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In the Duke’s absence from Vienna, his strict deputy Angelo revives an ancient law forbidding sex outside marriage. The young Claudio, whose fiancée is pregnant, is condemned to death by the law. His sister Isabella, soon to become a nun, pleads with Lord Angelo for her brother’s life. But her purity so excites Angelo that he offers her a monstrous bargain - he will save Claudio if Isabella will visit him that night.
92 pages with a reading time of ~1.50 hours (23018 words), and first published in 1604. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2018.
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An apartment in the DUKE’S palace.
[Enter DUKE VINCENTIO, ESCALUS, Lords and Attendants]
Of government the properties to unfold, Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse; Since I am put to know that your own science Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice My strength can give you: then no more remains, But that to your sufficiency as your Worth is able, And let them work. The nature of our people, Our city’s institutions, and the terms For common justice, you’re as pregnant in As art and practise hath enriched any That we remember. There is our commission, From which we would not have you warp. Call hither, I say, bid come before us Angelo.
[Exit an Attendant]
What figure of us think you he will bear? For you must know, we have with special soul Elected him our absence to supply, Lent him our terror, dress’d him with our love, And given his deputation all the organs Of our own power: what think you of it?
If any in Vienna be of worth To undergo such ample grace and honour, It is Lord Angelo.
Look where he comes.
Always obedient to your grace’s will, I come to know your pleasure.
Angelo, There is a kind of character in thy life, That to the observer doth thy history Fully unfold. Thyself and thy belongings Are not thine own so proper as to waste Thyself upon thy virtues, they on thee. Heaven doth with us as we with torches do, Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues Did not go forth of us, ‘twere all alike As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch’d But to fine issues, nor Nature never lends The smallest scruple of her excellence But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines Herself the glory of a creditor, Both thanks and use. But I do bend my speech To one that can my part in him advertise; Hold therefore, Angelo:– In our remove be thou at full ourself; Mortality and mercy in Vienna Live in thy tongue and heart: old Escalus, Though first in question, is thy secondary. Take thy commission.
Now, good my lord, Let there be some more test made of my metal, Before so noble and so great a figure Be stamp’d upon it.
No more evasion: We have with a leaven’d and prepared choice Proceeded to you; therefore take your honours. Our haste from hence is of so quick condition That it prefers itself and leaves unquestion’d Matters of needful value. We shall write to you, As time and our concernings shall importune, How it goes with us, and do look to know What doth befall you here. So, fare you well; To the hopeful execution do I leave you Of your commissions.
Yet give leave, my lord, That we may bring you something on the way.
My haste may not admit it; Nor need you, on mine honour, have to do With any scruple; your scope is as mine own So to enforce or qualify the laws As to your soul seems good. Give me your hand: I’ll privily away. I love the people, But do not like to stage me to their eyes: Through it do well, I do not relish well Their loud applause and Aves vehement; Nor do I think the man of safe discretion That does affect it. Once more, fare you well.
The heavens give safety to your purposes!
Lead forth and bring you back in happiness!
I thank you. Fare you well.
I shall desire you, sir, to give me leave To have free speech with you; and it concerns me To look into the bottom of my place: A power I have, but of what strength and nature I am not yet instructed.
‘Tis so with me. Let us withdraw together, And we may soon our satisfaction have Touching that point.
I’ll wait upon your honour.
[Enter LUCIO and two Gentlemen]
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.
Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary’s!
Thou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate, that went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped one out of the table.
‘Thou shalt not steal’?
Ay, that he razed.
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, do relish the petition well that prays for peace.
I never heard any soldier dislike it.