William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 1 — Conclusion

— 5.1 —

At the city gate stood Friar Peter, Isabella, and Mariana, who was veiled. Passing through the city gate were Duke Vincentio, Varrius, and some lords. Waiting for Duke Vincentio were Angelo and Escalus. Also present were the Provost, Lucio, many lords, many officers, and many citizens.

Duke Vincentio greeted Angelo, “My very worthy cousin, we are fairly met!”

The two men were not biological cousins; this was simply a courteous way for two noblemen to refer to each other.

Duke Vincentio then greeted Escalus, “Our old and faithful friend, we are glad to see you.”

Angelo and Escalus replied together, “May your return bring happiness to your royal grace!”

“I give many and hearty thanks to you both. We have made inquiry about you; and we hear such good things about your justice that I must give you public thanks now, with further reward to follow later.”

“You make my obligations to you still greater,” Angelo said.

Duke Vincentio replied, “Oh, your desert speaks loudly; and I would wrong it if I were to lock it secretly away in my heart. Your merit deserves to be emblazoned in letters made of brass — a fortified residence against the tooth of time that devours everything and against the erasure that oblivion makes. Your good deeds and justice ought to be remembered. Give me your hand, and let my subjects see me grasping your hand. That way they will know that these outward courtesies would like to proclaim favors that are hidden within my heart.”

Duke Vincentio then said, “Come, Escalus, you must walk by us on our other side.”

He added, “You two are good supporters.”

Friar Peter and Isabella then came forward.

Friar Peter said to Isabella, “Now is the right time: Speak loudly and kneel before Duke Vincentio.”

“I ask for justice, royal Duke!” Isabella shouted. “Look down upon a wronged — I would like to have said a virgin! Oh, worthy Prince, do not dishonor your eyes by looking at any other object until you have heard me make my true complaint and you have given me justice, justice, justice, justice!”

Duke Vincentio said, “Tell me your wrongs. In what have you been wronged? By whom have you been wronged? Be brief. Here is Lord Angelo, who shall give you justice. Reveal your complaint to him.”

“Oh, worthy Duke Vincentio,” Isabella said. “You ask me to seek redemption from the Devil. Hear me yourself because that which I must speak about must either punish me, if I am not believed, or wring redress from you. Hear me! Oh, hear me, here and now!”

“My lord, her wits, I fear, are not firm,” Angelo said. “She is mentally unbalanced. She has pleaded to me for her brother’s life, which was cut short by course of justice —”

“By course of justice!” Isabella, outraged, shouted.

“— and she will speak most bitterly and strangely against me,” Angelo finished.

“Most strangely, but yet most truly, will I speak,” Isabella said. “Angelo is guilty of perjury; is it not strange? Angelo is a murderer; is it not strange? Angelo is an adulterous thief, a hypocrite, a virgin-violator; are not these things strange?”

“These things are ten times strange,” Duke Vincentio replied.

“It is not truer that he is Angelo than that this is all as true as it is strange. In fact, it is ten times true; for truth is truth to the ultimate degree.”

“Take her away!” Duke Vincentio said. “Poor soul, she is saying these things because she is insane.”

“Oh, Prince, I beg you, as you believe that there is another comfort than this world — a life after death — please do not neglect and ignore what I say because you believe that I am insane! Do not consider impossible that which only seems to be unlikely. It is not impossible that someone, the wickedest villain on Earth, may seem to be as cautious, as grave, as just, as perfect as Angelo. Likewise, Angelo, in all his robes of office, his insignia, his titles, and his ceremonies, may be an arch-villain. Believe it, royal Prince. If he is less evil than I say he is, he is nothing, but he is more evil than I say he is — I lack more words to describe his evilness.”

Duke Vincentio said, “By my honesty, if she is mad — as I believe to be a fact — her madness has the most remarkable coherence of meaning, such a remarkable relationship and connection between one thing and another thing. This is the best logical thinking that I have heard come from an insane person.”

“Oh, gracious Duke,” Isabella said. “Do not insist that I am insane, and do not banish rational arguments because they do not agree with what most people think about Angelo. Instead, let your reason serve to make the truth appear from where it is hidden, and hide the falsehood that seems to be true.”

