A line-by-line translation

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure Translation Act 1, Scene 4

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

Enter ISABELLA and FRANCISCA

ISABELLA

And have you nuns no farther privileges?

ISABELLA

And you nuns don't have any other privileges? 

FRANCISCA

Are not these large enough?

FRANCISCA

Are these not enough?

ISABELLA

Yes, truly; I speak not as desiring more; But rather wishing a more strict restraint Upon the sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare.

ISABELLA

Yes, indeed they are. I'm not saying that I want anything more, I'm actually wishing for stricter rules here in the sisterhood of the nuns of Saint Clare.

LUCIO

[Within] Ho! Peace be in this place!

LUCIO

[Offstage] Hey! Peace be in this place!

ISABELLA

Who's that which calls?

ISABELLA

Who's that who's calling?

FRANCISCA

It is a man's voice. Gentle Isabella, Turn you the key, and know his business of him; You may, I may not; you are yet unsworn. When you have vow'd, you must not speak with men But in the presence of the prioress: Then, if you speak, you must not show your face, Or, if you show your face, you must not speak. He calls again; I pray you, answer him.

FRANCISCA

It's a man's voice. Dear Isabella: you turn the key and find out what he wants. You can; I can't. You haven't taken your vows yet. Once you've taken your vows, you can't speak with men unless the prioress is there. Then, if you speak, you can't show your face. Or if you show your face, you can't speak. He's calling again; please, answer him.

Exit

ISABELLA

Peace and prosperity! Who is't that calls?

ISABELLA

Peace and prosperity! Who's there?

Enter LUCIO

LUCIO

Hail, virgin, if you be, as those cheek-roses Proclaim you are no less! Can you so stead me As bring me to the sight of Isabella, A novice of this place and the fair sister To her unhappy brother Claudio?

LUCIO

Greetings, virgin—if you are one, since those rosy cheeks show you're nothing less! Can you help me out by bringing me to Isabella, a novice here and the pretty sister of her unlucky brother Claudio?

ISABELLA

Why "her unhappy brother?" let me ask, The rather for I now must make you know I am that Isabella and his sister.

ISABELLA

Why "her unlucky brother?" I have to ask, and now I should let you know that I am Isabella, his sister.

LUCIO

Gentle and fair, your brother kindly greets you:Not to be weary with you, he's in prison.

LUCIO

Gentle and pretty one, your brother sends his warm greetings. I don't want to beat around the bush: he's in prison.

ISABELLA

Woe me! for what?

ISABELLA

Oh no! For what?

LUCIO

For that which, if myself might be his judge,He should receive his punishment in thanks:He hath got his friend with child.

LUCIO

For that which, if I were his judge, his only punishment would be congratulations. He got his girlfriend pregnant. 

ISABELLA

Sir, make me not your story.

ISABELLA

Sir, you're making this up.

LUCIO

It is true. I would not—though 'tis my familiar sin With maids to seem the lapwing and to jest, Tongue far from heart—play with all virgins so: I hold you as a thing ensky'd and sainted. By your renouncement an immortal spirit, And to be talk'd with in sincerity, As with a saint.

LUCIO

It's true. Though I'm often prone to run around and joke with girls, not meaning what I say, I wouldn't play with all virgins that way. To me, you're like an angel in the sky. By taking your vows, you're an immortal spirit to have serious conversations with, like with a saint.

ISABELLA

You do blaspheme the good in mocking me.

ISABELLA

You're blaspheming good Christians by mocking me.

LUCIO

Do not believe it. Fewness and truth, 'tis thus: Your brother and his lover have embraced: As those that feed grow full, as blossoming time That from the seedness the bare fallow brings To teeming foison, even so her plenteous womb Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry.

LUCIO

No, not at all! Truth be told, this is it: your brother and his girlfriend have had sex. Just like people who eat get full and seeds at springtime grow from bare soil into blossoming plants, her fertile womb reflects his full cultivation and husbandry.

