A line-by-line translation

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure Translation Act 3, Scene 1

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Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before, CLAUDIO, and Provost

DUKE VINCENTIO

So then you hope of pardon from Lord Angelo?

DUKE VINCENTIO

So then you hope Lord Angelo will pardon you?

CLAUDIO

The miserable have no other medicineBut only hope:I've hope to live, and am prepared to die.

CLAUDIO

The miserable have nothing to help them except hope. I hope that I live, but I'm prepared to die.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Be absolute for death; either death or life Shall thereby be the sweeter. Reason thus with life: If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art, Servile to all the skyey influences, That dost this habitation, where thou keep'st, Hourly afflict: merely, thou art death's fool; For him thou labour'st by thy flight to shun And yet runn'st toward him still. Thou art not noble; For all the accommodations that thou bear'st Are nursed by baseness. Thou'rt by no means valiant; For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork Of a poor worm. Thy best of rest is sleep, And that thou oft provokest; yet grossly fear'st Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself; For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not; For what thou hast not, still thou strivest to get, And what thou hast, forget'st. Thou art not certain; For thy complexion shifts to strange effects, After the moon. If thou art rich, thou'rt poor; For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows, Thou bear's thy heavy riches but a journey, And death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none; For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire, The mere effusion of thy proper loins, Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum, For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth nor age, But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep, Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich, Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty, To make thy riches pleasant. What's yet in this That bears the name of life? Yet in this life Lie hid moe thousand deaths: yet death we fear, That makes these odds all even.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Be completely set on death. That way, whether you live or die, it will be all the sweeter. Just say to life, "If I lose you, I lose something that only idiots want to keep. You're just the breath that keeps this body of mine going by the hour, under God's direction. You lose out to Death every time. You do everything you can to get away from him, but every second you get closer to Death. You're not classy; everything that sustains you is low-down and humble. You're not brave; you're afraid of a bee's sting. Sleep is the best rest, and you always want to sleep. But you're grossly afraid of death, which is basically the same thing as a long sleep. You're not yourself; you're made of a thousand tiny particles that came from dust. You're not happy; you want what you don't have and forget what you do have. You're not consistent; you change your mind as often as the moon changes its shape. If you're rich, you're poor, because, like a donkey carrying heavy gold on his back, you can only carry your riches in life. You will have to leave them behind when you die. You have no friends; you're constantly cursing your own internal organs (which you supposedly command) for the gout, arthritis, and rheumatism that should have killed you sooner. You're neither young nor old; you're always dreaming about the one that you're not. When you're young, you're like an old man who has to beg for money from older folks. And when you're old, you no longer have the desire, agility, and good looks to enjoy your wealth." So what's so good about the thing we call "life?" There's a thousand things to suffer from in life, yet it's death we fear. That makes these odds all even.

CLAUDIO

I humbly thank you.To sue to live, I find I seek to die;And, seeking death, find life: let it come on.

CLAUDIO

I give you my humble thanks. In begging to live, I'm killing myself spiritually. Seeking death gives me eternal life. Bring it on.

ISABELLA

[Within] What, ho! Peace here; grace and good company!

ISABELLA

[Offstage] Hey! Hello? Peace, grace, and blessings!

PROVOST

Who's there? come in: the wish deserves a welcome.

PROVOST

Who's there? Come in. Such kind wishes deserve a welcome.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Dear sir, ere long I'll visit you again.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Dear sir, I'll visit you again before too long.

CLAUDIO

Most holy sir, I thank you.

CLAUDIO

Thank you, most holy sir.

Enter ISABELLA

ISABELLA

My business is a word or two with Claudio.

ISABELLA

I want to have a word or two with Claudio.

PROVOST

And very welcome. Look, signior, here's your sister.

PROVOST

You're welcome to. Look, sir, here's your sister.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Provost, a word with you.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Provost, a word with you.

PROVOST

As many as you please.

PROVOST

As many words as you please.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Bring me to hear them speak, where I may be concealed.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Can you hide me somewhere so I can hear them speak?

Exeunt DUKE VINCENTIO and Provost

CLAUDIO

Now, sister, what's the comfort?

CLAUDIO

Now, sister, is there good news?

ISABELLA

Why, As all comforts are; most good, most good indeed. Lord Angelo, having affairs to heaven, Intends you for his swift ambassador, Where you shall be an everlasting leiger: Therefore your best appointment make with speed; To-morrow you set on.