“Many who are not mad have, surely, a greater lack of reason,” Duke Vincentio said. “What do you want to say to me?”

“I am the sister of a man named Claudio,” Isabella said. “Because of his act of fornication, he was condemned by Angelo to lose his head. My brother sent me, a novice in a sisterhood, to Angelo. A man named Lucio was my brother’s messenger to me —”

Lucio interrupted, “That’s me, if it may please your grace. I came to her from Claudio, and I urged her to try her gracious fortune with Lord Angelo to attempt to gain her poor brother’s pardon.”

“He is the man indeed,” Isabella said.

“You were not told to speak,” Duke Vincentio said to Lucio.

“No, my good lord,” Lucio replied, “nor was I told to stay silent.”

“I tell you now to stay silent,” Duke Vincentio said. “Please, take note of it, and when you have a matter that concerns you, then pray to Heaven that you know your part well.”

“I warrant your honor that I will,” Lucio said.

By “warrant,” Lucio meant “guarantee.”

“If I so order it, the warrant will be for yourself; take heed and be careful,” Duke Vincentio said.

By “warrant,” Duke Vincentio meant “an order to arrest someone.”

Isabella said, “This gentleman told part of my tale —”

Again, Lucio interrupted, “Right.”

Duke Vincentio said, “It may be right, but you are in the wrong when you speak before your time.”

He said to Isabella, “Proceed.”

“I went to this pernicious and contemptible deputy named Angelo —”

“That’s somewhat madly spoken,” Duke Vincentio said.

“Pardon my language,” Isabella said. “The words are appropriate and relevant to the subject matter.”

“The apparent madness of speech has been amended again,” Duke Vincentio said. “Come to the point. Proceed.”

“In brief, setting aside the parts I need not tell, such as how I tried to persuade him, how I prayed to him and kneeled to him, how he denied my request, and how I replied — for all of this took much time — I now begin with grief and shame to tell you the vile conclusion. He would not, except but by gift of my chaste and virgin body to his lascivious and intemperate lust, release my brother; and, after much thought, my sisterly compassion overcame my honor, and I yielded my body to him, but early the next morning, his sexual desire having been satisfied, he sent an order to have my brother beheaded.”

“This is very believable!” Duke Vincentio said sarcastically.

“I wish that it were as believable as it is true!” Isabella replied.

“By Heaven, foolish wretch, you do not know what you are saying, or else you have been induced to give false witness in a hateful conspiracy against Angelo’s honor,” Duke Vincentio said. “First, his integrity stands without blemish. Next, it is not rational that with such vehemence he should punish faults that he has himself committed. If he had so offended, he would have judged your brother the way he judges himself and would not have had him killed. Someone has made you do this. Confess the truth, and say by whose advice you came to lodge a complaint against Angelo.”

“And is this all the justice I will get?” Isabella said. “Then, you blessed guardian angels above, help me to be patient, and at the right time reveal the evil that is here hidden behind the perpetrator’s position and privilege. May Heaven shield your grace from woe, as I, thus wronged, hence unbelieved go!”

“I know you would like to go,” Duke Vincentio said. “An officer! To prison with her! Shall we thus permit an infectious and scandalous breath to fall on Angelo, who is so near and dear to us? This must be a plot. Who knew of your purpose and your coming hither?”

“One whom I wish were here: Friar Lodowick,” Isabella replied.

Friar Lodowick was the name that Duke Vincentio used when he was disguised as a friar.

“A ghostly father, probably,” Duke Vincentio said. “Who knows this Lodowick?”

The word “ghostly” was ambiguous. It could mean spiritual — or nonexistent.

“My lord, I know him,” Lucio replied. “He is a meddling friar; I do not like the man. If he had been a layman, my lord, I would have beaten him soundly because of certain words that he spoke against your grace while you were away from Vienna.”

“Words against me?” Duke Vincentio said. “He is a ‘good’ friar, it seems! And he set on this wretched woman here against Angelo, our deputy! Let this friar be found.”

“Only yesterday at night, my lord, I saw her and that friar at the prison. He is a saucy friar, a very impudent and bad fellow.”

