A line-by-line translation

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure Translation Act 1, Scene 3

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

Enter DUKE VINCENTIO and FRIAR THOMAS

DUKE VINCENTIO

No, holy father; throw away that thought; Believe not that the dribbling dart of love Can pierce a complete bosom. Why I desire thee To give me secret harbour, hath a purpose More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends Of burning youth.

DUKE VINCENTIO

No, holy father, don't even think of that. You can't believe that silly old love would win over a man as steadfast as me. There's a reason for my asking you for a secret hiding place—an old man's reason, serious reason as far from lusty youth's desires and goals as possible.

FRIAR THOMAS

May your grace speak of it?

FRIAR THOMAS

Can you tell me, your Grace?

DUKE VINCENTIO

My holy sir, none better knows than you How I have ever loved the life removed And held in idle price to haunt assemblies Where youth, and cost, and witless bravery keeps. I have deliver'd to Lord Angelo, A man of stricture and firm abstinence, My absolute power and place here in Vienna, And he supposes me travell'd to Poland; For so I have strew'd it in the common ear, And so it is received. Now, pious sir, You will demand of me why I do this?

DUKE VINCENTIO

Holy father, no one knows better than you how much I've loved living in isolation, and how little I've valued the gatherings where young people, wealth, and stupid acts of bravery take place. I've given my absolute power and position here in Vienna to Lord Angelo, a man of upstanding discipline and strict abstinence. He thinks I've traveled to Poland, since I've spread that rumor in public and it's come back to him. Now, devout sir, do you want to know why I'm doing this?

FRIAR THOMAS

Gladly, my lord.

FRIAR THOMAS

Yes, please, my lord.

DUKE VINCENTIO

We have strict statutes and most biting laws. The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds, Which for this nineteen years we have let slip; Even like an o'ergrown lion in a cave, That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fathers, Having bound up the threatening twigs of birch, Only to stick it in their children's sight For terror, not to use, in time the rod Becomes more mock'd than fear'd; so our decrees, Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead; And liberty plucks justice by the nose; The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart Goes all decorum.

DUKE VINCENTIO

We have strict statutes and extremely harsh laws. I've let the necessary bits and restraints for unruly citizens slip in the last nineteen years, like an overgrown lion in a cave who doesn't go out to hunt. It's like fathers who make threatening switches out of twigs not to use them, but only to scare their children. Over time, these sorts of fathers are ridiculed more than they're feared. So my decrees—which I haven't enforced—are essentially useless. Freedom takes advantage of justice, the baby beats the babysitter, and all order goes to pieces.

FRIAR THOMAS

It rested in your grace To unloose this tied-up justice when you pleased: And it in you more dreadful would have seem'd Than in Lord Angelo.

FRIAR THOMAS

Sir, you had the power to unleash this pent-up justice whenever you wanted, and it would have seemed more serious coming from you than from Lord Angelo.

DUKE VINCENTIO

I do fear, too dreadful: Sith 'twas my fault to give the people scope, 'Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them For what I bid them do: for we bid this be done, When evil deeds have their permissive pass And not the punishment. Therefore indeed, my father, I have on Angelo imposed the office; Who may, in the ambush of my name, strike home, And yet my nature never in the fight To do in slander. And to behold his sway, I will, as 'twere a brother of your order, Visit both prince and people: therefore, I prithee, Supply me with the habit and instruct me How I may formally in person bear me Like a true friar. More reasons for this action At our more leisure shall I render you; Only, this one: Lord Angelo is precise; Stands at a guard with envy; scarce confesses That his blood flows, or that his appetite Is more to bread than stone: hence shall we see, If power change purpose, what our seemers be.

DUKE VINCENTIO

I'm afraid it would have seemed too serious, since it was my fault to give the people such free reign. I would seem like a tyrant if I punished and chastised them for what I told them to do–-since I effectively let evil deeds go unpunished. For that reason, father, I've given Angelo the job: so that he can ambush them in my name and strike home without me dirtying my hands in the fight. To keep an eye on his progress, I'll disguise myself as a friar of your order, and visit both the governor and the people. So, will you please supply me with the habit and teach me how to properly act like a true friar? I'll share more of the reasons for my actions with you soon. Here's one: Lord Angelo is precise. He keeps his jealousy in check, hardly admits that he's flesh and blood or that he ever gets hungry. So we'll see if he is what he truly seems to be, or if power changes him.

Exeunt

Measure for measure
Join LitCharts A+ and get the entire Measure for Measure Translation as a printable PDF.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
  • Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
  • Downloads of 762 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 18,227 quotes covering 762 books
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms
Bailey sincox
About the Translator: Bailey Sincox

Bailey Sincox is a PhD student in English at Harvard University, where she researches the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Her teaching experience includes accessible online courses with edX on Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. She holds a Master's from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor's from Duke University.