A line-by-line translation

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure Translation Act 2, Scene 2

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

Enter Provost and a Servant

SERVANT

He's hearing of a cause; he will come straightI'll tell him of you.

SERVANT

He's hearing a case, but he'll come straight from there. I'll let him know you're here.

PROVOST

Pray you, do.

PROVOST

Please, do.

Exit SERVANT

I'll know His pleasure; may be he will relent. Alas, He hath but as offended in a dream! All sects, all ages smack of this vice; and he To die for't!

I'll see what he wants; maybe he'll back down. Alas, he's only committed a crime if we're in a dream! All kinds, all ages are guilty of this vice, and Claudio's going to die for it?

Enter ANGELO

ANGELO

Now, what's the matter. Provost?

ANGELO

Now, what's the matter, Provost?

PROVOST

Is it your will Claudio shall die tomorrow?

PROVOST

Do you want Claudio to die tomorrow?

ANGELO

Did not I tell thee yea? hadst thou not order?Why dost thou ask again?

ANGELO

Didn't I tell you "yes?" Don't you have the order? Why are you asking again?

PROVOST

Lest I might be too rash: Under your good correction, I have seen, When, after execution, judgment hath Repented o'er his doom.

PROVOST

I don't want to be too hasty. Under your leadership, I've seen judges wish they hadn't killed a man after an execution.

ANGELO

Go to; let that be mine: Do you your office, or give up your place, And you shall well be spared.

ANGELO

Enough; let me worry about that. Do your job, or give up your position; then you'll definitely be spared. 

PROVOST

I crave your honour's pardon.What shall be done, sir, with the groaning Juliet?She's very near her hour.

PROVOST

I beg your pardon, your Honor. Sir, what should we do about Juliet, who's pregnant? She's getting close to her due date.

ANGELO

Dispose of herTo some more fitter place, and that with speed.

ANGELO

Take her to a more appropriate place—and quickly.

Re-enter Servant

SERVANT

Here is the sister of the man condemn'dDesires access to you.

SERVANT

The sister of the condemned man is here, and wants to speak with you.

ANGELO

Hath he a sister?

ANGELO

He has a sister?

PROVOST

Ay, my good lord; a very virtuous maid, And to be shortly of a sisterhood, If not already.

PROVOST

Yes, sir: a very virtuous girl who's about to become a nun, if she isn't one already.

ANGELO

Well, let her be admitted.

ANGELO

Well, let her come in.

Exit PROVOST

See you the fornicatress be removed: Let have needful, but not lavish, means; There shall be order for't.

Make sure the slut is taken away. Give her what she needs to survive, but no more. I'll provide for it.

Enter ISABELLA and LUCIO

PROVOST

God save your honour!

PROVOST

God bless you, your Honor!

ANGELO

Stay a little while. [to ISABELLA] You're welcome: what's your will?

ANGELO

[To the PROVOST] Stay a little while.

[To ISABELLA] You're welcome here. What do you want?

ISABELLA

I am a woeful suitor to your honour,Please but your honour hear me.

ISABELLA

I'm a sad petitioner, your Honor. Please, just listen to my request, your Honor.

ANGELO

Well; what's your suit?

ANGELO

Well, what's your request?

ISABELLA

There is a vice that most I do abhor, And most desire should meet the blow of justice; For which I would not plead, but that I must; For which I must not plead, but that I am At war 'twixt will and will not.

ISABELLA

There's a sin that I hate more than anything, and that I truly hope will be punished. I wouldn't defend it unless I had to. And I can't defend it without debating myself whether I will or won't.

ANGELO

Well; the matter?

ANGELO

Well, what is it?

ISABELLA

I have a brother is condemn'd to die:I do beseech you, let it be his fault,And not my brother.

ISABELLA

I have a brother who's condemned to die. Please, let his fault be condemned, but not him!

PROVOST

[a side] Heaven give thee moving graces!

PROVOST

[To himself] God has blessed you with the power of speaking!

ANGELO

Condemn the fault and not the actor of it? Why, every fault's condemn'd ere it be done: Mine were the very cipher of a function, To fine the faults whose fine stands in record, And let go by the actor.