Friar Peter spoke up and addressed Duke Vincentio: “Blessed be your royal grace! I have stood by, my lord, and I have heard your royal ear abused with lies. First, this woman — Isabella — has very wrongfully accused your deputy, Angelo, who is as free from sexual contact or soil with her as she is free from sexual contact or soil with someone who has not yet been born.”

“We believe no less than that,” Duke Vincentio said. “Do you know that Friar Lodowick whom she speaks of?”

“I know him to be a man who is divine and holy; he is not scurvy, and he is not a meddler in temporal affairs as this gentleman reported him to be. And, I very definitely know, he is a man who has never said bad things about your grace, as this gentleman reported.”

“My lord, Friar Lodowick said the most villainous things about you; believe it,” Lucio said.

“Well, Friar Lodowick in time may come to clear himself,” Friar Peter said, “but right now he is sick, my lord, of a strange fever. Upon his request, and his request only, because he knew that there would be a complaint made against Lord Angelo, I came here so that I could speak, as if from his mouth, what he knows to be true and what he knows to be false, and what he with his oath and all proofs will make completely clear, whenever he’s summoned to appear before you. First, however, let’s address the charge made by this woman named Isabella. This worthy nobleman Angelo, whom she so publicly and personally accused, shall be defended. You shall hear what she said disproved in her presence, and she herself shall admit that what she said was untrue.”

“Good friar, let’s hear the evidence,” Duke Vincentio said.

Mariana, still veiled, stepped forward, as an officer took Isabella to the side.

Duke Vincentio said, “Do you not smile at this, Lord Angelo? Oh, Heaven, the vanity of wretched fools!”

He ordered some attendants, “Give us some seats.”

He then said, “Cousin Angelo, in this I’ll be impartial. I’ll let you be the judge in your own case.”

He then said, “Is this the witness, Friar Peter? First, let her show her face, and afterward speak.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Mariana said. “I will not show my face until my husband asks me to.”

“What, are you married?” Duke Vincentio asked.

“No, my lord.”

“Are you a virgin?”

“No, my lord.”

“A widow, then?”

“Not that, either, my lord.”

“Why, you are nothing then: not a virgin, not a widow, and not a wife.”

“My lord, she may be a punk,” Lucio said, “for many of them are not a maiden, widow, or wife.”

“Punk” was a slang word for “prostitute.”

“Silence that fellow,” Duke Vincentio said. “I wish he had some cause to prattle for himself. He would have cause if he were on trial.”

“True, my lord,” Lucio said.

“My lord,” Mariana said, “I do confess I never was married, and I confess besides that I am no virgin. I have known in the Biblical sense my husband, and yet my husband does not know that he has ever known me.”

“He was drunk then, my lord,” Lucio said. “It can be nothing else.”

“For the benefit of silence, I wish that you were sleeping off a drunk, too!”

“That would keep me quiet, my lord,” Lucio said.

“This is no witness for Lord Angelo,” Duke Vincentio said. “She has said nothing about him.”

“Now I come to the point, my lord,” Mariana said. “Isabella, the woman who accuses Angelo of fornication, also in exactly the same way accuses my husband, and charges him, my lord, with committing fornication at such a time that I will swear I had him in my arms as he and I made love.”

Angelo asked, “Does Isabella accuse more men than me of committing fornication with her?”

“Not that I know of,” Mariana replied.

“No?” Duke Vincentio said. “You say that she accused your husband.”

“Why, that is true, my lord, and my husband is Angelo, who thinks he knows that he never knew my body, but who knows he thinks that he knows Isabella’s body.”

“This is a strange charge,” Angelo said. “Let’s see your face.”

Mariana replied, “My husband tells me to show my face; now I will take off my veil.”

She took off her veil and then said, “This is that face, cruel Angelo, that once you swore was worth looking at. This is the hand that, with a vowed contract, was fast locked in yours. This is the body that took away the assignation from Isabella, and this is the body that sexually satisfied you in your garden house. You thought that you were sleeping with Isabella, but you were actually sleeping with me.”

“Do you know this woman?” Duke Vincentio asked Angelo.

“Carnally, she says,” Lucio said.

“Shut up!” Duke Vincentio ordered.

