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

— 4.4 —

Angelo and Escalus talked in a room in Angelo’s house.

Escalus said, “Every letter that Duke Vincentio has written has contradicted the letters we have previously received from him.”

Claudio replied, “The letters are written in a very uneven and distracted manner. His actions seem to be those of a madman. Let’s pray to Heaven that he is not afflicted with a mental disease! And why are we supposed to meet him at the gates and give back to him our commissions and authorities there?”

“I can’t imagine.”

“And why should we proclaim his return an hour before his entering the city gates, so that if anyone craves redress of injustice, they should exhibit their petitions in the street?”

“He has explained his reasons for that,” Escalus said. “He wants to deal with all complaints as soon as he returns. That way, no one will be able to bring them up later.”

One reason to deal with complaints earlier instead of later is so that no one could say that Angelo and Escalus had time in which to secretly influence Duke Vincentio to rule in their favor.

“Well, I say to you, let it be proclaimed early in the morning. I’ll call upon you at your house. Give notice to such men of high rank and with a retinue of servants as are to meet him.”

“I shall, sir. Fare you well,” Escalus said.

“Good night,” Angelo said.

Escalus exited.

Angelo said to himself, “My evil deed destroys me utterly, and it makes me slow-witted and dull to all proceedings. A deflowered maiden! And deflowered by an eminent person — me — who is charged with enforcing the law against fornication! Except that her tender shame will not allow her to announce publicly that she has lost her virginity, how she could accuse me! Yet reason tells her not to dare to accuse me because my authority as Duke Vincentio’s deputy bears such respect and belief that no scandal aimed at me can touch me; instead, the person who charges me with such a scandal will be the one confounded.

“Claudio should have continued to live, except that this riotous youth, with his dangerous passion, might in time to come have taken revenge against me because his dishonored life was ransomed in such a shameful way. But I wish that he were still alive! When we once forget the knowledge of morality that God implanted in us, nothing goes right: We would, and we would not.”

Angelo was thinking of Romans 7:19: “For I do not the good thing, which I would, but the evil, which I would not, that do I.”

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