Imagens das páginas


The story of this Comedy is found in an Italian tale, by Giraldi Cinthio :* but it was directly taken from George Whetstone's plays of “ Promos and Cassandra,” which were printed in 1578, but not acted. The first publication of Shakespeare's Comedy was not made till in the folio edition of 1623; but there is evidence that it was performed at Court by the “ King's players,” (to which company Shakespeare belonged,) in 1604.

Coleridge says: “ This play, which is Shakespeare's throughout, is to me the most painful part of his genuine works. Yet, in a great many passages, the poetry is exquisite; while the pure religion of the heroine flows on with a strong under-current of passion and enthusiasm.

The play affords a lesson to legislators and executive Governors; showing that laws which cannot be enforced, should not remain a dead-letter on the Statute-book, but should be expunged : and that existing laws should be applied consistently, without fear or favour, and not in fitful alternations of misleading neglect and unwonted severity.

The Comedy exhibits hypocrisy, injustice, and crime in high places; but, although the culprit is eventually put to shame, yet his wrong-doing is not balanced, as we might expect, in the retributive justice of “ Measure for Measure.

The Characters retained in this Condensation are : VINCENTIO, Duke of Vienna. THE PROVOST OF THE PRISON. ANGELO, Deputy in the Duke's ab- ABHORSON, an Executioner. sence.

BARNARDINE, a Prisoner. ESCALUS, joined with Angelo in the Government.

ISABELLA, Sister to Claudio. CLAUDIO, a young Gentleman.

MARIANA, betrothed to Angelo. Lucio, a fantastic fop.

JULIET, beloved of Claudio.

Lords, Officers, Citizens, and AtFATHER PETER

tendants. The Scene is at Vienna, or in its immediate neighbourhood.

Father Thomas, } Friars.

[ocr errors]

a See the Fifth Novel of the Eighth Decade of Giraldi Cinthio's “ Hecatommithi, or Hundred Novels."

b Whetstone first expanded the original story into two plays, printed in 1578, as the “Right excellent and famous Historye of Promos and Cassandra," but they were never performed. Four years later, he re-cast the story into a prose novel, printed in his “ Heptameron of Civil Discourses,” (1582,) stating that “this Historie, for rarenes thereof, is lively set out in a Comedie by the Reporter of the whole worke, but yet never presented upon stage."

c The office books of the “ Masters and Yeomen of the Revels” (preserved in the Audit Office, London,)—fixing the date of the Court-performance of several of Shakespeare's plays,--show that “ Measure for Measure” was presented before James I, in 1604, by the King's players.”—The duties of the “ Master of the Revels" were, to preside over the amusements of the Court, and to keep in order the dresses, masks, and decorations. The office was of considerable importance during the reigns of Henry the Eighth and Queen Elizabeth-but it was abolished in the reign of George III.

* Vienna--the capital of the Austrian empire, on the river Danube.

(Giving warrant.



Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, hearing rumours of the misgovernment of his subjects, determines to withdraw for a time from his judicial duties, that he may, by personal observation, become acquainted with the actual administration of the laws. He purposes to appoint two deputies-Lords Angelo and Escalus,-without informing them of his motives.

Before us is a Room in the Duke's Palace. The Duke, Escalus,
and Attendants, are present.
Duke. Escalus,-
Escal. My lord ?
Duke. Of government the properties to unfold,

Would seem in me to 'affect* speech and discourse;
Since I am 'put to know that your 'own science
Exceeds, in that, the lists of all 'advice
'My strength can give you. There is our commission,
From which we would not have you warp. —Call An-

What figure of us, think you, [Lord) will he bear?
For you must know, we have, with special soul,
Elected 'him our absence to supply;
Lent him our 'terror, dressed him with our 'love,
And given his deputation 'all the organs

Of our 'own power: what think you of it?
Escal. If any, in Vienna, be of worth

To undergo such ample grace and honour,
It 'is Lord Angelo.

Angelo enters :
Ang. Always obedient to your Grace's will,

I come to know your pleasure.

There is a kind of 'character in thy life,8
That, to the observer, doth thy 'history
Fully unfold. Hold,' therefore, Angelo:-

In our remove, be thou at full ourself;

Mortality” and “Mercy,”k in Vienna,
Live in 'thy tongue and heart: Old Escalus,
Though 'first in question,' is thy 'secondary:-
Take 'thy commission.

[war Ang.

Now, good my lord,
Let there be some more 'test made of my metal,




[ocr errors]



Giving warrant.

4 pretend a liking for. I compelled to believe (cannot avoid knowing.) • bounds, limits. d power, authority. eturn aside, deviate.

fheart's care, & past life. probable future. receive this. j absence, (removal.) k power to pronounce death, and to pardon first in order of appointment. bexpect.

Before so noble and so great a figure

Be stamped upon it.
Duke. We have, with leavened and preparéd choice,
Proceeded to you; therefore 'take your honours.

Angelo kneels and receives his commission.
We shall 'write to you,
As time and our concernings shall importune,
How it goes with 'us; and do look to know
What doth befall 'you here. So, fare you well!
Nor need you, on mine honour, have to do
With any 'scruple: 'your scope" is as mine 'own,-
So to 'enforce, or 'qualify, the laws,

As to your soul seems good. Once more, farewell.
Ang. The heavens give safety to your purposes !
Escal. Lead forth, and bring you back, in happiness!
Duke. I thank you. Fare you well.

The two Deputies withdraw to make the necessary arrangements for their joint government.



