A line-by-line translation

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure Translation Act 2, Scene 4

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Enter ANGELO

ANGELO

When I would pray and think, I think and pray To several subjects. Heaven hath my empty words; Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue, Anchors on Isabel: Heaven in my mouth, As if I did but only chew his name; And in my heart the strong and swelling evil Of my conception. The state, whereon I studied Is like a good thing, being often read, Grown sere and tedious; yea, my gravity, Wherein—let no man hear me—I take pride, Could I with boot change for an idle plume, Which the air beats for vain. O place, O form, How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit, Wrench awe from fools and tie the wiser souls To thy false seeming! Blood, thou art blood: Let's write good angel on the devil's horn: 'Tis not the devil's crest.

ANGELO

When I want to pray and think, I end up praying and thinking about a lot of different things. My empty words are directed to God, while the object of my prayers is Isabella, despite what I say. "Heaven" is on my lips as if I spoke the name of "Jesus" half-heartedly. And my heart is filled with the steady, growing evil of my thoughts. I have studied government, and it is like a a good book that gets boring when you read it too many times. As for my power, in which—I hope no one's listening—I take pride, I'd be happy to trade it for any boring, useless job. Oh, high rank! Oh, formalities! How often do your appearances and clothes impress idiots, and even corrupt smarter men so that they think they really are what they seem to be! I'll write "Good Angel" on my forehead, and pretend there's not devil horns growing there.

Enter a SERVANT

How now! who's there?

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SERVANT

One Isabel, a sister, desires access to you.

SERVANT

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ANGELO

Teach her the way.

ANGELO

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Exit SERVANT

O heavens! Why does my blood thus muster to my heart, Making both it unable for itself, And dispossessing all my other parts Of necessary fitness? So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons; Come all to help him, and so stop the air By which he should revive: and even so The general, subject to a well-wish'd king, Quit their own part, and in obsequious fondness Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love Must needs appear offence.

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Enter ISABELLA

How now, fair maid?

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ISABELLA

I am come to know your pleasure.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

That you might know it, would much better please meThan to demand what 'tis. Your brother cannot live.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Even so. Heaven keep your honour!

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Yet may he live awhile; and, it may be,As long as you or I; yet he must die.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Under your sentence?

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Yea.

ANGELO

Lore

ISABELLA

When, I beseech you? that in his reprieve,Longer or shorter, he may be so fittedThat his soul sicken not.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Ha! fie, these filthy vices! It were as good To pardon him that hath from nature stolen A man already made, as to remit Their saucy sweetness that do coin heaven's image In stamps that are forbid: 'tis all as easy Falsely to take away a life true made As to put metal in restrained means To make a false one.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

'Tis set down so in heaven, but not in earth.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Say you so? then I shall pose you quickly. Which had you rather, that the most just law Now took your brother's life; or, to redeem him, Give up your body to such sweet uncleanness As she that he hath stain'd?

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Sir, believe this,I had rather give my body than my soul.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

I talk not of your soul: our compell'd sinsStand more for number than for accompt.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

How say you?

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Nay, I'll not warrant that; for I can speak Against the thing I say. Answer to this: I, now the voice of the recorded law, Pronounce a sentence on your brother's life: Might there not be a charity in sin To save this brother's life?

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Please you to do't,I'll take it as a peril to my soul,It is no sin at all, but charity.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Pleased you to do't at peril of your soul,Were equal poise of sin and charity.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

That I do beg his life, if it be sin, Heaven let me bear it! you granting of my suit, If that be sin, I'll make it my morn prayer To have it added to the faults of mine, And nothing of your answer.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Nay, but hear me.Your sense pursues not mine: either you are ignorant,Or seem so craftily; and that's not good.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Let me be ignorant, and in nothing good,But graciously to know I am no better.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Thus wisdom wishes to appear most bright When it doth tax itself; as these black masks Proclaim and enshield beauty ten times louder Than beauty could, display'd. But mark me; To be received plain, I'll speak more gross: Your brother is to die.

