A line-by-line translation

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure Translation Act 2, Scene 1

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

Enter ANGELO, ESCALUS, and a Justice, Provost, Officers, and other Attendants, behind

ANGELO

We must not make a scarecrow of the law, Setting it up to fear the birds of prey, And let it keep one shape, till custom make it Their perch and not their terror.

ANGELO

We can't let the law become like a scarecrow. When a scarecrow is set up to scare away scavenger birds, it becomes such a familiar presence that the birds perch on it instead of being afraid.

ESCALUS

Ay, but yet Let us be keen, and rather cut a little, Than fall, and bruise to death. Alas, this gentleman Whom I would save, had a most noble father! Let but your honour know, Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue, That, in the working of your own affections, Had time cohered with place or place with wishing, Or that the resolute acting of your blood Could have attain'd the effect of your own purpose, Whether you had not sometime in your life Err'd in this point which now you censure him, And pull'd the law upon you.

ESCALUS

Yes, but let's be smart, and improve it little by little so that the whole thing doesn't fall out from under us. But this man who I want to save has a powerful, aristocratic father! I know you are incredibly virtuous, your Honor. But please just ask yourself about your own experiences with love. If you've ever been in the right place at the right time when the desire hit you, have you gotten carried away with feeling and fulfilled that desire? Haven't you ever made a mistake like the one for which you're now punishing Claudio? Imagine if the law had come down on you then.

ANGELO

'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus, Another thing to fall. I not deny, The jury, passing on the prisoner's life, May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two Guiltier than him they try. What's open made to justice, That justice seizes: what know the laws That thieves do pass on thieves? 'Tis very pregnant, The jewel that we find, we stoop and take't Because we see it; but what we do not see We tread upon, and never think of it. You may not so extenuate his offence For I have had such faults; but rather tell me, When I, that censure him, do so offend, Let mine own judgment pattern out my death, And nothing come in partial. Sir, he must die.

ANGELO

Escalus, it's one thing to be tempted, but another thing entirely to fall. I cannot deny that, among a jury of twelve people trying a prisoner, there might be a thief or two more guilty than the man on trial. What justice sees, justice grabs. Who knows what the code of law is among thieves? It's like how we bend down and pick up a jewel because we see it. But we walk right over the things we don't see and are never the wiser. You can't excuse his crime on the grounds that I have similar faults. Instead, you should tell me when I, who judge him, commit that offense. My judgment on him will be the model for my own death, so nothing is done partially. Sir, he has to die.

ESCALUS

Be it as your wisdom will.

ESCALUS

If you say so, sir.

ANGELO

Where is the provost?

ANGELO

Where is the provost?

PROVOST

Here, if it like your honour.

PROVOST

I'm here, sir.

ANGELO

See that Claudio Be executed by nine to-morrow morning: Bring him his confessor, let him be prepared; For that's the utmost of his pilgrimage.

ANGELO

Make sure that Claudio is executed by nine tomorrow morning. Bring the priest to him for confession and last rites, since his pilgrimage ends here.

Exit PROVOST

ESCALUS

[aside] Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all! Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall: Some run from brakes of ice, and answer none: And some condemned for a fault alone.

ESCALUS

[To himself] Well, heaven forgive him! And forgive us all! Some people get ahead by sinning, and others fall on hard times for doing good. Some who commit a whole heap of crimes never have to answer for them, while others are condemned for a single mistake.

Enter ELBOW, and Officers with FROTH and POMPEY

ELBOW

Come, bring them away: if these be good people in a commonweal that do nothing but use their abuses in common houses, I know no law: bring them away.

ELBOW

Come on, bring them away. If these people—who do nothing but raise hell in brothels—are good people, then I don't know the law. Bring them away!

ANGELO

How now, sir! What's your name? and what's the matter?

ANGELO

What's going on, sir? What's your name? What's the matter?

ELBOW

If it Please your honour, I am the poor duke's constable, and my name is Elbow: I do lean upon justice, sir, and do bring in here before your good honour two notorious benefactors.