ANGELO

Condemn the fault and not the person who did it? Well, every fault's condemned before it's even done. But it would be very difficult to find faults in the record that paid their fines while the people who did the faults went free.

ISABELLA

O just but severe law!I had a brother, then. Heaven keep your honour!

ISABELLA

The law is harsh, but it is just! I had a brother, in that case. God bless you, your Honor!

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] Give't not o'er so: to him again, entreat him; Kneel down before him, hang upon his gown: You are too cold; if you should need a pin, You could not with more tame a tongue desire it: To him, I say!

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] Don't give in to him so easily! Beg him. Kneel down in front of him. Pull on the edge of his robe. You're too cold! If you only need a pin you could hardly ask with less conviction. Go to him, I say!

ISABELLA

Must he needs die?

ISABELLA

Does he have to die?

ANGELO

Maiden, no remedy.

ANGELO

Girl, there's no help for it.

ISABELLA

Yes; I do think that you might pardon him,And neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy.

ISABELLA

But I do think you could pardon him, and that neither God nor people would disapprove of your mercy.

ANGELO

I will not do't.

ANGELO

I will not do it.

ISABELLA

But can you, if you would?

ISABELLA

But could you, if you wanted to?

ANGELO

Look, what I will not, that I cannot do.

ANGELO

Look: what I won't do, I can't do.

ISABELLA

But might you do't, and do the world no wrong,If so your heart were touch'd with that remorseAs mine is to him?

ISABELLA

But couldn't you pardon him without doing anything wrong? If so, isn't your heart filled with pity, like mine is for him?

ANGELO

He's sentenced; 'tis too late.

ANGELO

He's sentenced to die. It's too late.

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] You are too cold.

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] You're too cold.

ISABELLA

Too late? why, no; I, that do speak a word. May call it back again. Well, believe this, No ceremony that to great ones 'longs, Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword, The marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe, Become them with one half so good a grace As mercy does. If he had been as you and you as he, You would have slipt like him; but he, like you, Would not have been so stern.

ISABELLA

Too late? I don't think so; when I say something, I can always take it back again. Well, believe this: no fancy things that powerful people have—like the king's crown, or the soldier's sword, or the police man's club, or the judge's robe—look as good on them as mercy does. If Claudio had been you instead of himself, you would have made the same mistake. And Claudio, unlike you, wouldn't have been so strict with you if you were in his position.

ANGELO

Pray you, be gone.

ANGELO

Please get out of here.

ISABELLA

I would to heaven I had your potency, And you were Isabel! should it then be thus? No; I would tell what 'twere to be a judge, And what a prisoner.

ISABELLA

I wish I had your power, and that you were Isabella! Would it be the same then? No. I would say what it meant to be a judge, and what it meant to be a prisoner.

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] Ay, touch him; there's the vein.

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] Yes, get him; that's touched a nerve.

ANGELO

Your brother is a forfeit of the law,And you but waste your words.

ANGELO

Your brother is a prisoner of the law. You're only wasting your words. 

ISABELLA

Alas, alas! Why, all the souls that were were forfeit once; And He that might the vantage best have took Found out the remedy. How would you be, If He, which is the top of judgment, should But judge you as you are? O, think on that; And mercy then will breathe within your lips, Like man new made.

ISABELLA

Oh no! Oh no! Well, all souls were prisoners once, and God, who could have punished them, gave them the Savior instead. How would things turn out for you if God—the highest judge—judged you as you are? Oh, think about that, and then you'll want to be merciful. You'll be like a brand new man.

ANGELO

Be you content, fair maid; It is the law, not I condemn your brother: Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son, It should be thus with him: he must die tomorrow.

ANGELO

Calm down, pretty girl. It's the law—not me—that condemns your brother. If he were my relative, brother, or my son, he would get the same treatment. He has to die tomorrow.

ISABELLA

To-morrow! O, that's sudden! Spare him, spare him! He's not prepared for death. Even for our kitchens We kill the fowl of season: shall we serve heaven With less respect than we do minister To our gross selves? Good, good my lord, bethink you; Who is it that hath died for this offence? There's many have committed it.