Angelo

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ISABELLA

So.

ISABELLA

Lor

ANGELO

And his offence is so, as it appears,Accountant to the law upon that pain.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

True.

ISABELLA

Lorem

ANGELO

Admit no other way to save his life,— As I subscribe not that, nor any other, But in the loss of question, —that you, his sister, Finding yourself desired of such a person, Whose credit with the judge, or own great place, Could fetch your brother from the manacles Of the all-building law; and that there were No earthly mean to save him, but that either You must lay down the treasures of your body To this supposed, or else to let him suffer; What would you do?

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

As much for my poor brother as myself: That is, were I under the terms of death, The impression of keen whips I'ld wear as rubies, And strip myself to death, as to a bed That longing have been sick for, ere I'ld yield My body up to shame.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Then must your brother die.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

And 'twere the cheaper way: Better it were a brother died at once, Than that a sister, by redeeming him, Should die for ever.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Were not you then as cruel as the sentenceThat you have slander'd so?

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Ignomy in ransom and free pardon Are of two houses: lawful mercy Is nothing kin to foul redemption.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

You seem'd of late to make the law a tyrant;And rather proved the sliding of your brotherA merriment than a vice.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

O, pardon me, my lord; it oft falls out, To have what we would have, we speak not what we mean: I something do excuse the thing I hate, For his advantage that I dearly love.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

We are all frail.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Else let my brother die,If not a feodary, but only heOwe and succeed thy weakness.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Nay, women are frail too.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Ay, as the glasses where they view themselves; Which are as easy broke as they make forms. Women! Help Heaven! men their creation mar In profiting by them. Nay, call us ten times frail; For we are soft as our complexions are, And credulous to false prints.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

I think it well: And from this testimony of your own sex, Since I suppose we are made to be no stronger Than faults may shake our frames, —let me be bold; I do arrest your words. Be that you are, That is, a woman; if you be more, you're none; If you be one, as you are well express'd By all external warrants, show it now, By putting on the destined livery.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

I have no tongue but one: gentle my lord,Let me entreat you speak the former language.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Plainly conceive, I love you.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

My brother did love Juliet,And you tell me that he shall die for it.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

He shall not, Isabel, if you give me love.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

I know your virtue hath a licence in't,Which seems a little fouler than it is,To pluck on others.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Believe me, on mine honour,My words express my purpose.

ANGELO

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ISABELLA

Ha! little honour to be much believed, And most pernicious purpose! Seeming, seeming! I will proclaim thee, Angelo; look for't: Sign me a present pardon for my brother, Or with an outstretch'd throat I'll tell the world aloud What man thou art.

ISABELLA

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ANGELO

Who will believe thee, Isabel? My unsoil'd name, the austereness of my life, My vouch against you, and my place i' the state, Will so your accusation overweigh, That you shall stifle in your own report And smell of calumny. I have begun, And now I give my sensual race the rein: Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite; Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes, That banish what they sue for; redeem thy brother By yielding up thy body to my will; Or else he must not only die the death, But thy unkindness shall his death draw out To lingering sufferance. Answer me to-morrow, Or, by the affection that now guides me most, I'll prove a tyrant to him. As for you, Say what you can, my false o'erweighs your true.

ANGELO

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Exit

ISABELLA

To whom should I complain? Did I tell this, Who would believe me? O perilous mouths, That bear in them one and the self-same tongue, Either of condemnation or approof; Bidding the law make court'sy to their will: Hooking both right and wrong to the appetite, To follow as it draws! I'll to my brother: Though he hath fallen by prompture of the blood, Yet hath he in him such a mind of honour. That, had he twenty heads to tender down On twenty bloody blocks, he'ld yield them up, Before his sister should her body stoop To such abhorr'd pollution. Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die: More than our brother is our chastity. I'll tell him yet of Angelo's request, And fit his mind to death, for his soul's rest.

ISABELLA

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Exit

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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.