“I have said enough, my lord,” Lucio replied.

“My lord, I must confess that I know this woman,” Angelo said. “Five years ago she and I talked about marriage, but the engagement was broken off, in part because the dowry that was promised was not supplied, but mainly because her reputation was ruined because of her lack of chastity — she had light heels, as they said. Since five years ago, I swear upon my faith and honor that I have not spoken to her, seen her, or heard from her.”

“Noble Prince,” Mariana said, “as there comes light from Heaven and words from breath, as there is sense in truth and truth in virtue, I am affianced this man’s wife as strongly as words could make up vows. In addition, my good lord, just last Tuesday night in his garden house he knew me in the Biblical sense as a wife.”

The pre-marriage contract between Angelo and Mariana was one that could be broken if the dowry was not paid as agreed, or if the woman was unchaste; however, if the man and woman had sexual relations together, then the two were legally obliged to get married.

Mariana continued: “Since these things are true, let me with safety rise up from my knees or else forever be fixed here — a marble monument!”

Angelo said, “I have until now only smiled contemptuously, but now, my good lord, I ask that you give me the scope and power of justice. My patience here is wounded and irritated. I see that these poor strangely behaving women are no more than the instruments of some mightier member of a conspiracy that sets them on to make these charges against me. Let me have the power, my lord, to uncover this conspiracy.”

“Yes, with all my heart,” Duke Vincentio said. “Punish them as you please. You foolish friar and you pernicious woman, who are in a plot with Isabella, do you think that your oaths, even if you would swear on each and every saint, would be believable testimonies against Angelo’s worth and credit that are ratified by proof?

“You, Lord Escalus, sit with Angelo; lend him your kind help to find out this abusive plot and its source. There is another friar — Friar Lodowick — who made these women make their complaint against Angelo. Let him be sent for.”

“I wish that he were here, my lord!” Friar Peter said, “because he indeed had these women make this complaint. Your Provost knows the place where Friar Lodowick lives, and he can fetch him.”

“Go do it immediately,” Duke Vincentio ordered.

The Provost exited.

Duke Vincentio said, “And you, my noble and well-warranted cousin Angelo, whom it most concerns to hear this matter, do to those who injure you as seems to you best. Give them whatever chastisement you wish. I will leave you for a while. Do not leave until you have well determined how you will treat these slanderers.”

Escalus said, “My lord, we’ll do our job as judges thoroughly.”

Duke Vincentio exited.

Escalus asked, “Signior Lucio, didn’t you say that you knew that Friar Lodowick is a dishonest person?”

Lucio replied, “Cucullus non facit monachum,” which is Latin for “The cowl does not make the monk.”

He added, “Friar Lodowick is honest in nothing except in his clothes; he has spoken the most villainous speeches about Duke Vincentio.”

“We shall ask you to stay here until he comes so that you can make these charges against him,” Escalus said. “This friar seems to be a notoriously bad fellow.”

“As any in Vienna, I swear,” Lucio said.

“Bring Isabella here again,” Escalus said. “I want to speak with her.”

An attendant left to get Isabella.

Escalus said to Angelo, “Please, my lord, allow me to question her; you shall see how I’ll handle her.”

Escalus meant that he would handle her by asking her questions that would reveal the truth, but Lucio pretended to take “handle” in a different — physical — sense.

Lucio said, “You will handle her no better than Angelo, by her own report.”

“What did you say?” Escalus asked. “What do you mean?”

“Sir, I think, if you handled her privately, she would sooner confess. Perhaps, if you handle her publicly, she’ll be ashamed.”

“I will go darkly to work on her,” Escalus said.

He meant that the questions would be cunningly designed to trap her and force her to tell the truth. Lucio pretended that “darkly” meant “secretly” and “in the dark.”

Lucio said, “That’s the way; for women are light at midnight.”

The word “light” meant unchaste. Light heels were raised in the air in a position for having sex.

Isabella returned, escorted by officers.

“Come here, Mistress Isabella,” Escalus said. “Here is a gentlewoman who denies everything that you have said.”

The Provost returned, accompanied by Duke Vincentio, who was once again disguised as a friar: Friar Lodowick.