ISABELLA

Some one with child by him? My cousin Juliet?

ISABELLA

Who did he get pregnant? My cousin Juliet?

LUCIO

Is she your cousin?

LUCIO

Is she your cousin?

ISABELLA

Adoptedly; as school-maids change their namesBy vain though apt affection.

ISABELLA

My adopted cousin, in the way that schoolgirls change their names when they're silly and like each other.

LUCIO

She it is.

LUCIO

She's the one.

ISABELLA

O, let him marry her.

ISABELLA

Oh, let him marry her.

LUCIO

This is the point. The duke is very strangely gone from hence; Bore many gentlemen, myself being one, In hand and hope of action: but we do learn By those that know the very nerves of state, His givings-out were of an infinite distance From his true-meant design. Upon his place, And with full line of his authority, Governs Lord Angelo; a man whose blood Is very snow-broth; one who never feels The wanton stings and motions of the sense, But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge With profits of the mind, study and fast. He—to give fear to use and liberty, Which have for long run by the hideous law, As mice by lions—hath pick'd out an act, Under whose heavy sense your brother's life Falls into forfeit: he arrests him on it; And follows close the rigour of the statute, To make him an example. All hope is gone, Unless you have the grace by your fair prayer To soften Angelo: and that's my pith of business 'Twixt you and your poor brother.

LUCIO

That's the point. The Duke has mysteriously left the country. He left many gentlemen behind waiting for action—myself included.  But we have heard from those at the very head of the state that what happened was far from his original intentions. Lord Angelo rules in the Duke's place, and with his complete authority. Angelo is a man with snow running through his veins. He never feels the tugs of human emotion or the senses, but rather stifles and contains his natural inclinations with prayer, study, and fasting. To scare those of us who have gotten used to being free and doing what we please despite the horrible laws, like mice scared by lions—Angelo has picked out an act—fornication—of which your brother is convicted and sentenced cruelly to death. He arrested him for it, and is following the letter of the law closely to make an example of him. All hope is gone, unless you're able—with your pretty face and sweet prayers—to soften Angelo. And that's the heart of my business between you and your poor brother.

ISABELLA

Doth he so seek his life?

ISABELLA

Does Angelo want to take my brother's life away, just like that?

LUCIO

Has censured himAlready; and, as I hear, the provost hathA warrant for his execution.

LUCIO

Angelo's charged him already. And I've heard that the provost has a warrant for his execution.

ISABELLA

Alas! what poor ability's in meTo do him good?

ISABELLA

Alas! What can I possibly to do to help him?

LUCIO

Assay the power you have.

LUCIO

Use all the power you have.

ISABELLA

My power? Alas, I doubt—

ISABELLA

My power? Oh, no, I doubt—

LUCIO

Our doubts are traitors And make us lose the good we oft might win By fearing to attempt. Go to Lord Angelo, And let him learn to know, when maidens sue, Men give like gods; but when they weep and kneel, All their petitions are as freely theirs As they themselves would owe them.

LUCIO

Our doubts betray us. They make us lose the prize we might otherwise win by convincing us not to try. Go to Lord Angelo, and make him understand: when young girls make requests, men give like gods. But when girls cry and grovel, men grant their wishes as quickly as if the men owed them in the first place.

ISABELLA

I'll see what I can do.

ISABELLA

I'll see what I can do.

LUCIO

But speedily.

LUCIO

But be quick about it.

ISABELLA

I will about it straight; No longer staying but to give the mother Notice of my affair. I humbly thank you: Commend me to my brother: soon at night I'll send him certain word of my success.

ISABELLA

I'll do it immediately; I just need a moment to tell the Mother Superior what I'm up to. I give you my humble thanks. Give my best to my brother. Soon, tonight, I'll let him know if I've been successful. 

LUCIO

I take my leave of you.

LUCIO

I'll leave you, then.

ISABELLA

Good sir, adieu.

ISABELLA

Farewell, good sir.

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.