ISABELLA

Why, as good as news can be! Very good, very good indeed. Lord Angelo, who is a servant of heaven, wants you to go to heaven soon as his ambassador. And you'll stay there as his representative. So your exciting appointment is coming up fast; it'll be tomorrow.

CLAUDIO

Is there no remedy?

CLAUDIO

Is there no help for it?

ISABELLA

None, but such remedy as, to save a head,To cleave a heart in twain.

ISABELLA

No help, except to save your head by breaking a heart.

CLAUDIO

But is there any?

CLAUDIO

But is there any way to avoid death?

ISABELLA

Yes, brother, you may live: There is a devilish mercy in the judge, If you'll implore it, that will free your life, But fetter you till death.

ISABELLA

Yes, brother. You could live. The judge has a kind of evil mercy. But if you ask for it, it'll save your life, but burden you until death.

CLAUDIO

Perpetual durance?

CLAUDIO

Forever?

ISABELLA

Ay, just; perpetual durance, a restraint, Though all the world's vastidity you had, To a determined scope.

ISABELLA

Yes, exactly. Forever. Even if you had the whole world, this "mercy" would keep you in a tiny piece of it.

CLAUDIO

But in what nature?

CLAUDIO

What kind of mercy is it?

ISABELLA

In such a one as, you consenting to't,Would bark your honour from that trunk you bear,And leave you naked.

ISABELLA

The kind that, if you agreed to it, would strip you of your honor and leave you naked.

CLAUDIO

Let me know the point.

CLAUDIO

Get to the point already.

ISABELLA

O, I do fear thee, Claudio; and I quake, Lest thou a feverous life shouldst entertain, And six or seven winters more respect Than a perpetual honour. Darest thou die? The sense of death is most in apprehension; And the poor beetle, that we tread upon, In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great As when a giant dies.

ISABELLA

Oh, I'm afraid of you, Claudio. And I'm shaking just thinking of you leading a sinful life, as if you'd value six or seven years more than eternal honor. Are you afraid to die? The scariest part of death is the anticipation. And the little beetle that you step on feels as much pain as a a huge giant when he dies.

CLAUDIO

Why give you me this shame? Think you I can a resolution fetch From flowery tenderness? If I must die, I will encounter darkness as a bride, And hug it in mine arms.

CLAUDIO

Why are you embarrassing me like this? Do you think I can man up with all this flowery poetry? If I have to die, I'll go into the darkness like a bride, and embrace it with my arms.

ISABELLA

There spake my brother; there my father's grave Did utter forth a voice. Yes, thou must die: Thou art too noble to conserve a life In base appliances. This outward-sainted deputy, Whose settled visage and deliberate word Nips youth i' the head and follies doth emmew As falcon doth the fowl, is yet a devil His filth within being cast, he would appear A pond as deep as hell.

ISABELLA

So said my brother. My father just spoke from beyond the grave. Yes, you have to die. You're too good to save your life by lowering yourself. This deputy—who seems so saintly, who slaps young people upside the head with his stern face and harsh words, and snaps up mistakes the way falcons snap up birds—is a devil. If you could see the depth of evil inside him, it would be a pit as deep as hell.

CLAUDIO

The prenzie Angelo!

CLAUDIO

That perfect Angelo!

ISABELLA

O, 'tis the cunning livery of hell, The damned'st body to invest and cover In prenzie guards! Dost thou think, Claudio? If I would yield him my virginity, Thou mightst be freed.

ISABELLA

Oh, it's just hell's clever scheme to dress the most accursed men up as perfect soldiers! What do you think, Claudio? If I gave up my virginity to him, you could be freed.

CLAUDIO

O heavens! it cannot be.

CLAUDIO

Oh, heavens! It can't be.

ISABELLA

Yes, he would give't thee, from this rank offence, So to offend him still. This night's the time That I should do what I abhor to name, Or else thou diest to-morrow.

ISABELLA

Yes, he would free you, but after this horrible crime you would offend him more. Tonight's when I'm supposed to do what I can't even name, or else you die tomorrow.

CLAUDIO

Thou shalt not do't.

CLAUDIO

You shouldn't do it. 

ISABELLA

O, were it but my life,I'ld throw it down for your deliveranceAs frankly as a pin.

ISABELLA

Oh, if it were only my life, I'd give it up for your freedom as easily as a pin.

CLAUDIO

Thanks, dear Isabel.

CLAUDIO

Thanks, dear Isabella.

ISABELLA

Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow.

ISABELLA

Be ready for your death tomorrow, Claudio.

