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Measure for Measure

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 Enter LUCIO and two other 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 Gentleman Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of
 Hungary's! 5 
Second Gentleman Amen. 
LUCIO Thou concludest like the sanctimonious pirate, that 
 went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped 
 one out of the table.
Second Gentleman 'Thou shalt not steal'? 10 
LUCIO Ay, that he razed. 
First Gentleman 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. 15 
Second Gentleman I never heard any soldier dislike it. 
LUCIO I believe thee; for I think thou never wast where 
 grace was said.
Second Gentleman No? a dozen times at least. 20 
First Gentleman What, in metre? 
LUCIO In any proportion or in any language. 
First Gentleman 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. 26 
First Gentleman 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 Gentleman And thou the velvet: thou art good velvet; thou'rt 
 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? 35
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. 39 
First Gentleman I think I have done myself wrong, have I not?
Second Gentleman 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 Gentleman To what, I pray? 
LUCIO Judge.
Second Gentleman To three thousand dolours a year. 
First Gentleman Ay, and more. 
LUCIO A French crown more. 
First Gentleman Thou art always figuring diseases in me; but thou 
 art full of error; I am sound. 52
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 Gentleman How now! which of your hips has the most profound sciatica? 
MISTRESS OVERDONE Well, well; there's one yonder arrested and carried
 to prison was worth five thousand of you all. 
Second Gentleman Who's that, I pray thee? 
MISTRESS OVERDONE Marry, sir, that's Claudio, Signior Claudio. 65 
First Gentleman Claudio to prison? 'tis not so. 
MISTRESS OVERDONE 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. 70 
LUCIO But, after all this fooling, I would not have it so. 
 Art thou sure of this? 
MISTRESS OVERDONE I am too sure of it: and it is for getting Madam
 Julietta with child. 74 
LUCIO Believe me, this may be: he promised to meet me two 
 hours since, and he was ever precise in 
Second Gentleman Besides, you know, it draws something near to the
 speech we had to such a purpose. 
First Gentleman But, most of all, agreeing with the proclamation. 81 
LUCIO Away! let's go learn the truth of it. 
 Exeunt LUCIO and Gentlemen 
MISTRESS OVERDONE Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what 

with the gallows and what with poverty, I am

 Enter POMPEY. 
 How now! what's the news with you? 
POMPEY Yonder man is carried to prison. 
MISTRESS OVERDONE Well; what has he done? 
POMPEY A woman.
MISTRESS OVERDONE But what's his offence? 
POMPEY Groping for trouts in a peculiar river. 
MISTRESS OVERDONE What, is there a maid with child by him? 
POMPEY No, but there's a woman with maid by him. You have 
 not heard of the proclamation, have you?
MISTRESS OVERDONE What proclamation, man? 
POMPEY All houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be plucked down. 99 
MISTRESS OVERDONE And what shall become of those in the city? 
POMPEY They shall stand for seed: they had gone down too, 
 but that a wise burgher put in for them.
MISTRESS OVERDONE But shall all our houses of resort in the suburbs be 
 pulled down? 
POMPEY To the ground, mistress. 
MISTRESS OVERDONE Why, here's a change indeed in the commonwealth! 
 What shall become of me?
POMPEY Come; fear you not: 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. 
MISTRESS OVERDONE What's to do here, Thomas tapster? let's withdraw. 104 
POMPEY Here comes Signior Claudio, led by the provost to 
 prison; and there's Madam Juliet. 
 Enter Provost, CLAUDIO, JULIET, and Officers. 
CLAUDIO Fellow, why dost thou show me thus to the world?
 Bear me to prison, where I am committed. 
Provost I do it not in evil disposition, 
 But from Lord Angelo by special charge. 
CLAUDIO Thus can the demigod Authority 
 Make us pay down for our offence by weight
 The words of heaven; on whom it will, it will; 114 
 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? 
CLAUDIO 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, 121 
 A thirsty evil; and when we drink we die. 
LUCIO If 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? 
CLAUDIO What but to speak of would offend again. 125
LUCIO What, is't murder? 
LUCIO Lechery? 
CLAUDIO Call it so. 
Provost Away, sir! you must go.
CLAUDIO One word, good friend. Lucio, a word with you. 
LUCIO A hundred, if they'll do you any good. 
 Is lechery so look'd after? 
CLAUDIO Thus stands it with me: upon a true contract 136 
 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 141 
 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?
CLAUDIO Unhappily, even so. 
 And the new deputy now for the duke-- 
 Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness, 149 
 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 emmence that fills it up, 
 I stagger in:--but this new governor
 Awakes me all the enrolled penalties 157 
 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 
CLAUDIO 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: 169 
 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 179
 would be sorry should be thus foolishly lost at a 
 game of tick-tack. I'll to her. 
CLAUDIO I thank you, good friend Lucio. 
LUCIO Within two hours. 
CLAUDIO Come, officer, away!


