ACT III
Scene I.
 

The prison

Enter DUKE, disguised as before, CLAUDIO, and PROVOST

DUKE
So, then you hope of pardon from Lord Angelo?

CLAUDIO
The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope:
I have hope to Eve, and am prepar'd to die.

DUKE
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 run'st toward him still. Thou art not noble;
For all th' accommodations that thou bear'st
Are nurs'd 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 provok'st; yet grossly fear'st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself;
For thou exists on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou striv'st 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'st 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.

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

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

PROVOST
Who's there? Come in; the wish deserves a welcome.

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

CLAUDIO
Most holy sir, I thank you.

Enter ISABELLA

ISABELLA
My business is a word or two with Claudio.

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

DUKE
Provost, a word with you.

PROVOST
As many as you please.

DUKE
Bring me to hear them speak, where I may be conceal'd.

Exeunt DUKE and PROVOST

CLAUDIO
Now, sister, what's the comfort?

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.

CLAUDIO
Is there no remedy?

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

CLAUDIO
But is there any?

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.

CLAUDIO
Perpetual durance?

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

CLAUDIO
But in what nature?

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

CLAUDIO
Let me know the point.

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. Dar'st 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.

CLAUDIO
Why give you me this shame?
Think you I can a resolution fetch
From flow'ry tenderness? If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride
And hug it in mine 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' th' head, and follies doth enew
As falcon doth the fowl, is yet a devil;
His filth within being cast, he would appear
A pond as deep as hell.

CLAUDIO
The precise Angelo!

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

CLAUDIO
O heavens! it cannot 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.

CLAUDIO
Thou shalt not do't.

ISABELLA
O, were it but my life!
I'd throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.

CLAUDIO
Thanks, dear Isabel.

ISABELLA
Be ready, Claudio, for your death to-morrow.

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

ISABELLA
Which is the least?

CLAUDIO
If it were damnable, he being so wise,
Why would he for the momentary trick
Be perdurably fin'd?- O Isabel!

ISABELLA
What says my brother?

CLAUDIO
Death is a fearful thing.

ISABELLA
And shamed life a hateful.

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.

ISABELLA
Alas, alas!

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.

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 issu'd 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.

CLAUDIO
Nay, hear me, Isabel.

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

CLAUDIO
O, hear me, Isabella.

Re-enter DUKE

DUKE
Vouchsafe a word, young sister, but one word.

ISABELLA
What is your will?

DUKE
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.

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

[Walks apart]

DUKE
Son, I have overheard what hath pass'd between you and your
sister. Angelo had never the purpose to corrupt her; only he hath
made an assay 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; to-morrow you must die;
go to your knees and make ready.

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

DUKE
Hold you there. Farewell. [Exit CLAUDIO] Provost, a word with
you.

Re-enter PROVOST

PROVOST
What's your will, father?

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

PROVOST
In good time.

Exit PROVOST

DUKE
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 convey'd 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?

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 deceiv'd in Angelo! If ever he return, and
I can speak to him, I will open my lips in vain, or discover his
government.

DUKE
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.

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

DUKE
Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful. Have you not
heard speak of Mariana, the sister of Frederick, the great
soldier who miscarried at sea?

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

DUKE
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
wreck'd 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.

ISABELLA
Can this be so? Did Angelo so leave her?

DUKE
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, bestow'd 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.

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

DUKE
It is a rupture that you may easily heal; and the cure of it
not only saves your brother, but keeps you from dishonour in
doing it.

ISABELLA
Show me how, good father.

DUKE
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?

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

DUKE
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.

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

Exeunt severally