Home  »  The Oxford Shakespeare  »  Measure for Measure

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act I. Scene II.

Measure for Measure

A Street.

Enter LUCIO and two Gentlemen.

Lucio.If the Duke with the other dukes come not to composition with the King of Hungary, why then, all the dukes fall upon the king.

First Gent.Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary’s!

Second Gent.Amen.

Lucio.Thou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate, that went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped one out of the table.

Second Gent.‘Thou shalt not steal?’

Lucio.Ay, that he razed.

First Gent.Why, ’twas a commandment to command the captain and all the rest from their functions: they put forth to steal. There’s not a soldier of us all, that, in the thanksgiving before meat, doth relish the petition well that prays for peace.

Second Gent.I never heard any soldier dislike it.

Lucio.I believe thee, for I think thou never wast where grace was said.

Second Gent.No? a dozen times at least.

First Gent.What, in metre?

Lucio.In any proportion or in any language.

First Gent.I think, or in any religion.

Lucio.Ay; why not? Grace is grace, despite of all controversy: as, for example, thou thyself art a wicked villain, despite of all grace.

First Gent.Well, there went but a pair of shears between us.

Lucio.I grant; as there may between the lists and the velvet: thou art the list.

First Gent.And thou the velvet: thou art good velvet; thou art a three-piled piece, I warrant thee. I had as lief be a list of an English kersey as be piled, as thou art piled, for a French velvet. Do I speak feelingly now?

Lucio.I think thou dost; and, indeed, with most painful feeling of thy speech: I will, out of thine own confession, learn to begin thy health; but, whilst I live, forget to drink after thee.

First Gent.I think I have done myself wrong, have I not?

Second Gent.Yes, that thou hast, whether thou art tainted or free.

Lucio.Behold, behold, where Madam Mitigation comes! I have purchased as many diseases under her roof as come to—

Second Gent.To what, I pray?


Second Gent.To three thousand dolours a year.

First Gent.Ay, and more.

Lucio.A French crown more.

First Gent.Thou art always figuring diseases in me; but thou art full of error: I am sound.

Lucio.Nay, not as one would say, healthy; but so sound as things that are hollow: thy bones are hollow; impiety has made a feast of thee.


First Gent.How now! which of your hips has the most profound sciatica?

Mrs. Ov.Well, well; there’s one yonder arrested and carried to prison was worth five thousand of you all.

Second Gent.Who’s that, I pray thee?

Mrs. Ov.Marry, sir, that’s Claudio, Signior Claudio.

First Gent.Claudio to prison! ’tis not so.

Mrs. Ov.Nay, but I know ’tis so: I saw him arrested; saw him carried away; and, which is more, within these three days his head to be chopped off.

Lucio.But, after all this fooling, I would not have it so. Art thou sure of this?

Mrs. Ov.I am too sure of it; and it is for getting Madam Julietta with child.

Lucio.Believe me, this may be: he promised to meet me two hours since, and he was ever precise in promise-keeping.

Second Gent.Besides, you know, it draws something near to the speech we had to such a purpose.

First Gent.But most of all, agreeing with the proclamation.

Lucio.Away! let’s go learn the truth of it.[Exeunt LUCIO and Gentlemen.

Mrs. Ov.Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows and what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk.


How now! what’s the news with you?

Pom.Yonder man is carried to prison.

Mrs. Ov.Well: what has he done?

Pom.A woman.

Mrs. Ov.But what’s his offence?

Pom.Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

Mrs. Ov.What, is there a maid with child by him?

Pom.No; but there’s a woman with maid by him. You have not heard of the proclamation, have you?

Mrs. Ov.What proclamation, man?

Pom.All houses of resort in the suburbs of Vienna must be plucked down.

Mrs. Ov.And what shall become of those in the city?

Pom.They shall stand for seed: they had gone down too, but that a wise burgher put in for them.

Mrs. Ov.But shall all our houses of resort in the suburbs be pulled down?

Pom.To the ground, mistress.

Mrs. Ov.Why, here’s a change indeed in the commonwealth! What shall become of me?

Pom.Come; fear not you: good counsellors lack no clients: though you change your place, you need not change your trade; I’ll be your tapster still. Courage! there will be pity taken on you; you that have worn your eyes almost out in the service, you will be considered.

Mrs. Ov.What’s to do here, Thomas tapster? Let’s withdraw.

Pom.Here comes Signior Claudio, led by the provost to prison; and there’s Madam Juliet.[Exeunt.

Enter PROVOST, CLAUDIO, JULIET, and Officers.

Claud.Fellow, why dost thou show me thus to the world?

Bear me to prison, where I am committed.

Prov.I do it not in evil disposition,

But from Lord Angelo by special charge.

Claud.Thus can the demi-god Authority

Make us pay down for our offence’ by weight.

The words of heaven; on whom it will, it will;

On whom it will not, so: yet still ’tis just.

Re-enter LUCIO and two Gentlemen.

Lucio.Why, how now, Claudio! whence comes this restraint?

Claud.From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty:

As surfeit is the father of much fast,

So every scope by the immoderate use

Turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue—

Like rats that ravin down their proper bane,—

A thirsty evil, and when we drink we die.

Lucio.If I could speak so wisely under an arrest, I would send for certain of my creditors. And yet, to say the truth, I had as lief have the foppery of freedom as the morality of imprisonment. What’s thy offence, Claudio?

Claud.What but to speak of would offend again.

Lucio.What, is ’t murder?



Claud.Call it so.

Prov.Away, sir! you must go.

Claud.One word, good friend. Lucio, a word with you.[Takes him aside.

Lucio.A hundred, if they’ll do you any good.

Is lechery so looked after?

Claud.Thus stands it with me: upon a true contract

I got possession of Julietta’s bed:

You know the lady; she is fast my wife,

Save that we do the denunciation lack

Of outward order: this we came not to,

Only for propagation of a dower

Remaining in the coffer of her friends,

From whom we thought it meet to hide our love

Till time had made them for us. But it chances

The stealth of our most mutual entertainment

With character too gross is writ on Juliet.

Lucio.With child, perhaps?

Claud.Unhappily, even so.

And the new deputy now for the duke,—

Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness,

Or whether that the body public be

A horse whereon the governor doth ride,

Who, newly in the seat, that it may know

He can command, lets it straight feel the spur;

Whether the tyranny be in his place,

Or in his eminence that fills it up,

I stagger in:—but this new governor

Awakes me all the enrolled penalties

Which have, like unscour’d armour, hung by the wall

So long that nineteen zodiacs have gone round,

And none of them been worn; and, for a name,

Now puts the drowsy and neglected act

Freshly on me: ’tis surely for a name.

Lucio.I warrant it is: and thy head stands so tickle on thy shoulders that a milkmaid, if she be in love, may sigh it off. Send after the duke and appeal to him.

Claud.I have done so, but he’s not to be found.

I prithee, Lucio, do me this kind service.

This day my sister should the cloister enter,

And there receive her approbation:

Acquaint her with the danger of my state;

Implore her, in my voice, that she make friends

To the strict deputy; bid herself assay him:

I have great hope in that; for in her youth

There is a prone and speechless dialect,

Such as move men; beside, she hath prosperous art

When she will play with reason and discourse,

And well she can persuade.

Lucio.I pray she may: as well for the encouragement of the like, which else would stand under grievous imposition, as for the enjoying of thy life, who I would be sorry should be thus foolishly lost at a game of tick-tack. I’ll to her.

Claud.I thank you, good friend Lucio.

Lucio.Within two hours.

Claud.Come, officer, away![Exeunt.