Lucio said, “My lord, here comes the rascal friar I spoke about, escorted by the Provost.”

“He arrives at a very good time,” Escalus said. “Do not speak to him until we ask you to.”

“I am mum,” Lucio replied.

Escalus said to the disguised Duke Vincentio, “Come, sir, did you set these women on to slander Lord Angelo? They have confessed you did.”

“It is false.”

“What! Do you know where you are?”

“I give respect to your great position in society,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said, adding, “Let the Devil sometimes be honored for his burning throne. Normally, we would not honor the Devil, but he has a great position in Hell so sometimes we ought to honor him because of his great position. Where is the Duke? He is the person who should hear me speak.”

“The authority of the Duke is invested in us,” Escalus said, “and we will hear you speak. Be sure that you speak justly and truly.”

“Boldly, at least,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said. “But, poor souls, have you come here to ask the fox to give you the sheep? You may say goodbye to your redress — your remedy for a wrong! You will not be able to set things right by acting like this. Is the Duke gone? Then your cause — justice — has been lost, too. The Duke is unjust when he rejects your obviously just appeal — you, Escalus, want justice — and he instead allows the villain whom here you have come to accuse to do the judging in this trial.”

Duke Vincentio, while still in disguise, was pointing out that with Angelo acting as judge, justice would not be the result, although Escalus was sincerely attempting to find out the truth and be just. In this particular case, Angelo should be the accused, not the judge.

Lucio said, “This is the rascal; this is the man I spoke of.”

“Why, you unreverend and unhallowed friar,” Escalus said, “is it not enough that you have suborned these women to falsely accuse this worthy man, Angelo, but with a foul mouth and in his hearing, you call him a villain? And then you turn from him to Duke Vincentio himself and accuse the Duke of injustice?”

He ordered some officers, “Take him away; to the rack with him!”

He looked at the disguised Duke Vincentio and said, “We’ll stretch you joint by joint,” and then he added so that everyone could hear, “and we will know his purpose.”

In a disgusted voice, he said to the disguised Duke Vincentio, “What! You call Duke Vincentio unjust!”

The disguised Duke Vincentio said, “Don’t be so angry. The Duke will not dare to stretch this finger of mine any more than he would dare to rack his own finger. I am not his subject, and I am not subject to the local ecclesiastical jurisdiction. My business in this state has made me an observer here in Vienna, where I have seen corruption boil and bubble until it over-ran the stew pots. You have laws for all faults, but the faults are so ignored and covered up that the strong laws are like the rules posted in a barbershop: They are as much mocked as they are respected.”

Barbershops often posted rules on their walls. For example, if someone misbehaved, the punishment might be the pulling of a tooth. The punishments were meant to provoke laughter — no one dealt them out.

“You have slandered the state!” an outraged Escalus said. “Take him to prison!”

“What can you testify against him, Signior Lucio?” Angelo asked. “Is this the man whom you told us about?”

“He is the man, my lord,” Lucio said. “Come here, goodman baldpate. Do you know me?”

Lucio called the disguised Duke Vincentio “baldpate” because friars shaved their heads. Duke Vincentio wore a cowl, aka hood, as part of his disguise, and while he was in disguise he kept the hood up to help hide his face.

“I remember you, sir, by the sound of your voice,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said.

The hood kept people from seeing the disguised Duke Vincentio’s face, but it also interfered with the Duke’s seeing other people’s faces.

The disguised Duke Vincentio continued, “I met you at the prison, while the Duke was absent.”

“Oh, did you?” Lucio said. “And do you remember what you said about the Duke?”

“Very definitely, sir.”

“Do you, sir?” Lucio asked. “And do you remember calling the Duke a fleshmonger, a fool, and a coward?”

“You must, sir, change places with me, before you make that my report,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said. “You, indeed, called him those things, and others very much worse.”

“Oh, you damnable fellow!” Lucio, an inveterate liar, said. “Didn’t I grab you by the nose because of what you said?”

“I say that I love the Duke as I love myself,” the disguised Duke Vincentio said.

“Listen to what the villain is saying now, after having said his treasonable abuses!” Angelo said.

