Measure for Measure By William Shakespeare Act II

SCENE IV. A Room in ANGELO'S house.

[Enter ANGELO.]

When I would pray and think, I think and pray
To several subjects. Heaven hath my empty words;
Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue,
Anchors on Isabel: Heaven in my mouth,
As if I did but only chew his name;
And in my heart the strong and swelling evil
Of my conception. The state whereon I studied
Is, like a good thing, being often read,
Grown sear'd and tedious; yea, my gravity,
Wherein — let no man hear me — I take pride,
Could I with boot change for an idle plume,
Which the air beats for vain. O place! O form!
How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,
Wrench awe from fools, and tie the wiser souls
To thy false seeming! Blood, thou art blood:
Let's write good angel on the devil's horn,
'Tis not the devil's crest.

[Enter Servant.]

How now, who's there?

One Isabel, a sister, desires access to you.

Teach her the way.


O heavens!
Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,
Making both it unable for itself
And dispossessing all the other parts
Of necessary fitness?
So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons;
Come all to help him, and so stop the air
By which he should revive: and even so
The general, subject to a well-wished king
Quit their own part, and in obsequious fondness
Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love
Must needs appear offence.


How now, fair maid?

I am come to know your pleasure.

That you might know it, would much better please me
Than to demand what 'tis. Your brother cannot live.

Even so? — Heaven keep your honour!


Yet may he live awhile: and, it may be,
As long as you or I: yet he must die.

Under your sentence?


When? I beseech you? that in his reprieve,
Longer or shorter, he may be so fitted
That his soul sicken not.

Ha! Fie, these filthy vices! It were as good
To pardon him that hath from nature stolen
A man already made, as to remit
Their saucy sweetness that do coin heaven's image
In stamps that are forbid; 'tis all as easy
Falsely to take away a life true made
As to put metal in restrained means
To make a false one.

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

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

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

I talk not of your soul; our compell'd sins
Stand more for number than for accompt.

How say you?

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?

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

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

That I do beg his life, if it be sin,
Heaven let me bear it! You granting of my suit,
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 ignorant
Or seem so, craftily; and that's not good.

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

Thus wisdom wishes to appear most bright
When it doth tax itself: as these black masks
Proclaim an enshielded 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.

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Angelo reneges on his promise to Isabella that he would free her brother, because he