ELBOW

Begging your pardon, your Honor. I'm the poor Duke's constable, and my name is Elbow. Sir, I depend upon justice, and bring in two notorious benefactors here before you.

ANGELO

Benefactors? Well; what benefactors are they? arethey not malefactors?

ANGELO

Benefactors? Well, they're benefactors, are they? Aren't they malefactors?

ELBOW

If it please your honour, I know not well what they are: but precise villains they are, that I am sure of; and void of all profanation in the world that good Christians ought to have.

ELBOW

Begging your pardon, your Honor, I don't know exactly who they are. But they are downright crooks, I'm sure of that. And they lack the profanation that all good Christians should have.

ESCALUS

This comes off well; here's a wise officer.

ESCALUS

That makes plenty of sense. This is a smart officer!

ANGELO

Go to: what quality are they of? Elbow is yourname? why dost thou not speak, Elbow?

ANGELO

Oh, enough. What are these men like? Elbow is your name, yes? Why don't you speak up, Elbow?

POMPEY

He cannot, sir; he's out at elbow.

POMPEY

He can't sir, he's out at the elbow.

ANGELO

What are you, sir?

ANGELO

[To POMPEY] What's your profession, sir?

ELBOW

He, sir! a tapster, sir; parcel-bawd; one that serves a bad woman; whose house, sir, was, as they say, plucked down in the suburbs; and now she professes a hot-house, which, I think, is a very ill house too.

ELBOW

Him, sir? He's a bartender, sir, and the servant of a brothel-keeper. He serves a bad woman whose house, sir, was, as they say, "torn down" in the outskirts of the town. And now she claims she runs a sauna which is, I think, a very dirty place, too.

ESCALUS

How know you that?

ESCALUS

How do you know that?

ELBOW

My wife, sir, whom I detest before heaven and your honour,—

ELBOW

My wife, sir, whom I detest in the eyes of God and yourself.

ESCALUS

How? thy wife?

ESCALUS

What? Your wife?

ELBOW

Ay, sir; whom, I thank heaven, is an honest woman,—

ELBOW

Yes, sir, who is, thank God, an honest woman—

ESCALUS

Dost thou detest her therefore?

ESCALUS

And you "detest" her for that?

ELBOW

I say, sir, I will detest myself also, as well as she, that this house, if it be not a bawd's house, it is pity of her life, for it is a naughty house.

ELBOW

Yes, sir, and I'll detest myself, too, along with my wife, that that house is a brothel. If it's not a brothel, then I swear on her life that it's at least a very naughty place.

ESCALUS

How dost thou know that, constable?

ESCALUS

How do you know that, constable?

ELBOW

Marry, sir, by my wife; who, if she had been a woman cardinally given, might have been accused in fornication, adultery, and all uncleanliness there.

ELBOW

Indeed, sir, from my wife. If she had been more virtuous, she might have been guilty of fornication, adultery, and all sorts of trouble there.

ESCALUS

By the woman's means?

ESCALUS

As a prostitute?

ELBOW

Ay, sir, by Mistress Overdone's means: but as shespit in his face, so she defied him.

ELBOW

Yes, sir, under Mistress Overdone. But because she spit in his face, she got away.

POMPEY

Sir, if it please your honour, this is not so.

POMPEY

Sir, begging your pardon: it's not true.

ELBOW

Prove it before these varlets here, thou honourableman; prove it.

ELBOW

Prove it before these lowly servants here, you honorable man, prove it.

ESCALUS

Do you hear how he misplaces?

ESCALUS

Do you hear how he misuses his words?

POMPEY

Sir, she came in great with child; and longing, saving your honour's reverence, for stewed prunes; sir, we had but two in the house, which at that very distant time stood, as it were, in a fruit-dish, a dish of some three-pence; your honours have seen such dishes; they are not China dishes, but very good dishes,—

POMPEY

Sir, she came in very pregnant, with a craving—begging your pardon, your Honor—for stewed prunes. Sir, we only had two in the house, which way back then were sitting in a fruit bowl, a bowl worth three pence—you've all seen the kind of dish, they're not cheap dishes, they're very good dishes—

ESCALUS

Go to, go to: no matter for the dish, sir.

