William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

Mariana was in the farmhouse at St. Luke’s, listening to a boy sing this song:

Take, oh, take those lips away,

That so sweetly were forsworn;

And those eyes, the break of day,

Lights that do mislead the morn

They are eyes so bright that the morning mistakes them for the rising Sun.

But my kisses bring again, bring again,

Seals of love — kisses — but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.”

The theme of the song was a false vow of love.

“Stop singing,” Mariana, who saw the disguised Duke Vincentio coming toward them, said to the boy. “Quickly go away. I see coming here a man of comfort, whose advice has often quieted my troublesome discontent.”

The boy departed.

Mariana said to the disguised Duke Vincentio, “Please pardon me, sir. I well wish that you had not found me here listening to music. Let me excuse myself. Please believe me when I say that the music did not amuse me with unseemly merriment but it did soothe my sorrow.”

“That is good,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said, “although music often has such a charm that it can make sin seem to be good, and lead good to what can harm it.

“Please, tell me whether anybody has inquired for me here today. I have promised to meet someone here just about this time.”

“No one has been here seeking you. I have sat here all day,” Mariana said.

Isabella now walked toward them.

“I always believe what you say,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said. “The person I was going to meet has just shown up. Now I want you to leave us alone for a little while. I hope to let you know very soon about something that will bring some advantage to yourself.”

“I am always bound to you and will obey you,” Mariana said as she exited.

The disguised Duke Vincentio said to Isabella, “We are very well met, and you have well come at a welcome time. What is the news that you bring me from this good deputy?”

“He has a garden surrounded with a brick wall, whose western side has a vineyard. Leading into that vineyard is a gate made of wooden planks. I have two keys. The bigger key will open that gate. The smaller key opens a little door that from the vineyard leads to the garden. I have promised to visit Angelo at the garden house during the drowsy middle of the night.”

“Do you have the knowledge that is needed to find this way and reach Angelo?”

“I have carefully noted and memorized the way,” Isabella replied. “Angelo whispered guiltily to me twice how to find the way there although he did not show me the way.”

“Is there anything else — such as a password — that you two have agreed upon that Mariana ought to know?”

“No, none,” Isabella replied. “We have agreed that the tryst should take place in the dark. I also told him that ‘my’ stay must necessarily be brief because, I said, I have a servant who will come along with me and wait for me. I said that this servant believes that I am visiting Angelo to talk to him about my brother.”

“This is well thought out,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said. “I have not yet made known to Mariana a word of this. So far, she knows nothing about our plan.”

He called, “Mariana, come here!”

Mariana walked toward the two.

The disguised Duke Vincentio said to her, “Please, become acquainted with this maiden. She has come here to do something good for you.”

“What he said is true,” Isabella said.

The disguised Duke Vincentio said to Mariana, “Do you believe that I respect you and want to do good things for you?”

“Good friar, I know you do,” Mariana said. “I have always found that to be true.”

“Take, then, this woman, your new companion, by the hand. She has something to tell you. I will soon talk to you. Be quick; the damp nighttime is coming.”

Mariana asked Isabella, “Is it OK if we talk over here?”

They withdrew a short distance away and talked.

The disguised Duke Vincentio said to himself, “Oh, people in high and great positions! Millions of evil eyes stare at you. Volumes of voices speak false and antagonistic things about your actions the way that a pack of dogs howl while following a false trail. A thousand foolish wits make you the subjects of their daydreams in which they stretch you on the rack.”

Mariana and Isabella had finished their conversation.

“Welcome,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said. “Is there an agreement to follow this plan?”

“Mariana will take the enterprise upon her, father,” Isabella said, “if you advise it.”

“I do advise it, and I also urge you, Mariana, to do this.”

Isabella said to Mariana, “You have little to say. When you depart from him, say, softly and lowly, ‘Remember now my brother.’”

“Do not fear,” Mariana said. “I will remember to say it.”

“And, gentle daughter, don’t you fear anything at all,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said. “Angelo is your husband on a pre-contract of marriage. To bring you together like this is no sin because the justice of your title to him outweighs the deceit.

“Come, let all of us go. Our corn’s yet to reap, for our seed’s yet to sow. We have much more to do before we can reap the harvest of our plan.”

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