CLAUDIO

Yes. Has he affections in him, That thus can make him bite the law by the nose, When he would force it? Sure, it is no sin, Or of the deadly seven, it is the least.

CLAUDIO

Yes. Does he have such desires in him that he's willing to break the law like that whenever he feels the urge? Surely it's not a sin. Or, of the deadly seven, it's the least serious.

ISABELLA

Which is the least?

ISABELLA

Which is the least?

CLAUDIO

If it were damnable, he being so wise,Why would he for the momentary trickBe perdurably fined? O Isabel!

CLAUDIO

If lust were really that bad, why would a wise man like him willingly take on the eternal consequences for a momentary thrill? Oh, Isabella!

ISABELLA

What says my brother?

ISABELLA

What are you saying, brother?

CLAUDIO

Death is a fearful thing.

CLAUDIO

Death is a scary thing.

ISABELLA

And shamed life a hateful.

ISABELLA

And a life of shame is a hateful thing.

CLAUDIO

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where; To lie in cold obstruction and to rot; This sensible warm motion to become A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice; To be imprison'd in the viewless winds, And blown with restless violence round about The pendent world; or to be worse than worst Of those that lawless and incertain thought Imagine howling: 'tis too horrible! The weariest and most loathed worldly life That age, ache, penury and imprisonment Can lay on nature is a paradise To what we fear of death.

CLAUDIO

Yes, but to die, and to go somewhere unknown, to lie in a cold grave and rot...for my warm, thinking body to become a piece of dirt, and for my soul to go either down to fiery hell or up to the exciting icy castle of heaven...to be blown about violently in the winds around and around the world...or to be in worse suffering than we imagine even in our most uncensored, uncertain thoughts...it's too horrible! The most tired, deplorable worldly life with all the age, ache, poverty, and imprisonment that nature can lay on is a paradise compared with death, which we fear.

ISABELLA

Alas, alas!

ISABELLA

Oh no! Oh no!

CLAUDIO

Sweet sister, let me live: What sin you do to save a brother's life, Nature dispenses with the deed so far That it becomes a virtue.

CLAUDIO

Sweet sister, let me live. Nature will be so forgiving of whatever sin you have to commit to save your brother's life, that the sin will become a virtue.

ISABELLA

O you beast! O faithless coward! O dishonest wretch! Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice? Is't not a kind of incest, to take life From thine own sister's shame? What should I think? Heaven shield my mother play'd my father fair! For such a warped slip of wilderness Ne'er issued from his blood. Take my defiance! Die, perish! Might but my bending down Reprieve thee from thy fate, it should proceed: I'll pray a thousand prayers for thy death, No word to save thee.

ISABELLA

Oh, you animal! You weak coward! You lying dog! You want to save your life through my sin? Isn't it a kind of incest to take your life from your own sister's shame? What am I supposed to think? I hope my mother didn't cheat on my father—but I'm sure such a deformed piece of savagery never came from his side of the family. I defy you! Die, die! If I could save you from your fate by praying, I'd do it. I'll pray a thousand prayers for your death, but not a word to save you.

CLAUDIO

Nay, hear me, Isabel.

CLAUDIO

No, listen to me, Isabella.

ISABELLA

O, fie, fie, fie! Thy sin's not accidental, but a trade. Mercy to thee would prove itself a bawd: 'Tis best thou diest quickly.

ISABELLA

Oh, shame on you! Your sin wasn't just an accident; it's your occupation. Mercy would just help you commit more sins. It's best you die quickly.

CLAUDIO

O hear me, Isabella!

CLAUDIO

Oh, listen to me, Isabella!

Re-enter DUKE VINCENTIO

DUKE VINCENTIO

Vouchsafe a word, young sister, but one word.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Let me have a word with you, little sister. Just a word.

ISABELLA

What is your will?

ISABELLA

What do you want?

DUKE VINCENTIO

Might you dispense with your leisure, I would by and by have some speech with you: the satisfaction I would require is likewise your own benefit.

DUKE VINCENTIO

If you don't mind giving up your free time, I'd like to speak with you. What I want will be to your own benefit, too.

ISABELLA

I have no superfluous leisure; my stay must bestolen out of other affairs; but I will attend you awhile.

ISABELLA

I don't have any extra free time. My visit is taking time away from other things. But I'll listen to you awhile. 

