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ISAB. I will about it straight ;
Lucio. I take my leave of you.
Good sir, adieu.
A Hall in Angelo's House. Enter Angelo, Escalus, a Justice, Provost,"
Officers, and other Attendants.
Ang. We must not make a scare-crow of the law, Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
6 — the mother-] The abbess, or prioress. JOHNSON.
7 Provo,] A Provost martial, Minshieu explains, 66 Prevost des mareschaux : Præfectus rerum capitalium, Prætor rerum capitalium.” Reed.
A provost is generally the executioner of an army. So, in The Famous History of Tbo. Stukely, 1605, bl. 1:
Provoft, lay irons upon him, and take him to your charge." Again, in The Virgin Martyr, by Maffinger:
Thy provost, to see execution done
« On these bafe Chriftians in Cæfarea." Steevens. A prison for military offenders is at this day, in some places, called the Prevôt. MALONE.
The Provost here, is not a military officer, but a kind of sheriff or gaoler, so called in foreign countries. Douce. 8
to fear the birds of prey,] To fear is to affright, to terrify So, in The Merchant of Venice:
this aspect of mine
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Ay, but yet
man, Whom I would save, had a most noble father. Let but your honour know, (Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue,) That, in the working of your own affections, Had time coher'd with place, or place with wishing, Or that the resolute acting of your blood Could have attain’d the effect of your own purpose, Whether you had not sometime in your life Err'd in this point which now you censure him, And pull’d the law upon you.
9 Than fall, and bruise to death:] I should rather read fell, i. e. strike down. So, in Timon of Athens :
All save thee,
I fell with curses.” WARBURTON. Fall is the old reading, and the true one. Shakspeare has used the same verb active in The Comedy of Errors :
as easy may'st thou fall “ A drop of water,"i. e. let fall. So, in As you Like it :
the executioner “ Falls not the axe upon the humbled neck." STEVENS. Than fall, and bruise to death:] i. e. fall the axe;-or rather, let the criminal fall, &c. MALONE. · Let but your
honour know,] To know is here to examine, 10 take cognisance. So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream:
« Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires;
Know of your youth, examine well your blood." Johnson. 3 Err'd in this point, which now you cenfure him,] Some word seems to be wanting to make this line sense. Perhaps, we should read:
“ Err'd in this point which now you censure him for. STEEVENS. The sense undoubtedly requires, “ — which now you censure him for," but the text certainly appears as the poet left it. I have elsewhere shewn that he frequently uses these elliptical expresions.
Ang. 'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus, Another thing to fall. I not deny, The jury, palling on the prisoner's life, May, in the sworn twelve, have a thief or two Guiltier than him they try: What's open made to
EscAL. Be it as your wisdom will.
Where is the provost?
4 That juffice seizes.] For the sake of metre, I think we should read, -seizes on; or, perhaps, we should regulate the passage thus :
Guiltier than bim they try : What's open made
-What know the laws, That thieves do pass on thieves?] How can the administrators of the laws take cognizance of what I have just mentioned? How can they know, whether the jurymen who decide on the life or death of thieves be themselves as criminal as those whom they try? To pass on is a forensick term. MALONE. So, in King Lear, A& III. sc. vii:
Though well we may not pass upon his life.” See my note on this passage. Steevens.
O 'Tis very pregnant,] 'Tis plain that we must act with bad as with good; we punish the faults, as we take the advantages that lie in our way, and what we do not see we cannot note.
JOHNSON. 7 For I have had _] That is, because, by reason that I have had such faults. JOHNSON.
Prov. Here, if it like your honour.
See that Claudio
[Exit Provost. Escal. Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall :
8 Some rife, &c.] This line is in the first folio printed in Italics as a quotation. All the folios read in the next line: Some run from brakes of ice, and answer none.
JOHNSON. The old reading is, perhaps, the true one, and may mean, fome run away from danger, and stay to answer none of their fanles, whilst others are condemned only on account of a single frailty. If this be the true reading, it should be printed:
Some run from breaks (i. e. fractures) of ice, &c. Since I suggested this, I have found reason to change my opinion. A brake anciently meant not only a marp bit, a fnaffle, but also the engine with which farriers confined the legs of such unruly horses as would not otherwise submit themselves to be shod, or to have a cruel operation performed on them. This, in some places, is still called a smith's brake. In this last sense, Ben Jonson uses the word in his Underwoods :
" And not think he had eat a stake,
“ Or were set up in a brake.” And, for the former fenfe, fee The Silent Woman, Ad IV. Again, for the latter fense, Bully d'Ambois, by Chapman :
“ Or, like a strumpet, learn to set my face
" In an eternal brake.' Again, in The Opportunity, by Shirley, 1640:
“ He is fallen into some brake, fome wench has tied him by the legs.” Again, in Holland's Leaguer, 1633:
her I'll make od A stale, to catch this courtier in a brake." I offer these quotations, which may prove of use to some more fortunate conjecturer; but am able myself to derive very little from them to suit the passage before us.
Enter Elbow, Froth, Clown, Officers, &c.
Elb. Come, bring them away: if these be good people in a common-weal, that do nothing but use
I likewise find from Holinshed, p. 670, that the brake was an engine of torture. « The said Hawkins was caft into the Tower, and at length brought to the brake, called the Duke of Excester's daughter, by means of which pain he shewed many things," &c.
ci When the Dukes of Exeter and Suffolk (says Blackstone, in his Commentaries, Vol. IV. chap. xxv. p. 320, 321,) and other minifters of Hen VI. had laid a design to introduce the civil law into this kingdom as the rule of government, for a beginning thereof they erected a rack for torture; which was called in derifion the Duke of Exeter's Daughter, and ftill remains in the Tower of London, where it was occasionally used as an engine of ftate,
not of law, more than once in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.” See Coke's Inftit. 35. Barrington, 69, 385. and Fuller's Worthies, P. 317.
A part of this horrid engine ftill remains in the Tower, and the following is the figure of it:
It confifts of a strong iron frame about fix feet long, with three rollers of wood within it. The middle one of these, which has iron teeth at each end, is governed by two stops of iron, and was, probably, that part of the machine which suspended the powers of the rest, when the unhappy sufferer was sufficiently strained by the cords, &c. to begin confession. I cannot conclude this account of it without confessing my obligation to Sir Charles Frederick, who politely condescended to direct my enquiries, while