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Duke. We have strict statutes, and most biting laws,
(The needful bits and curbs for head-strong steeds)
Which for these fourteen years we have let sleep;
Even like an o'er-grown lion in a cave,
That goes not out to prey: Now, as fond fathers
Having bound up the threat'ning twigs of birch,
Only to stick it in their children's sight,
For terror, not to use; in time the rod
Becomes more mock’d, than fear'd: 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.
Fri. It rested in your grace
To unloose this tied-up justice, when you pleas’d:
And it in you more dreadful would have seem'd,
Than in lord Angelo.
Duke. I do fear, too dreadful:
Sith 'twas my fault to give the people scope,
”Twould 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, indeed, my father,
I have on Angelo impos’d the office;
Who may, in the ambush of my name, strike home,
And yet my nature never in the sight,
To do it slander: and to behold his sway,
I will, as 'twere 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 you;
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. [Exeunt.
Enter IsABELLA and FRANCISCA.
Isab. And have you nuns no further privileges ?
Fran. Are not these large enough?
Isab. Yes, truly: I speak not as desiring more;
But rather wishing a more strict restraint
Upon the sister-hood, the votarists of saint Clare.
Lucio. Ho! Peace be in this place! [Within.]
Isab. Who's that which calls ?
Fran. It is a man's voice : Gentle Isabella,
Turn you the key, and know his business of him;
You may, I may not; you are yet unsworn :
When you have vow'd, you must not speak with men,
But in the presence of the prioress :
Then, if you speak, you must not show your face;
Or, if you show your face, you must not speak.
He calls again; I pray you, answer him.
[Exit FRANCISCA. Isab. Peace and prosperity! Who is'i that calls ?
Enter Lucio. Lucio. Hail, virgin, if you be; as those cheek roses Proclaim you are no less! Can you so stead me,
As bring me to the sight of Isabella,
A novice of this place, and the fair sister
To her unhappy brother Claudio ?
Isab. Why her unhappy brother ? let me ask;
The rather, for I now must make you know
I am that Isabella, and his sister.
Lucio. Gentle and fair, your brother kindly greets . you: Not to be weary with you, he's in prison.
Isab. Woe me! For what?
Lucio. For that, which, if myself might be his judge, He should receive his punishment in thanks : He hath got his friend with child.
Isab. Sir, make me not your story.
Lucio. It is true.
I would not—though 'tis my familiar sin
With maids to seem the lapwing, and to jest,
Tongue far from heart,-play with all virgins so:
I hold you as a thing ensky'd, and sainted;
By your renouncement, an immortal spirit;
And to be talk'd with in sincerity,
As with a saint.
Isab. You do blaspheme the good, in mocking me.
Lucio. Do not believe it. Fewness and truth, 'tis thus :
Your brother and his lover have embrac'd :
As those that feed grow full; as blossoming time,
That from the seedness the bare fallow brings
To teeming foison ; even so her plenteous womb
Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry.
Isab. Some one with child by him ?-My cousin Ju-
Lucio. Is she your cousin ?
Isab. Adoptedly; as school-maids change their names, By vain though apt affection.
Lucio. She it is.
Isab. O, let him marry her!
Lucio. This is the point.
The duke is very strangely gone from hence;
Bore many gentlemen, myself being one,
In hand, and hope of action : but we do learn
By those that know the very nerves of state,
His givings out were of an infinite distance
From his true meant design. Upon his place,
And with full line of his authority,
Governs lord Angelo ; a man, whose blood
Is very snow-broth; one, who never feels
The wanton stings and motions of the sense;
But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge
With profits of the mind, study and fast.
He (to give fear to use and liberty,
Which have, for long, run by the hideous law,
As mice by lions,) hath pick'd out an act,
Under whose heavy sense your brother's life
Falls into forfeit: he arrests him on it;
And follows close the rigour of the statute,
To make him an example: all hope is gone,
Unless you have the grace, by your fair prayer
To soften Angelo : And that's my pith
Of business ’twixt you and your poor brother,
Isab. Doth he so seek his life?
Lucio. Has censur'd him
Already; and, as I hear, the provost hath
A warrant for his execution.
Isab. Alas! what poor ability's in me
To do him good ?
Lucio. Assay the power you have.
Isab. My power! Alas! I doubt,
Lucio. Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt: Go to lord Angelo,
And let him learn to know, when maidens sue,
Men give like gods; but when they weep and kneel,
All their petitions are as freely theirs
As they themselves would owe them.
Isab. I'll see what I can do.
Lucio. But speedily.
Isab. I will about it straight;
No longer staying but to give the mother
Notice of my affair. I humbly thank you:
Commend me to my brother: soon at night
I'll send him certain word of my success.
Lucio. I take my leave of you.
Isab. Good sir, adieu.