ISABELLA

Tomorrow! Oh, that's soon! Spare his life, spare his life! He's not prepared to die. Even when it comes to our own food, we only kill birds when they're in season. Should we kill a man for the sake of God's law when he doesn't deserve it—when we follow stricter regulations for our own food? My good, good lord, just think: who has ever died for Claudio's offense? Many have committed it. 

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] Ay, well said.

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] Yes! Well said.

ANGELO

The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept: Those many had not dared to do that evil, If the first that did the edict infringe Had answer'd for his deed: now 'tis awake Takes note of what is done; and, like a prophet, Looks in a glass, that shows what future evils, Either new, or by remissness new-conceived, And so in progress to be hatch'd and born, Are now to have no successive degrees, But, ere they live, to end.

ANGELO

The law hasn't been dead, even thought it's slept. Many of them wouldn't have done what they did if the first man who broke the law would have been punished. Now, the law is awake, and it sees what people do. Like a prophet, the law looks into a magic mirror that shows future evils—either new ones, or those committed by repeat offenders—that are being thought up and put into practice. And now they won't happen. They'll end before they begin.

ISABELLA

Yet show some pity.

ISABELLA

But show some pity.

ANGELO

I show it most of all when I show justice; For then I pity those I do not know, Which a dismiss'd offence would after gall; And do him right that, answering one foul wrong, Lives not to act another. Be satisfied; Your brother dies to-morrow; be content.

ANGELO

I show the most pity when I'm just. Then I'm pitying people I don't know, who might be encouraged to do wrong if an offense went unpunished. By punishing the wrongdoer, I'm also helping him by not letting him live to commit another crime. Let it go. Your brother dies tomorrow. Be content.

ISABELLA

So you must be the first that gives this sentence, And he, that suffer's. O, it is excellent To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant.

ISABELLA

So you have to be the first person to give this sentence, and he's the one that suffers? It must be great to have unlimited power. But it's corrupt to use that power without limits.

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] That's well said.

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] That's well said.

ISABELLA

Could great men thunder As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet, For every pelting, petty officer Would use his heaven for thunder; Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven, Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man, Drest in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he's most assured, His glassy essence, like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal.

ISABELLA

If powerful men could thunder like Jove does, Jove would never be quiet! Every worthless officer would use his heavenly thunder—there'd be nothing but thunder! Merciful God, you'd rather split the strong, old oak tree than the soft myrtle tree. But man—proud man—with a little, brief power in his hands is ignorant of the grace that's promised him. He mimics the essence of God like an angry ape, playing such awful tricks that the angels weep. If they had mortal bodies like us, they'd laugh themselves to death.

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] O, to him, to him, wench! hewill relent;He's coming; I perceive 't.

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] Oh, move in, move in, girl! He'll relent. He's about to give in; I can tell.

PROVOST

[aside] Pray heaven she win him!

PROVOST

[To himself] I pray to God that she wins him over!

ISABELLA

We cannot weigh our brother with ourself:Great men may jest with saints; 'tis wit in them,But in the less foul profanation.

ISABELLA

We can't compare ourselves to our brothers. Great men can joke around with saints, and it seems witty. But if regular men do it, it might seem like crass profanity.

LUCIO

Thou'rt i' the right, girl; more o, that.

LUCIO

You're in the right, girl! More of that!

ISABELLA

That in the captain's but a choleric word,Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.

ISABELLA

What sounds like a harsh word coming from a captain sounds like blasphemy coming from a soldier.

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] Art avised o' that? more on 't.

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] Are you sure about that? Say more.

ANGELO

Why do you put these sayings upon me?

ANGELO

Why are you saying these things to me?

ISABELLA

Because authority, though it err like others, Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself, That skins the vice o' the top. Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know That's like my brother's fault: if it confess A natural guiltiness such as is his, Let it not sound a thought upon your tongue Against my brother's life.

ISABELLA

When a man of authority makes a mistake, his power works like a kind of medicine to take the edge off his fault. Look into heart, probe it, and ask yourself if you have a fault like my brother's. If you find that you're just as naturally guilty as he is, then don't even think of saying a single word against my brother's life.