DUKE VINCENTIO

Son, I have overheard what hath passed between you and your sister. Angelo had never the purpose to corrupt her; only he hath made an essay of her virtue to practise his judgment with the disposition of natures: she, having the truth of honour in her, hath made him that gracious denial which he is most glad to receive. I am confessor to Angelo, and I know this to be true; therefore prepare yourself to death: do not satisfy your resolution with hopes that are fallible: tomorrow you must die; go to your knees and make ready.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Son, I overheard what you and your sister said to each other. Angelo was never trying to corrupt her. He was only testing her virtue to practice his judgment of people's dispositions. She's honorable and truthful, so she's denied him in exactly the way he wanted. I'm Angelo's confessor, and I know this to be true. So prepare yourself for death. Don't depend on empty hope. You have to die tomorrow. Pray and get ready.

CLAUDIO

Let me ask my sister pardon. I am so out of lovewith life that I will sue to be rid of it.

CLAUDIO

Tell my sister that I ask for her forgiveness. I'm hate this life so much that I'd do anything to die.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Hold you there: farewell.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Stay there. Goodbye.

Exit CLAUDIO

Provost, a word with you!

Provost, a word with you!

Re-enter Provost

PROVOST

What's your will, father?

PROVOST

What do you want, father?

DUKE VINCENTIO

That now you are come, you will be gone. Leave me awhile with the maid: my mind promises with my habit no loss shall touch her by my company.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Now that you just got here, I ask that you'll leave again. Leave me alone with the girl for a while. You can trust me to be alone with her—I'm a monk.

PROVOST

In good time.

PROVOST

Take your time.

Exit Provost. ISABELLA comes forward

DUKE VINCENTIO

The hand that hath made you fair hath made you good: the goodness that is cheap in beauty makes beauty brief in goodness; but grace, being the soul of your complexion, shall keep the body of it ever fair. The assault that Angelo hath made to you, fortune hath conveyed to my understanding; and, but that frailty hath examples for his falling, I should wonder at Angelo. How will you do to content this substitute, and to save your brother?

DUKE VINCENTIO

The same God that made you beautiful has also made you good. The little good that's in beauty means that goodness is hardly ever beautiful. But grace—which is the core of your being—will keep you beautiful forever. I've found out about how Angelo propositioned you. And if there weren't so many who've fallen before him, then I'd be surprised at Angelo. What happens if you agree to his trade and save your brother?

ISABELLA

I am now going to resolve him: I had rather my brother die by the law than my son should be unlawfully born. But, O, how much is the good duke deceived in Angelo! I f ever he return and I can speak to him, I will open my lips in vain, or discover his government.

ISABELLA

I'm going to respond to him now: I'd rather my brother die legally than that my son be born illegitimate. But, oh, the Duke is so wrong about Angelo! If the Duke ever comes back and I can speak to him, I will tell him about Angelo's government as soon as I can open my lips.

DUKE VINCENTIO

That shall not be much amiss: Yet, as the matter now stands, he will avoid your accusation; he made trial of you only. Therefore fasten your ear on my advisings: to the love I have in doing good a remedy presents itself. I do make myself believe that you may most uprighteously do a poor wronged lady a merited benefit; redeem your brother from the angry law; do no stain to your own gracious person; and much please the absent duke, if peradventure he shall ever return to have hearing of this business.

DUKE VINCENTIO

That wouldn't be a bad thing to do. And yet, as it now stands, it'd be hard to accuse Angelo, since he only propositioned you. So listen to my advice: I love doing good, and I have a solution in mind. I almost think that you could do some much-needed good for a poor, abused lady. At the same time, you could redeem your brother from the harsh law, avoid dirtying yourself, and really please the Duke who isn't here—if by chance he ever comes back and has a chance to hear about all this.

ISABELLA

Let me hear you speak farther. I have spirit to doanything that appears not foul in the truth of my spirit.

ISABELLA

Please tell me more. I'm willing to do anything that doesn't seem wrong to me.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful. Haveyou not heard speak of Mariana, the sister ofFrederick the great soldier who miscarried at sea?

DUKE VINCENTIO

Virtue is bold, and good people are never afraid. Have you ever heard of Mariana, the sister of the great soldier Frederick, who died at sea?

ISABELLA

I have heard of the lady, and good words went with her name.

ISABELLA

I've heard of her, and have heard good things attached to that name.

DUKE VINCENTIO

She should this Angelo have married; was affianced to her by oath, and the nuptial appointed: between which time of the contract and limit of the solemnity, her brother Frederick was wrecked at sea, having in that perished vessel the dowry of his sister. But mark how heavily this befell to the poor gentlewoman: there she lost a noble and renowned brother, in his love toward her ever most kind and natural; with him, the portion and sinew of her fortune, her marriage-dowry; with both, her combinate husband, this well-seeming Angelo.