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2

From Measure for Measure. Ed. William J. Rolfe. New York: Harper & Brothers., 1899.

4. Its, One of the rare instances of the word in S. Here it will be noted that it is emphatic. Gr. 228.
15. That prays for peace. A petition for peace was included in the form of grace then in common use. Hanmer changes before to "after;" and the Camb. editors remark: "Hanmer's reading is recommended by the fact that in the old forms of grace used in many colleges, and, as we are informed, at the Inns of Court, the prayer for peace comes always after, and never before, meat. But as the mistake may easily have been made by S., or else deliberately put into the mouth of the 1st Gentleman, we have not altered the text."
21. What, in metre? K. takes this to refer to the ancient metrical graces arranged to be said or sung. Schmidt thinks it may mean "in a play, on the stage." Proportion in the reply may be = "measure," as Warb. explains it, or simply = form, arrangement.
24. Grace is grace, etc. "Grace is as immutably grace as his merry antagonist is a wicked villain. Difference in religion cannot make a grace not to be grace, a prayer not to be holy; as nothing can make a villain not to be a villain" (Johnson).
27. There went but a pair of shears between us. "We are both of the same piece" (Johnson). Malone quotes Marston, Malcontent, 1604: "There goes but a pair of shears betwixt an emperor and the son of a bagpiper; only the dyeing, dressing, pressing, and glossing makes the difference."
32. Had as lief. Good English then as now. See A. Y. L. p. 139.
33. Piled. "A quibble between piled = peeled, stripped of hair, bald (from the French disease), and piled as applied to velvet, three-piled velvet meaning the finest and costliest kind" (D.).
37. Forget to drink after thee. That is, lest I catch the disease in that way.
39. Done myself wrong. "Put myself in the wrong" (J. 1 f.).
44. I have purchased, etc. I have acquired or got, etc. Cf. A. Y. L. p. 177.
The folio continues this speech to Lucio, but the context shows that it belongs to the ist gentleman, to whom Pope transferred it.
48. Dolours. For the play on dollars, cf. Temp. ii. i. 17 and Lear, ii. 4.54.
50. A French crown. A common expression for a bald head, being a kindred joke to that in 33 above. Cf. M. N. D. i. 2. 99: "Some of your French crowns have no hair at all," etc.
54. Thy bones are hollow. Steevens quotes T. of A. iv. 3. 152:

"Consumptions sow
In hollow bones of man."

78. The sweat. The plague, which was popularly known as "the sweating sickness." See p. 10 above.
88. Houses in the suburbs. Houses of ill - fame were chiefly in the suburbs.
104. Thomas. A name commonly applied to tapsters, probably for the sake of the alliteration.
108. Enter Provost, etc. The folio begins a new scene, "Scaena Tertia," here, and is followed by some modern eds.; but there is evidently no change of scene. The Coll. MS. omits the name of Juliet here; but the preceding line indicates that she is on the stage. Possibly, however, as H. suggests, "Pompey may be supposed to see her just as the others are entering and she is parting from them." It is evident from 137 below that she is not within hearing, nor near the speaker. The Camb. editors suppose that she was "following at a distance behind, in her anxiety for the fate of her lover." At the end of the play she appears again without saying anything.
114. The words of heaven, etc. Some editors adopt the conjecture of Roberts, "The sword of heaven;" but we accept Henley's explanation of the original text: "Authority, being absolute in Angelo, is finely styled by Claudio the demi-god. To this uncontrollable power the poet applies a passage from St, Paul to the Romans, ix. 15, 18, which he properly styles the words of heaven: 'for he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,' etc.; and again: 'Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy,' etc."
119. Scope. Liberty, license; as in i. 3. 35 below.
121. Ravin down. Ravenously devour. Cf. Macb. ii. 4. 28:

"Thriftless ambition, that will ravin up
Thine own life's means!"