The Duke, to carry out his undivulged purposes, proceeds at once to a neighbouring Monastery—where we now find him in earnest conversation with Friar Thomas : Duke. No, holy Father; throw away that thought;

Believe not that the dribblinge dart of Love
Can pierce a complete bosom. 'Why I desire thee
To give me 'secret barbour, hath a purpose
More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends

Of burning 'youth.

May your Grace 'speak of it?
Duke. My holy sir, none better knows, than you,

How I have ever loved the life 'removed;
And held, in idle price, to haunt assemblies,
Where youth, and cost, and witless bravery' keep.
I have delivered to Lord Angelo,
(A man of stricture,' and firm abstinence,)
'My absolute power and place here in Vienna,
And he supposes me travellers to Poland:
For so I've strewed it in the 'common ear,
And so it is 'received. Now, pious sir,

You will demand of me, 'why I do this ? a slowly working (like leaven.)

doubt, legal difficulty. petty, trifling. ffully protected. hsolitary, secluded from the world. i senseless display of dress (O. R. witlesse brauery keepes).

j rigorous propriety (strictness).


d freedom from restraint.

8 shelter.

k 0, R. trauaild, 10. R. weedes. 10. R. for this foureteene yeares we haue let slip. c O. R. it. d inserted word. e since, because. i liberty of acıion. & allowance. h 0. R. my nature neuer in the fight. i O. R. to do in slander. j conduct myself,


Fri. Gladly, my lord.
Duke. We have strict statutes, and most biting laws,

(The needful bits and curbs to headstrong steeds)
Which for these nineteen years we have let sleep;
Even like an o'ergrown lion, in a cave,
That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fathers,
Having bound-up the threatening twigs of birch,
Only to stick them in their children's 'sight,
For terror, not to use,-in time, the rod
Becomes more 'mocked than feared; so our decrees,
Dead to 'infliction, to 'themselves are dead;
And Liberty plucks Justice by the nose, –
The baby beats the 'nurse ;-and quite 'athwart

Goes all decorum.

It rested in your Grace
To unloose this tied-up Justice when you pleased ;
And it in 'you more dreadful would have seemed,

Than in Lord 'Angelo.

I do fear, 'too dreadful:
Sitho 't was my fault to give the people scope,'
'T would be my'tyranny to strike and gall them
For what I'bid them do: for we 'bid this be done,
When evil deeds have their permissive 'pass,
And not the 'punishment. Therefore, my Father,

I have on 'Angelo imposed the office;
Who may, in the ambush of my 'name, strike home,
And yet 'my nature never be in sight,"
To do it slander. And, to 'behold his sway,
I will, as 't were a Brother of your Order,
Visit both Prince and People: therefore, I pr’ythee,
Supply me with the 'habit, and instruct me
How I may formally in person bear me,
Like a 'true Friar. 'More reasons for this action
At our more leisure shall I render

Only, this one:—Lord Angelo is precise ;*
Stands at a guard' with envy; scarce confesses
That his blood flows, or that his appetite
Is more to 'bread than stone: Hence shall we see,
If power change purpose, what our seemers 'be. [exi.

[ocr errors]


scrupulously formal.

lin an attitude of defence,

Among the severe but obsolete laws of Vienna, was one which doomed any man to death who lived with a woman without being legally married to her; and elderly citizens had made frequent complaints that their daughters, for want of enforcement of the law, had been often deceived, and induced to leave their parental home, by the insidious and unpunished wiles of foppish and wealthy bachelors, who endeavoured to realize the truism, that,

Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare.At the very time that Lords Angelo and Escalus had, during the Duke's absence, assumed the duties of chief magistrates, a young gentleman, named Claudio, had induced Juliet, a beautiful young lady of the city, to live with him as his wife. For this violation of the law, young Signior Claudio is arrested by the new Lord Deputy, and sentenced to be beheaded.



The Scene has, in the meantime, changed to a Street in front of the Prison in Vienna. Before us, are the condemned Claudio, with the disgraced lady Juliet, (in the custody of the Provost of the prison,) followed by a crowd of lookers-on. Claudio, annoyed at being thus made a public spectacle, expostulates with the Provost: Claud. Fellow, why dost thou show me thus to the 'world?

Bear me to 'prison, where I am committed. Prov. I do it not in evil 'disposition,

But from Lord Angelo-by special 'charge.*
Claud. ... Thus can the demi-god, Authority,

Make us pay-down for our offence by 'weights-
The sword of Heaven ;-on whom it will, it will ;

On whom it will 'not, so: yet still 't is 'just.
Several gentlemen join the « quid-nunc” crowd. among them is
Lucio, a foppish friend and companion of the prisoner:
Lucio. Why, how now, Claudio ? Whence comes this re-

Claud. From too much 'liberty, my Lucio, liberty:

As 'surfeit is the father of much 'fast,
So every scope" by the 'immoderate use,
Turns to 'restraint. Our natures do pursue
(Like rats that ravine down their proper bane,')

À 'thirsty evil: When we drink, we die.
Lucio. If I could speak so wisely under an arrest, I would

send for certain of my creditors: And yet, to say the truth, I had as liefs have the foppery of 'freedom, as the morality of imprisonment.---'What's thy offence, Claudio ?


*direction, bby heavy penalties. O. R. the words. d opportunity for free action, devour ravenously.

poison peculiarly adapted for them. 6 willingly.

ho. R. mortality.

« AnteriorContinuar »