DUKE VINCENTIO

She was supposed to marry this Angelo. He was engaged to her, and the wedding date was set. But between the engagement and the ceremony, her brother Frederick was shipwrecked, and her dowry sunk along with the ship. But listen how terribly it worked out for the poor woman: she lost her noble, respected brother, who was always kind and loving to her. Along with him, she lost her entire fortune and her marriage dowry. And, along with all of that, she lost her would-be husband, this well-seeming Angelo.

ISABELLA

Can this be so? did Angelo so leave her?

ISABELLA

Is this true? And did Angelo leave her like that?

DUKE VINCENTIO

Left her in her tears, and dried not one of them with his comfort; swallowed his vows whole, pretending in her discoveries of dishonour: in few, bestowed her on her own lamentation, which she yet wears for his sake; and he, a marble to her tears, is washed with them, but relents not.

DUKE VINCENTIO

He left her in tears, and he didn't stick around to comfort her. He went back on his vows, and made up a story about her having an affair. In short, he sent her into a period of mourning, which she's still in for his sake. He hasn't taken pity on her at all. He's not even sympathetic to her constant tears.

ISABELLA

What a merit were it in death to take this poor maidfrom the world! What corruption in this life, thatit will let this man live! But how out of this can she avail?

ISABELLA

It would have been better for him to kill this poor girl, and take her out of the world! Life is horrible if it lets this man live! But how can she get out of this?

DUKE VINCENTIO

It is a rupture that you may easily heal: and thecure of it not only saves your brother, but keepsyou from dishonour in doing it.

DUKE VINCENTIO

It's a break which you could easily fix. Fixing it not only saves your brother, but keeps you from dishonoring yourself while you do it.

ISABELLA

Show me how, good father.

ISABELLA

Show me how, good father.

DUKE VINCENTIO

This forenamed maid hath yet in her the continuance of her first affection: his unjust unkindness, that in all reason should have quenched her love, hath, like an impediment in the current, made it more violent and unruly. Go you to Angelo; answer his requiring with a plausible obedience; agree with his demands to the point; only refer yourself to this advantage, first, that your stay with him may not be long; that the time may have all shadow and silence in it; and the place answer to convenience. This being granted in course,—and now follows all,—we shall advise this wronged maid to stead up your appointment, go in your place; if the encounter acknowledge itself hereafter, it may compel him to her recompense: and here, by this, is your brother saved, your honour untainted, the poor Mariana advantaged, and the corrupt deputy scaled. The maid will I frame and make fit for his attempt. If you think well to carry this as you may, the doubleness of the benefit defends the deceit from reproof. What think you of it?

DUKE VINCENTIO

The woman I mentioned, Mariana, is still in love with Angelo. The wrong he did her—which, all things considered, should have ended her love—has only made it stronger and wilder, like a rock in a stream. Go to Angelo. Answer his request obediently and convincingly. Agree to his demands completely. Only ask him this: that your first visit to him is short, that it stays dark and silent the entire time, and that the place is convenient. If he grants all this—and now it all comes together—we'll get the abandoned woman to go to the appointment in your place. If the encounter is acknowledged afterward, it might convince him to marry her. And with all that, your brother is saved, your reputation is clean, the poor Mariana is helped, and the corrupt deputy gets his just deserts. I'll talk to the girl and get her ready for his attempt. If you don't mind doing this, the benefit to everyone will make your lie inconsequential. What do you think?

ISABELLA

The image of it gives me content already; and Itrust it will grow to a most prosperous perfection.

ISABELLA

I feel better just imagining it. I think it will work out extremely well.

DUKE VINCENTIO

It lies much in your holding up. Haste you speedily to Angelo: if for this night he entreat you to his bed, give him promise of satisfaction. I will presently to Saint Luke's: there, at the moated grange, resides this dejected Mariana. At that place call upon me; and dispatch with Angelo, that it may be quickly.

DUKE VINCENTIO

It all depends on how you carry it out. Go quickly to Angelo. If he asks you to come to his bed tonight, promise him you will. I'll go now to St. Luke's, were poor Mariana lives at the convent. Find me there, and take care of Angelo so that it can all happen soon.

ISABELLA

I thank you for this comfort. Fare you well, good father.

ISABELLA

Thank you for your help. Take care, good father.

Exeunt severally

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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.