“We need not talk any longer to him,” Escalus said. “Take him to prison! Where is the Provost? Take this friar to prison! Put plenty of fetters on him. Let him speak no more. Take these giglots — these loose women — away, too, and take away the other confederate companion: Friar Peter!”

The disguised Duke Vincentio said to the Provost, “Wait, sir. Wait a while.”

Angelo said, “What! Is he resisting arrest? Help arrest him, Lucio.”

“Come, sir; come, sir; come, sir,” Lucio said. “Damn, sir! Why, you baldpated, lying rascal, you think that you must be hooded, must you? Show us your knave’s visage, with a pox on you! Show us your sheep-biting face, and be hanged for an hour! I bet that your hood will come off!”

Lucio pulled down Friar Lodowick’s hood, and everyone recognized Duke Vincentio, who said to Lucio, “You are the first knave who ever made a Duke.”

Normally, when someone is made a Duke, a member of royalty performs the ceremony, but Lucio, a knave, had made a friar a Duke.

Duke Vincentio said, “First, Provost, let me bail out these gentle three. Isabella, Mariana, and Friar Peter are all innocent.”

Lucio attempted to stealthily leave, but Duke Vincentio said to him, “Sneak not away, sir, because Friar Lodowick and you must have a word soon. Lay hold of him and keep him here.”

Lucio said, “This may prove worse to me than hanging.”

Duke Vincentio said to Escalus, “What you have spoken to me, I pardon. Sit down. I will take Angelo’s chair.”

He then said to Angelo, “Sir, by your leave.”

Angelo stood up, and the Duke sat down.

Duke Vincentio said to Angelo, “Do you have any words, or intelligence, or impudence, that can still do you service? What kind of defense can you make of your actions? If you can make a defense, rely upon it until I tell my story, and then realize that you can make no defense. At that time, confess.”

“Oh, my dread lord,” Angelo said. “I would be guiltier than my guiltiness if I were to think I can hide my crimes when I perceive that your grace, like power divine, has looked upon them. Therefore, good Prince, no longer let a trial be held and expose my shame. Instead, let my trial be my own confession. All I beg from your grace now is immediate sentencing and death.”

Duke Vincentio said, “Come here, Mariana.”

He asked Angelo, “Tell me, were you ever contracted to marry this woman?”

“I was, my lord.”

“Go and take her away from here, and marry her immediately,” Duke Vincentio said. “Friar Peter, you perform the marriage. Once these two are married, bring Angelo back here again. Go with him, Provost.”

Angelo, Mariana, Friar Peter, and the Provost exited.

Escalus said, “My lord, I am more amazed at Angelo’s dishonor than at the strangeness of it. I did not think that he was capable of such sin.”

“Come here, Isabella,” Duke Vincentio said. “Your friar is now your Prince. As a friar, I was attentive and devoted to you, and I did my best to help you. I have changed from friar to Duke, but I have not changed my heart. I am still attentive and devoted to you, and I will do my best to help you.”

“Give me pardon,” Isabella said. “I, your vassal, have caused you pain and trouble.”

“You are pardoned, Isabella,” Duke Vincentio said. “And now, dear maiden, please be as generous to us. Your brother’s death, I know, sits at your heart, and you may wonder why I kept my identity and power hidden as I worked to save his life, instead of simply revealing my identity and power. Because I kept them hidden, your brother was lost.”

Of course, Duke Vincentio was lying. Soon he would reveal that Claudio, Isabella’s brother, was still alive. By concealing that fact now, he would make Isabella’s future happiness greater when she learned that her brother was still alive. In addition, and more importantly, he wanted Angelo to know the enormity of his sin.

Duke Vincentio continued: “Oh, most kind maiden, his death occurred too quickly. I did not think that he would be executed with such swift celerity. It knocked my plan in the head and ruined it. But may peace be with him! A life is a better life when it need not fear death. A life that lives but fears death is not as good. Your brother is enjoying Heaven and will never again die. Let this be your comfort: Your brother is happy in Heaven.”

“I am comforted by that, my lord,” Isabella replied.

Angelo, Mariana, Friar Peter, and the Provost returned. Angelo and Mariana were now married.

