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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?

Hello? Who's there?

SERVANT

One Isabel, a sister, desires access to you.

SERVANT

A nun named Isabella wants to see you.

ANGELO

Teach her the way.

ANGELO

Show her the way.

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.

For goodness' sake! Why is my blood rushing to my heart—making my heart pound and depriving the rest of my body of the blood it needs? It's like a dumb crowd around a fainting person: they all come to help him and then deprive him of the air he needs to revive. It's like when the subjects of a king, wishing him well, all crowd up to him; since they don't know how to show affection, it actually comes off as offensive. 

Enter ISABELLA

How now, fair maid?

How are you, beautiful girl?

ISABELLA

I am come to know your pleasure.

ISABELLA

I came to find out what you've decided.

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

I like that you came to "find out," instead of demanding to know. Your brother will not live.

ISABELLA

Even so. Heaven keep your honour!

ISABELLA

Well, all right. God bless you, your Honor!

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

And yet, he might live a little longer—maybe as long as you and I—and then he'll have to die.

ISABELLA

Under your sentence?

ISABELLA

By your command?

ANGELO

Yea.

ANGELO

Yes.

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

When, may I ask? Let him know how long or short his release will be, so he won't be sick with worry about it.

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

Ha! Shame on these dirty sins. It's as good as pardoning someone who murdered a full-grown man to forgive those cheeky lovers who make babies before they're supposed to. It's as easy to wrongly take away a truly made life as it is to have sex outside of marriage to make a false life.

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

That may be the case in heaven, but not on earth. 

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

Do you say so? Then I'll ask you quickly, which would you prefer: that your brother were killed now under the just law? Or that, to save him, you would give up your body to the same sexual sin that has ruined Juliet?

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

Sir, believe this: I would rather give up my body than my soul.

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

I'm not talking about your soul. Sins that we're forced to commit don't really count.

ISABELLA

How say you?

ISABELLA

What do you mean?

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

No, I can't guarantee that, since I can contradict myself easily. Answer this: As the legal authority at this time, I sentence your brother to death. Wouldn't it be charitable to commit a sin that might save your brother's life?

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

If you'll do it, I'll take the spiritual consequences. It's not a sin at all; it's charity.

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

If you'll do it in spite of the spiritual consequences, I'd say the sin and charity are about even.

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

Then I beg you to spare his life, if that's a sin. May God help me bear it! If your granting my request is a sin, I'll have it added to my faults and will pray for it every morning, so that you don't have to answer for anything.

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

No, listen to me. You're not understanding what I'm saying. Either you're ignorant or pretending to be ignorant, and that's not good.

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

I hope to be ignorant and not good at anything, so that I always know I'm not better than anyone else.

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

People show their wisdom most when they hold back. In the same way, your nun's outfit announces and protects your beauty ten times more than your beauty could on its own, if it were visible. But listen—to make myself clear—your brother will die.

ISABELLA

So.

ISABELLA

So.

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

The punishment for his crime is death, according to the law.

ISABELLA

True.

ISABELLA

True.

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

What if his life couldn't be spared in any possible way—since nothing else can be said on his behalf—unless you, his sister—finding yourself desired by someone connected to the judge, or the judge himself—could save your brother from the punishment of the supreme law? And what if there were no way on earth to save him except sleeping with this hypothetical judge? Otherwise you'd have to let him suffer. What would you do?

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

I would do the same for my brother that I would do for myself. I mean, if I were sentenced to death, I'd gladly endure beating with whips, strip myself down to nothing, and lie sick in bed before I would surrender my body to shame.

ANGELO

Then must your brother die.

ANGELO

Then your brother has to die.

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

And it's better that way. It's better my brother dies immediately than that his sister—by saving him—condemned her soul to hell forever.

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

Aren't you being just as harsh as the death sentence you've been criticizing?

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

Demanding a bribe that will cause me public shame and freely granting a pardon are two different things. Legal mercy has nothing to do with this dirty deal.

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

Just a few minutes ago you seemed to think the law was too harsh, and that your brother's sin was more of a joke than a sin.

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

Oh, forgive me, my lord. It sometimes comes out like that. When we really want something, we say things we don't mean. Even though I hate premarital sex, I had to forgive this sin for my brother's sake, because I love him.

ANGELO

We are all frail.

ANGELO

We're all weak.

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

Let my brother die, then, if no one else has the same weakness. And no other man will ever commit the same "crime."

ANGELO

Nay, women are frail too.

ANGELO

No, women are weak, too.

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

It's true, we're as weak as the mirrors we use to look at ourselves; they break as easily as they reflect shapes. Women! God help us! Men make the earth a worse place by having children with them. No, call us weak ten more times—we're as soft as the skin on our faces, and gullible, too.

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

I think you're right. Since you, a woman, have said so—and since I guess we can't be any stronger than the weakness of our own bodies—I'll be bold, and take you at your word. Be what you are: a woman. If you insist on being a nun, you're not really a woman. If you are a woman, as you seem to be from what I can see of your attractive body, show me now. Show me your weakness.

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

I can only be the way that I am. My noble lord, can we please go back to talking like we were before?

ANGELO

Plainly conceive, I love you.

ANGELO

Understand me clearly: I love you.

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

My brother loved Juliet, and you're telling me he has to die for it.

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

Isabella, if you make love to me, your brother won't die.

ISABELLA

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

ISABELLA

I know you're virtuous, so I think you're just testing me—although this test seems foul.

ANGELO

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

ANGELO

Believe me; I swear I mean what I say.

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

Ha! Everyone thinks you're a good man, but you're not. And look what you've done with it! You seem, you seem! I'll tell everyone about you, Angelo. Just wait and see. Sign a pardon for my brother immediately, or I'll tell the world at the top of my lungs just what kind of man you are.

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

Who would believe you, Isabella? My perfect reputation and disciplined life will work against you. And my place in the government will outweigh your accusation to the point that you'll be ruined by your own report, and be filled with shame. Now that I've gotten going, I'll give my sexual desire free rein: give me what I'm hungry for. Forget all your manners and polite blushing about what your brother did; save him by giving your body up to me. Or else he'll not only die—because of your unkindness he'll also be tortured beforehand, and we'll draw out his suffering. Answer me tomorrow or, I swear by the love I have for you in this moment, I'll be as harsh as I can with him. As for you, say what you want. My lie has more power than your truth.

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

Who can I complain to? If I told, who would believe me? Curse the men who have the power, who utter words of condemnation or forgiveness with the same tongue! They can make the law do whatever they want—doing right or wrong to feed their own appetite as it grows! I'll go to my brother. Although he's committed a sexual sin, I still believe he's a good person. If he had twenty heads that he could give to be chopped off twenty times, he'd give them up before he'd let his sister stoop to such a dirty level. So, Isabella: live and be a virgin. Brother: die. My virginity is worth more than my brother's life. I'll tell him what Angelo asked, and help him prepare for death so that his soul can rest in peace.

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.