ESCALUS

Enough, enough! The dish isn't important, sir.

POMPEY

No, indeed, sir, not of a pin; you are therein in the right: but to the point. As I say, this Mistress Elbow, being, as I say, with child, and being great-bellied, and longing, as I said, for prunes; and having but two in the dish, as I said, Master Froth here, this very man, having eaten the rest, as I said, and, as I say, paying for them very honestly; for, as you know, Master Froth, I could not give you three-pence again.

POMPEY

Of course, sir, not at all. You're completely right there. To the point. Like I said, this Mrs. Elbow, who (like I said) was very pregnant and craving, like I said, prunes, and only two being in the bowl (like I said) because Mr. Froth here, this very man, had eaten the rest (like I said), and (as I say) had paid for them up front. For, as you know, Mr. Froth, I couldn't give you three pence again.

FROTH

No, indeed.

FROTH

No, of course not.

POMPEY

Very well: you being then, if you be remembered,cracking the stones of the foresaid prunes,—

POMPEY

All right. So you were, if you remember, breaking the pits of the aforementioned prunes—

FROTH

Ay, so I did indeed.

FROTH

Yes, I was doing that.

POMPEY

Why, very well; I telling you then, if you be remembered, that such a one and such a one were past cure of the thing you wot of, unless they kept very good diet, as I told you,—

POMPEY

Well then, there you go. And I was telling you then, if you remember, that someone or other was past the help of medicine with the same disease you had, unless they kept a very good diet, as I told you—

FROTH

All this is true.

FROTH

All this is true.

POMPEY

Why, very well, then,—

POMPEY

Well, there you have it—

ESCALUS

Come, you are a tedious fool: to the purpose. What was done to Elbow's wife, that he hath cause to complain of? Come me to what was done to her.

ESCALUS

Enough, you're dragging on; get to the point. What happened to Elbow's wife that's made him so upset? Tell me what happened to her.

POMPEY

Sir, your honour cannot come to that yet.

POMPEY

Sir, you can't jump ahead to that yet, your Honor. 

ESCALUS

No, sir, nor I mean it not.

ESCALUS

No, sir, I'm serious.

POMPEY

Sir, but you shall come to it, by your honour's leave. And, I beseech you, look into Master Froth here, sir; a man of four-score pound a year; whose father died at Hallowmas: was't not at Hallowmas, Master Froth?

POMPEY

Sir, we'll get to that, begging your Honor's pardon. And, please: look at Mr. Froth here, a man who earns eighty pounds per year, and father Dad died on November 1. Wasn't it November 1, Mr. Froth?

FROTH

All-hallond eve.

FROTH

October 31.

POMPEY

Why, very well; I hope here be truths. He, sir, sitting, as I say, in a lower chair, sir; 'twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where indeed you have a delight to sit, have you not?

POMPEY

Well, that's all right. I hope that's true. Sir, he was sitting (as I said) in a small chair, sir. It was in living room, wasn't it, where you usually like to sit, right?

FROTH

I have so; because it is an open room and good for winter.

FROTH

That's right, because it's an open room and good for winter.

POMPEY

Why, very well, then; I hope here be truths.

POMPEY

Well, that's all right, then. I hope that's true.

ANGELO

This will last out a night in Russia, When nights are longest there: I'll take my leave. And leave you to the hearing of the cause; Hoping you'll find good cause to whip them all.

ANGELO

This story is longer than a winter night in Russia. I'm leaving now.

[To ESCALUS]
I'll leave you to hear the testimony, and hope you'll find a reason to whip them all.

ESCALUS

I think no less. Good morrow to your lordship.

ESCALUS

I suspect I will. Goodbye, your Lordship.

Exit ANGELO

Now, sir, come on: what was done to Elbow's wife, once more?

Now come on, sir. What happened to Elbow's wife? Once more.

POMPEY

Once, sir? there was nothing done to her once.

POMPEY

Once, sir? There was nothing done to her "once."

ELBOW

I beseech you, sir, ask him what this man did to my wife.