Duke Vincentio said to Isabella, “For Mariana’s sake, you must pardon this newly married man who is approaching here, whose lecherous imagination wronged your well-defended honor. He violated you in his imagination although not in reality. But he condemned your brother to death. This made him guilty of two things: violation of sacred chastity, and violation and breach of his promise to set your brother free. By breaching his promise to set your brother free, he became guilty of taking the life of your brother. Because of that crime, the very mercy of the law cries out very audibly, even from Angelo’s own tongue, ‘An Angelo for a Claudio, a death for a death! Haste always repays haste, and leisure answers leisure. Like requites like, and MEASURE always FOR MEASURE.’”

Duke Vincentio was remembering Exodus 21:23-25: “But if death follow, then thou shalt pay life for life. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

He was correct when he said that “the very mercy of the law cries out very audibly, even from Angelo’s own tongue, ‘An Angelo for a Claudio, a death for a death!’”

Earlier, Angelo had said this to Isabella: “I show pity most of all when I show justice because when I show justice I pity those whom I do not know, people whom an unpunished offence would afterwards gall and harm. A criminal who is not punished will commit the same crime again. I also show pity and do right to an offender who, because he is punished for committing one foul wrong, does not live to commit another foul wrong. Be satisfied and restrain yourself. Your brother dies tomorrow. Reconcile yourself to his death.”

Duke Vincentio continued: “Angelo, your guilt is evident, and even if you were to ask for mercy, your guilt would still require that you die. We condemn you to go to the very block where Claudio stooped to be beheaded, and with similar haste.”

He ordered, “Take Angelo away to be beheaded!”

Mariana said, “Oh, my most gracious lord, I hope you will not mock me by giving me a husband and immediately taking him away from me.”

“It is your husband who mocked you with a husband,” Duke Vincentio said. “I want to safeguard your honor, and so I thought it fit that you marry Angelo. Otherwise, the news that he has had sex with you might give you a bad reputation and hurt your future life.

“As for his possessions, although they are forfeited to the state because Angelo is a felon, we give them to you along with all widow’s rights. Buy yourself a better husband.”

“My dear lord,” Mariana replied. “I crave no other man, and I crave no better man, than Angelo.”

“Do not crave him,” Duke Vincentio said. “We have made up our mind that he shall die.”

“My gentle liege —” Mariana began, kneeling.

Duke Vincentio interrupted, “You are wasting your words.”

He ordered again, “Take Angelo away so that he may die!”

He then said to Lucio, “Now, sir, I turn my attention to you.”

“My good lord!” Mariana said.

She then said, “Sweet Isabella, take my part. Lend me your knees, and all my life to come I’ll lend you all my life to do you service.”

“You are asking Isabella to do something that goes against all sense and reason,” Duke Vincentio said. “If she were to kneel down and beg mercy for Angelo, her brother’s ghost would break out of the stone of his tomb and take her away in horror of her actions.”

“Isabella, sweet Isabella,” Mariana begged, “please kneel by me. Hold up your hands, say nothing. I’ll speak all that needs to be said. People say that the best men are molded out of faults; their sins keep them from being proud of their virtues. For this reason, and for the most part, they become much better as a result of being a little bad. My husband may also become better as a result of his faults. Oh, Isabella, will you not lend a knee?”

Duke Vincentio said to Isabella, “Angelo dies because he caused Claudio’s death.”

Isabella remembered the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-39: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” New Testament justice is often tempered by mercy.

She said, “Most bounteous sir,” and then she knelt.

She continued: “If it please you, look on Angelo, who is condemned by you to die, as if my brother had lived. I in part think that a due sincerity governed Angelo’s deeds, until he looked at me and was tempted to sin. Since that is the case, let Angelo not die. My brother received only justice, in that he did the thing for which he died. My brother committed fornication, and he was sentenced to die because he was guilty of fornication.

“As for Angelo, his act did not overtake his bad intent. He wanted to commit fornication with me, but he did not. Because of that, his fault must be buried as being only an intention that perished by the way and did not become reality. Thoughts are not subjects of yours; intentions are merely thoughts. They are not real, existing deeds.”

“She is right, my lord,” Mariana said.

