Act II - Act II, Scene 2
SCENE II. Another room in the same.
[Enter PROVOST and a SERVANT.]
He's hearing of a cause; he will come straight.
I'll tell him of you.
Pray you do.
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 it!
Now, what's the matter, provost?
Is it your will Claudio shall die to-morrow?
Did not I tell thee yea? hadst thou not order?
Why dost thou ask again?
Lest I might be too rash:
Under your good correction, I have seen
When, after execution, judgment hath
Repented o'er his doom.
Go to; let that be mine:
Do you your office, or give up your place,
And you shall well be spared.
I crave your honour's pardon:
What shall be done, sir, with the groaning Juliet?
She's very near her hour.
Dispose of her
To some more fitter place; and that with speed.
Here is the sister of the man condemned
Desires access to you.
Hath he a sister?
Ay, my good lord; a very virtuous maid,
And to be shortly of a sisterhood,
If not already.
Well, let her be admitted.
See you the fornicatress be remov'd;
Let her have needful but not lavish means;
There shall be order for it.
[Enter Lucio and ISABELLA.]
[Offering to retire.] Save your honour!
Stay a little while.-- [To ISABELLA.] You are welcome. What's
I am a woeful suitor to your honour,
Please but your honour hear me.
Well; what's your suit?
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.
Well; the matter?
I have a brother is condemn'd to die;
I do beseech you, let it be his fault,
And not my brother.
Heaven give thee moving graces.
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 find the faults whose fine stands in record,
And let go by the actor.
O just but severe law!
I had a brother, then.--Heaven keep your honour!
[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.
Must he needs die?
Maiden, no remedy.
Yes; I do think that you might pardon him,
And neither heaven nor man grieve at the mercy.
I will not do't.
But can you, if you would?
Look, what I will not, that I cannot do.
But might you do't, and do the world no wrong,
If so your heart were touch'd with that remorse
As mine is to him?
He's sentenc'd; 'tis too late.
[To ISABELLA.] You are too cold.
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 slipp'd like him;
But he, like you, would not have been so stern.
Pray you, be gone.
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.
[Aside.] Ay, touch him; there's the vein.
Your brother is a forfeit of the law,
And you but waste your words.
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.
Be you content, fair maid:
It is the law, not I, condemns your brother:
Were he my kinsman, brother, or my son,
It should be thus with him;--he must die to-morrow.
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.
Ay, well said.
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 now, or by remissness new conceiv'd,
And so in progress to be hatch'd and born,--
Are now to have no successive degrees,
But, where they live, to end.
Yet show some pity.
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.
So you must be the first that gives this sentence;
And he that suffers. O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
That's well said.
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.--
Thou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt,
Splits the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle; but man, proud man!
Dress'd 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 makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
O, to him, to him, wench: he will relent;
He's coming; I perceive 't.
Pray heaven she win him!
We cannot weigh our brother with ourself:
Great men may jest with saints: 'tis wit in them;
But, in the less, foul profanation.
Thou'rt i' the right, girl; more o' that.
That in the captain's but a choleric word
Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.
Art advised o' that? more on't.
Why do you put these sayings upon me?
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.
She speaks, and 'tis
Such sense that my sense breeds with it.--
Fare you well.
Gentle my lord, turn back.
I will bethink me:--Come again to-morrow.
Hark how I'll bribe you. Good my lord, turn back.
How! bribe me?
Ay, with such gifts that heaven shall share with you.
You had marr'd all else.
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 sunrise: prayers from preserved souls,
From fasting maids, whose minds are dedicate
To nothing temporal.
Well; come to me
[Aside to ISABELLA.] Go to; 'tis well; away.
Heaven keep your honour safe!
[Aside.] Amen: for I
Am that way going to temptation,
Where prayers cross.
At what hour to-morrow
Shall I attend your lordship?
At any time 'fore noon.
Save your honour!
[Exeunt LUCIO, ISABELLA, PROVOST.]
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.--Ever till now,
When men were fond, I smil'd and wonder'd how.
— Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
As Isabella continues to beg Angelo to show her brother mercy, her pleas become increasingly passionate. Here, she compares Heaven's ability to check its power to Angelo's cruel, literal approach to justice. Heaven targets the most hardened and impassive victims—its thunder fells gnarled oaks, not soft myrtles. However, Angelo, full of pride from his "little brief authority"—temporary and limited power—indiscriminately and harshly enforces the law on all transgressors, even at soft myrtles like Isabella's young brother.