ELBOW

Sir, I'm begging you: ask him what this man did to my wife.

POMPEY

I beseech your honour, ask me.

POMPEY

I'm begging you, sir: ask me.

ESCALUS

Well, sir; what did this gentleman to her?

ESCALUS

Well, sir, what did this gentleman do to her?

POMPEY

I beseech you, sir, look in this gentleman's face. Good Master Froth, look upon his honour; 'tis for a good purpose. Doth your honour mark his face?

POMPEY

I'll ask you, sir, to look in this man's face. Mr. Froth, look into his eyes. It's for a good reason. Sir, can you see his face?

ESCALUS

Ay, sir, very well.

ESCALUS

Yes, sir, very well.

POMPEY

Nay; I beseech you, mark it well.

POMPEY

No, I beg you—look really hard.

ESCALUS

Well, I do so.

ESCALUS

All right, I'm doing it.

POMPEY

Doth your honour see any harm in his face?

POMPEY

Do you see any harm in his face?

ESCALUS

Why, no.

ESCALUS

Well, no.

POMPEY

I'll be supposed upon a book, his face is the worst thing about him. Good, then; if his face be the worst thing about him, how could Master Froth do the constable's wife any harm? I would know that of your honour.

POMPEY

I'll swear on the Bible that his face is the worst thing about him. So, then, if his face is the worst thing about him, how could Mr. Froth hurt the constable's wife? I'm asking you, your Honor.

ESCALUS

He's in the right. Constable, what say you to it?

ESCALUS

He's making sense. Constable, what do you say to that?

ELBOW

First, an it like you, the house is a respectedhouse; next, this is a respected fellow; and hismistress is a respected woman.

ELBOW

First of all (begging your pardon, sir): that house is a respected house. Second of all, this is a respected man. Finally, his wife is a respected woman.

POMPEY

By this hand, sir, his wife is a more respectedperson than any of us all.

POMPEY

I swear by my right hand, sir, that his wife is a more "respected" person than any of us all.

ELBOW

Varlet, thou liest; thou liest, wicked varlet! thetime has yet to come that she was ever respectedwith man, woman, or child.

ELBOW

Crook, you lie, you lie, you crooked criminal!  She has yet to ever be respected with man, woman, or child.

POMPEY

Sir, she was respected with him before he married with her.

POMPEY

Sir, she was "respected" with him before he married her.

ESCALUS

Which is the wiser here? Justice or Iniquity? Isthis true?

ESCALUS

Who's coming out on top here? Justice, or crime? Is this true?

ELBOW

O thou caitiff! O thou varlet! O thou wicked Hannibal! I respected with her before I was married to her! If ever I was respected with her, or she with me, let not your worship think me the poor duke's officer. Prove this, thou wicked Hannibal, or I'll have mine action of battery on thee.

ELBOW

Oh, you piece of trash! You crook! Oh, you evil Hannibal! Me, respected with her before I married her? If I was ever respected with her, or she with me, don't think for one second, sir, that I'm an officer of the Duke. Prove it, you evil Hannibal, or I'll have the right to beat you up.

ESCALUS

If he took you a box o' the ear, you might have youraction of slander too.

ESCALUS

If he hit you in the head, you might have the right to call him some names, too.

ELBOW

Marry, I thank your good worship for it. What is'tyour worship's pleasure I shall do with this wicked caitiff?

ELBOW

Of course, and thank your Worship for that. What should I do, sir, with this evil piece of trash?

ESCALUS

Truly, officer, because he hath some offences in him that thou wouldst discover if thou couldst, let him continue in his courses till thou knowest what they are.

ESCALUS

Really, officer, since he's guilty of some crimes that you could find out if you questioned him, let him keep talking until you see what they are.

ELBOW

Marry, I thank your worship for it. Thou seest, thou wicked varlet, now, what's come upon thee: thou art to continue now, thou varlet; thou art to continue.

ELBOW

Of course, and thank you, sir, for that. You see what you've gotten into now, you evil crook: keep talking, you crook, keep talking.

ESCALUS

Where were you born, friend?

ESCALUS

Where were you born, friend?