and Cymb. i. 6. 49: "ravining first the lamb." Note also the adjective in A. W. iii. 2. 120: "the ravin lion."
Their proper bane. = their own poison or destruction. Cf. Temp. iii. 3. 60: "Their proper selves," etc.
122. A thirsty evil. In Sir William Davenant's Law against Lovers, which is founded on this play and Much Ado, this is changed to "An evil thirst."
125. Morality. The folios misprint "mortality;" corrected by Rowe (after Davenant).
136. Contract. Accented by S. on the first or second syllable, as suits the measure. Cf. Temp. iv. i. 84 : "A contract of true love to celebrate," etc.
137. Possession. H. makes this word a quadrisyllable (see on i. i. 47 above), and the line an Alexandrine; but it is clearly better to consider it an ordinary line of five feet, with extra syllables which are easily slurred in pronunciation. Cf. the preceding line and 139 just below.
139. Denunciation. Proclamation, declaration; the only instance of the word in S. The Coll. MS. changes it to "pronunciation," but, as W. remarks, this only shows the incompetence and the want of authority of the corrector, and, perhaps, the lateness of his labours. Minsheu, 1617, has "To denounce or declare," and Cooper, 1578, "Denuntiare, — to shew or tell to another, to give knowledge, to signifie, to denounce," etc.
141. Propagation. The reading of the later folios; the 1st has "propogation- gation." Malone conjectures "prorogation," and Jackson "procuration." W. reads "preservation." A writer in the Edin, Mag., Nov. 1786, thinks propagation may be from the Italian pagare, to pay, and = payment; but this is improbable. It is more likely = continuing, keeping up. The dowry would appear to have been in some way dependent on her friends' approval of her chosen husband, and the couple wanted to keep up their hold upon it until they had managed to gain the favour of those in charge of it. For the use of propagate, cf. Chapman, Odyssey, xvi. (quoted by Steevens):

"to try if we,
Alone, may propagate to victory
Our bold encounters;"

and again, Iliad, iv.:

"I doubt not but this night
Even to the fleete to propagate the Greeks' unturned flight."

J. H. thinks for propagation means "that she might continue to receive the interest." He assumes that Julietta was to receive the interest while unmarried, and the principal when married to a man approved by her friends.
149. The fault and glimpse. "The faulty glimpse: a fault arising from the mind being dazzled by a novel authority of which the new governor has yet had only a glimpse, has yet taken only a hasty survey" (Malone). Johnson conjectured "flash" for fault, or that we should read "fault or glimpse."
156. Stagger. Waver, am perplexed.
157. Awakes me. For the me, see Gr. 220.
158. Like unscour'd armour. Steevens quotes T.and C. iii. 3. 152;

"Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail,
In monumental mockery."

159. Nineteen zodiacs. Nineteen circuits of the sun, or years. Whalley would change nineteen to "fourteen," on account of i. 3. 21; just as there Theo. reads "nineteen" for fourteen. Clarke remarks: "It is most characteristic that a young fellow like Claudio should carelessly mention somewhere about the period in question, while the staid duke cites it exactly." It may, however, be one of the poet's little slips in numbers. Cf. C. of E.'p. 148 (note on Thirty-three years), or T. of S. p. 128 (on This seven).
160. Worn. Put in use; suggested by the simile of the armour.
163. Tickle. Ticklish, precarious. Cf. 2 Hen. VI. i. i. 216: "on a tickle point."
169. Receive her approbation. Enter upon her probation (cf. v. i. 72 below), or novitiate. Malone quotes The Merry Devil of Edmonton, 1608:

"Madam, for a twelvemonth's approbation
We mean to make the trial of our child."

171. In my voice. In my name; as in A. Y. L. ii. 4. 87 : "And in my voice most welcome shall you be."
174. Prone. Variously explained by the editors: "prompt, ready" (Nares and H.); "significant, expressive" (Malone); "humble" (Steevens and W.); "deferential, gently submissive and supplicatory" (Clarke); "affectionate" (J. H.), etc. We are inclined to agree with Steevens and Clarke. Davenant changes the word to "sweet;" which, as Steevens remarks, shows, like other of his alterations, "that what appear difficulties to us were difficulties to him, who, living nearer the time of S., might be supposed to have understood his language more intimately."
175. Move. The folio reading; changed by Rowe to "moves." Capell changes beside to "besides."
179. Grievous imposition. "Under grievous penalties imposed" (Johnson).
180. Who. Often = which. Gr. 264. Hanmer and W. read "which."
181. Tick-tack. A sort of backgammon (Fr. tric-trac).

Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 3

How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Measure for Measure. Ed. William J. Rolfe. New York: Harper & Brothers., 1899. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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