ANGELO

[aside] She speaks, and 'tis Such sense, that my sense breeds with it. Fare you well.

ANGELO

[To himself] When she speaks, she makes so much sense that I want to sleep with her.

[To ISABELLA]
Take care.

ISABELLA

Gentle my lord, turn back.

ISABELLA

My noble lord, reverse your decision.

ANGELO

I will bethink me: come again tomorrow.

ANGELO

I'll think about it. Come again tomorrow.

ISABELLA

Hark how I'll bribe you: good my lord, turn back.

ISABELLA

Listen how I'll bribe you. My good lord, reverse your decision.

ANGELO

How! bribe me?

ANGELO

What? Bribe me?

ISABELLA

Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you.

ISABELLA

Yes, with the blessings that heaven will give you.

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] You had marr'd all else.

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] You've ruined everything else.

ISABELLA

Not with fond shekels of the tested gold, Or stones whose rates are either rich or poor As fancy values them; but with true prayers That shall be up at heaven and enter there Ere sun-rise, prayers from preserved souls, From fasting maids whose minds are dedicate To nothing temporal.

ISABELLA

Not with precious golden coins, and not with gems whose value fluctuates with market demand, but with honest prayers that will rise to heaven and enter before sunrise. Prayers from pure souls, from fasting virgins whose minds are dedicated only to holy things.

ANGELO

Well; come to me to-morrow.

ANGELO

Well, come to see me again tomorrow.

LUCIO

[aside to ISABELLA] Go to; 'tis well; away!

LUCIO

[To ISABELLA so that only she can hear] That's enough; all's well. Let's go!

ISABELLA

Heaven keep your honour safe!

ISABELLA

May God keep you safe, your Honor!

ANGELO

[aside] Amen:For I am that way going to temptation,Where prayers cross.

ANGELO

[To himself] Amen. Since I'm on the way to temptation, I could use the prayers.

ISABELLA

At what hour to-morrowShall I attend your lordship?

ISABELLA

What time tomorrow should I come to you, your Lordship?

ANGELO

At any time 'fore noon.

ANGELO

At any time before noon.

ISABELLA

'Save your honour!

ISABELLA

God bless you, your Honor!

Exeunt ISABELLA, LUCIO, and Provost

ANGELO

From thee, even from thy virtue! What's this, what's this? Is this her fault or mine? The tempter or the tempted, who sins most? Ha! Not she: nor doth she tempt: but it is I That, lying by the violet in the sun, Do as the carrion does, not as the flower, Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be That modesty may more betray our sense Than woman's lightness? Having waste ground enough, Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary And pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie! What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo? Dost thou desire her foully for those things That make her good? O, let her brother live! Thieves for their robbery have authority When judges steal themselves. What, do I love her, That I desire to hear her speak again, And feast upon her eyes? What is't I dream on? O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint, With saints dost bait thy hook! Most dangerous Is that temptation that doth goad us on To sin in loving virtue: never could the strumpet, With all her double vigour, art and nature, Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid Subdues me quite. Even till now, When men were fond, I smiled and wonder'd how.

ANGELO

Seduced by you, actually—by your virtue! What's this, what's this? Is this her fault or mine? Who sins most: the tempter, or the tempted? Ha! Not her. She's not tempting, anyway. Like a dead animal lying next to a sweet-smelling flower, it's me that covers the good smells with my stink. Is it possible that modesty is more seductive to me than loose women? With everything I've done, am I going to corrupt a holy nun and do evil things with her? Oh, for shame, for shame! What are you doing? Who are you, Angelo? Do you want her—disgustingly—because of all the things that make her good? Oh, let her brother live! Thieves have an excuse for their robbery if judges steal, too. What? Do I love her? I want to hear her speak again, and look into her eyes! What is it I'm dreaming of? Oh, tricky devil: to catch a saint, you've baited your hook with saints. The temptation that pushes us to sin by loving virtue is very dangerous. With all her energy, craft, and looks, a whore could never arouse me. But this virtuous girl has gotten the better of me. Until now, when men fell in love, I smiled and wondered how.

Exit

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 1178 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 26,005 quotes covering 1178 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.