FROTH

Here in Vienna, sir.

FROTH

Here in Vienna, sir.

ESCALUS

Are you of fourscore pounds a year?

ESCALUS

Do you make at least eighty pounds a year?

FROTH

Yes, an't please you, sir.

FROTH

Yes, of course, sir.

ESCALUS

So. What trade are you of, sir?

ESCALUS

So, what's your occupation, sir?

POMPEY

Tapster; a poor widow's tapster.

POMPEY

Bartender. A poor widow's bartender.

ESCALUS

Your mistress' name?

ESCALUS

What's your employer's name?

POMPEY

Mistress Overdone.

POMPEY

Mistress Overdone.

ESCALUS

Hath she had any more than one husband?

ESCALUS

Has she had more than one husband?

POMPEY

Nine, sir; Overdone by the last.

POMPEY

Nine, sir. "Overdone" was the last one.

ESCALUS

Nine! Come hither to me, Master Froth. Master Froth, I would not have you acquainted with tapsters: they will draw you, Master Froth, and you will hang them. Get you gone, and let me hear no more of you.

ESCALUS

Nine! Come over here, Mr. Froth. Mr. Froth, I recommend you don't make friends with any bartenders. They'll draw you, Mr. Froth, and you'll get into trouble. Get out of here, and make sure I don't hear about you again.

FROTH

I thank your worship. For mine own part, I nevercome into any room in a tap-house, but I am drawnin.

FROTH

Thank you, your Worship. As far as I'm concerned, I never go into any room in a pub; I'm just drawn in.

ESCALUS

Well, no more of it, Master Froth: farewell.

ESCALUS

Well, that's it, then, Mr. Froth. Goodbye.

Exit FROTH

Come you hither to me, Master tapster. What's yourname, Master tapster?

Come over here, Mr. Bartender. What's your name, Mr. Bartender?

POMPEY

Pompey.

POMPEY

Pompey.

ESCALUS

What else?

ESCALUS

What else?

POMPEY

Bum, sir.

POMPEY

Bum, sir.

ESCALUS

Troth, and your bum is the greatest thing about you; so that in the beastliest sense you are Pompey the Great. Pompey, you are partly a bawd, Pompey, howsoever you colour it in being a tapster, are you not? come, tell me true: it shall be the better for you.

ESCALUS

Indeed, and your bum is the greatest thing about you, so that in the most physical sense you are "Pompey the Great." Pompey: you're also a pimp, Pompey, no matter how much you spin it as being a "bartender." Aren't you? Come on, tell me the truth. It'll be easier for you.

POMPEY

Truly, sir, I am a poor fellow that would live.

POMPEY

Really, sir, I'm just a poor man who wants to make a living.

ESCALUS

How would you live, Pompey? by being a bawd? Whatdo you think of the trade, Pompey? is it a lawful trade?

ESCALUS

How do you make your living, Pompey? By being a pimp? What do you think of the business, Pompey? Is it a legal business?

POMPEY

If the law would allow it, sir.

POMPEY

If the law would allow it, sir.

ESCALUS

But the law will not allow it, Pompey; nor it shallnot be allowed in Vienna.

ESCALUS

But the law won't allow it, Pompey. And it won't be allowed in Vienna.

POMPEY

Does your worship mean to geld and splay all theyouth of the city?

POMPEY

Sir, do you intend to castrate and neuter all the young people in the city?

ESCALUS

No, Pompey.

ESCALUS

No, Pompey.

POMPEY

Truly, sir, in my poor opinion, they will to't then. If your worship will take order for the drabs and the knaves, you need not to fear the bawds.

POMPEY

Really, sir, in my humble opinion, then they'll get on with it. If you, sir, will punish the sluts and the hooligans, then you won't need to worry about the pimps.

ESCALUS

There are pretty orders beginning, I can tell you:it is but heading and hanging.

ESCALUS

The punishments are beginning, I can tell you: both beheading and hanging.

POMPEY

If you head and hang all that offend that way but for ten year together, you'll be glad to give out a commission for more heads: if this law hold in Vienna ten year, I'll rent the fairest house in it after three-pence a bay: if you live to see this come to pass, say Pompey told you so.

