit once; And He that might the vantage best have took Found out the remedy. How would you be, If He, which is the top of judgment, should But judge you as you are? O, think on that; And mercy then will breathe within your lips, Like man new made.
Be you content, fair maid; It is the law, not I condemn your brother: Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son, It should be thus with him: he must die tomorrow.
To-morrow! O, that's sudden! Spare him, spare him! He's not prepared for death. Even for our kitchens We kill the fowl of season: shall we serve heaven With less respect than we do minister To our gross selves? Good, good my lord, bethink you; Who is it that hath died for this offence? There's many have committed it.
The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept: Those many had not dared to do that evil, If the first that did the edict infringe Had answer'd for his deed: now 'tis awake Takes note of what is done; and, like a prophet, Looks in a glass, that shows what future evils, Either new, or by remissness new-conceived, And so in progress to be hatch'd and born, Are now to have no successive degrees, But, ere they live, to end.
I show it most of all when I show justice; For then I pity those I do not know, Which a dismiss'd offence would after gall; And do him right that, answering one foul wrong, Lives not to act another. Be satisfied; Your brother dies to-morrow; be content.
So you must be the first that gives this sentence, And he, that suffer's. O, it is excellent To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant.
Could great men thunder As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet, For every pelting, petty officer Would use his heaven for thunder; Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven, Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man, Drest in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he's most assured, His glassy essence, like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal.
We cannot weigh our brother with ourself: Great men may jest with saints; 'tis wit in them, But in the less foul profanation.
Because authority, though it err like others, Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself, That skins the vice o' the top. Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know That's like my brother's fault: if it confess A natural guiltiness such as is his, Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue Against my brother's life.
Not with fond shekels of the tested gold, Or stones whose rates are either rich or poor As fancy values them; but with true prayers That shall be up at heaven and enter there Ere sun-rise, prayers from preserved souls, From fasting maids whose minds are dedicate To nothing temporal.
Exeunt Isabella, Lucio, and Provost
From thee, even from thy virtue! What's this, what's this? Is this her fault or mine? The tempter or the tempted, who sins most? Ha! Not she: nor doth she tempt: but it is I That, lying by the violet in the sun, Do as the carrion does, not as the flower, Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be That modesty may more betray our sense Than woman's lightness? Having waste ground enough, Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary And pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie! What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo? Dost thou desire her foully for those things That make her good? O, let her brother live! Thieves for their robbery have authority When judges steal themselves. What, do I love her, That I desire to hear her speak again, And feast upon her eyes? What is't I dream on? O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint, With saints dost bait thy hook! Most dangerous Is that temptation that doth goad us on To sin in loving virtue: never could the strumpet, With all her double vigour, art and nature, Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid Subdues me quite. Even till now, When men were fond, I smiled and wonder'd how.