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MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
The outline of this Play is taken from a novel of Cinthio, the Italian novelist and cragic author, to whom Shakspeare was likewise indebted for the story of Othello.
Measure for Measure, presents us with one of the most perfect of our author's female characters in the person of Isabella. Dr. Blake says, of this beautiful creation, that "Piety, spotless purity, tenderness combined with firmness, and an eloquence the most persuasive, unite to render her singularly interesting and attractive." Of the general excellence of this Drama, Mr. Verplanck justly remarks, that "there is no composition, of the same length, in the language, which has left more of its expressive phrases, its moral aphor isms, its brief sentences, crowded with meaning, fixed on the general memory, and embodied by daily use in every form of popular eloquence, argument, and literature."
Our extracts, though necessarily brief, will be found to embody the principal striking beauties of this truly impressive composition.
VICENTIO, Duke of Vienna.
ANGELO, lord deputy in the Duke's absence.
ESCALUS, an ancient lord, joined with Angelo in the detation.
LUCIO, a fantastic.
Two other like gentlemen.
VARRIUS, a gentleman, servant to the Duke.
THOMAS, PETER, two friars.
ELBOW, a simple constable.
FROTH, a foolish gentleman.
Clown, servant to Mrs. Over-done.
ABHORSON, an executioner.
BARNARDINE, a dissolute prisoner.
ISABELLA, sister to Claudio.
MARIANA, betrothed to Angelo.
JULIET, beloved by Claudio.
FRANCISCA, a nun.
Lords, Gentlemen, Guards, Officers, and other Attendants.
The Duke of Vienna, determines to examine in person, the condition of his people. To do this effectually he purposes to resign, for a period, his government into the keeping of Lord Angelo, and Escalus, and in disguise to mix with his subjects and learn their actual condition, and ascertain whether the laws are faithfully administered.
ACT 1. April 1+ 1,57
SCENE I.—An Apartment in the Duke's Palace.
Duke. Of government the properties to unfold,
My strength can give you: Then no more remains
For common justice, you are as pregnant in,
That we remember: There is our commission,
From which we would not have you warp.-Call hither,
I say, bid come before us Angelo.
What figure of us think you he will bear?
For you must know, we have with special soul
Elected him our absence to supply;
Lent him our terror, drest him with our love;
[Exit an Attendant.
Ang. Always obedient to your grace's will,
I come to know your pleasure.
There is a kind of character in thy life,
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch'd.
But to fine issues: nor nature never lends
Both thanks and use.
But I do bend my speech
To one that can my part in him advertise;
In our remove, be thou at full ourself:-
Live in thy tongue and heart: Escalus,
Now, good my lord,
Be stamp'd upon it.
No more evasion:
We have with a leaven'd and prepared choice
Nor need you, on mine honor, have to do
With any scruple: your scope is as mine own:
As to your soul seems good. Give me your
Ang. The heavens give safety to your purposes!
Escal. I shall desire you, sir, to give me leave
To have free speech with you; and it concerns me
A power I have; but of what strength and nature
Ang. "Tis so with me:-Let us withdraw together
And we may soon our satisfaction have
Touching that point.
I'll wait upon your honor.
The Duke proceeds to a Monastery in the city, and assumes the disguise of a Friar
SCENE. A Monastery.
Enter DUKE, and Friar THOMAS.
Duke. No; holy father; throw away that thought;
Believe not that the dribbling dart of love
Can pierce a complete bosom: why I desire thee
More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends
May your grace speak of it? Duke. My holy sir, none better knows than you How I have ever lov'd the life removed;
And held in idle price to haunt assemblies,
Where youth, and costs, and witless bravery keeps.
(A man of stricture, and firm abstinence,)
My absolute power and place here in Vienna,
And he supposes me travell'd to Poland;
For so I have strew'd it in the common ear,
Duke. We have strict statutes, and most biting laws,
That goes not out to prey: Now, as fond fathers
Becomes more mock'd, than fear'd, so our decrees,
The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
It rested on your grace
To unloose this tied-up justice, when you pleas'd:
I do fear, too dreadful:
Sith 'twas my fault to give the people scope,
When evil deeds have their permissive pass,
And not the punishment. Therefore, indeed, my father,
Who may, in the ambush of my name, strike home,
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,
Like a true friar. More reasons for this action,
Is more to bread than stone: Hence shall we see,
Angelo assumes the government, with rigid severity; he calls into enactment, old laws, long disused, and makes offenders pay the utmost penalty for their transgressions.
Claudio, a profligate young gentleman, is condemned to death, under one of these revived laws. He prevails on his sister Isabella, a young novice, to leave the cloister, and go in person to Angelo, and endeavor to obtain a pardon from the Lord Deputy.
SCENE.-A hall in Angelo's House.
Enter ANGELO, and ESCALUS.
Ang. We must not make a scare-crow of the law, Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Their perch, and not their terror.
Ay, but yet
Let us be keen, and rather cut a little,
Than fall, and bruise to death: Alas! this gentleman,
Let but your honor 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
Could have attain'd the effect of your own purpose,
Ang. 'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,