POMPEY

If you behead and hang everyone who has sex—even for just ten years straight—you'll hardly have any heads left to chop off. If this law stands in Vienna for ten years, I'll rent the nicest house in the city for three pence a month. If you live to see this happen, say that Pompey told you so.

ESCALUS

Thank you, good Pompey; and, in requital of your prophecy, hark you: I advise you, let me not find you before me again upon any complaint whatsoever; no, not for dwelling where you do: if I do, Pompey, I shall beat you to your tent, and prove a shrewd Caesar to you; in plain dealing, Pompey, I shall have you whipt: so, for this time, Pompey, fare you well.

ESCALUS

Thank you, Pompey. And in return for your prophecy, listen: I'll advise you not to let me find you in front of me again for any crime whatsoever--not even for living where you do. If I do, Pompey, I'll beat you into a retreat, Pompey. And I'll turn out to be a savvy Caesar to you. To be honest, Pompey, I'll have you whipped. So, for now, Pompey, goodbye.

POMPEY

I thank your worship for your good counsel. [aside] butI shall follow it as the flesh and fortune shall better determine. Whip me? No, no; let carman whip his jade: The valiant heart is not whipt out of his trade.

POMPEY

Thank you, sir, for your good advice.

[To himself] ...but as to how much I'll follow it, I'll leave it all up to luck. Whip me? No, no. A man can whip his old horse, but a brave heart won't be whipped out of its business. 

Exit

ESCALUS

Come hither to me, Master Elbow; come hither, Masterconstable. How long have you been in this place of constable?

ESCALUS

Come over here, Mr. Elbow. Come here, Mr. Constable. How long have you had the position of constable?

ELBOW

Seven year and a half, sir.

ELBOW

Seven and a half years, sir.

ESCALUS

I thought, by your readiness in the office, you hadcontinued in it some time. You say, seven years together?

ESCALUS

I thought you've done the job for a while, because of your obvious expertise. You said seven years all together?

ELBOW

And a half, sir.

ELBOW

And a half, sir.

ESCALUS

Alas, it hath been great pains to you. They do you wrong to put you so oft upon 't: are there not men in your ward sufficient to serve it?

ESCALUS

It's a shame; it must have been such a strain on you. They're doing you wrong by making you work for so long. Aren't there other men in your district who'd be capable of serving?

ELBOW

Faith, sir, few of any wit in such matters: as they are chosen, they are glad to choose me for them; I do it for some piece of money, and go through with all.

ELBOW

Indeed, sir, not many with a sharp enough mind for such things. Whenever they're nominated, they're glad to nominate me in their place. I take it for a little money, and go through with it all.

ESCALUS

Look you bring me in the names of some six or seven,the most sufficient of your parish.

ESCALUS

Look: bring in the names of six or seven of the most capable men in your district.

ELBOW

To your worship's house, sir?

ELBOW

To your Worship's house, sir?

ESCALUS

To my house. Fare you well.

ESCALUS

To my house. Take care.

Exit ELBOW

What's o'clock, think you?

What time is it, do you think?

JUSTICE

Eleven, sir.

JUSTICE

Eleven, sir.

ESCALUS

I pray you home to dinner with me.

ESCALUS

Please, come to my house and have lunch with me.

JUSTICE

I humbly thank you.

JUSTICE

I'm humbled; thank you.

ESCALUS

It grieves me for the death of Claudio;But there's no remedy.

ESCALUS

I'm sad for Claudio's death, but there's nothing to be done.

JUSTICE

Lord Angelo is severe.

JUSTICE

Lord Angelo is severe.

ESCALUS

It is but needful: Mercy is not itself, that oft looks so; Pardon is still the nurse of second woe: But yet,—poor Claudio! There is no remedy. Come, sir.

ESCALUS

It's only necessary. What often seems to be mercy isn't mercy at all. Pardoning someone can just lead to more harm. But still—poor Claudio! There's no help for it. Come on, 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 1147 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 25,413 quotes covering 1147 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.