“Your suit’s unprofitable,” Duke Vincentio said. “Angelo shall die. Stand up, I say.”

He added, “I have thought of another fault. Provost, how did it come to be that Claudio was beheaded at such an unusual hour?”

“It was so commanded,” the Provost replied.

“Did you receive a special legal warrant for the deed?”

“No, my good lord; I received a private message,” the Provost replied.

“For which I do discharge you of your office,” Duke Vincentio said. “Give up your keys.”

“Pardon me, noble lord,” the Provost said. “I thought it was a fault, but I did not know for sure. I repented the death of Claudio, after more thought. Evidence for what I say can be found in the prison, where a prisoner, whom I was ordered to execute by a private message, is still alive.”

“Who is he?” Duke Vincentio asked.

“His name is Barnardine.”

“I wish that you had done the same for Claudio what you did for Barnardine. Go and fetch him and bring him here; let me see him.”

The Provost exited.

Escalus said, “I am sorry that one as learned and as wise as you have always appeared to be, Lord Angelo, should slip so grossly, both in the heat of passion and in a lack of tempered judgment afterward.”

“I am sorry that I have caused such sorrow,” Angelo replied, “So deeply does my sorrow stick in my penitent heart that I crave death more than I crave mercy. I deserve death, and I beg for death.”

The Provost returned, bringing with him Barnardine, Claudio, and Juliet. Claudio’s face was muffled and hidden by his clothing.

“Which one is Barnardine?” Duke Vincentio asked.

The Provost replied, “This is he, my lord,” while indicating Barnardine.

“A friar told me about this man,” Duke Vincentio said.

Addressing Barnardine, he added, “You are said to have a stubborn soul that sees no further than this world, and you act accordingly. You have been condemned to die; however, I pardon all your Earthly crimes, and I pray that you will respond to this mercy by taking action to gain better times to come, both in this life and in the next.

“Friar Peter, give him spiritual counsel. I leave him in your hands.”

Duke Vincentio then asked, “Who is that muffled fellow?”

“This is another prisoner whom I saved,” the Provost replied. “He should have died when Claudio lost his head; he greatly resembles Claudio.”

The Provost unmuffled Claudio, revealing his face.

Isabella and Mariana stood up, Isabella ran over to Claudio, and they rejoiced.

Duke Vincentio, who knew that this was really Claudio, said, “If he resembles your brother, I pardon him for your brother’s sake, and, as for your own lovely sake, give me your hand and say that you will marry me and be mine. He is my brother, too — but there will be a fitter time for us to talk about this marriage proposal.

“Because of this strange appearance of the living Claudio, Lord Angelo perceives he’s safe; he knows that he will not be beheaded. I think I see a quickening in his eye.

“Well, Angelo, your evil requites you well: You have a wife. Look that you love your wife; her worth is fully worth yours.

“I find in myself an inclination to pardon people, and yet here’s one person whom I cannot pardon.”

He said to Lucio, “You have said that you knew me to be a fool, a coward, a lecher, an ass, a madman. What have I done to you that makes you call me such names?”

“Truly, my lord,” Lucio said. “It was all a joke. That’s just how I talk. I said those things on the spur of the moment, without thinking. I know that you can have me hanged for saying such things, but I prefer a lesser punishment, if it pleases you: Have me whipped, not hanged.”

“You shall be whipped first, sir, and hanged afterward,” Duke Vincentio said.

He added, “Provost, proclaim around about the city that if any woman has been wronged by this lewd fellow — I myself have heard him swear that he got a woman pregnant — let her appear, and he shall marry her. Once the two have been married, then he shall be whipped and hanged.”

“I beg your Highness,” Lucio said, “do not marry me to a whore. Your Highness said even now that I made you a Duke. My good lord, do not repay me by making me a cuckold.”

“Upon my honor, you shall marry her,” Duke Vincentio replied. “However, I pardon your slanders, and therefore you shall not be whipped and hanged — but you shall be married. Take him to prison, and make sure that he is married.”

“Marrying a punk — a prostitute — my lord, is very much like being pressed to death, whipping, and hanging,” Lucio said.

When a man is pressed to death, he lies on his back on a sharp rock, and heavy weights are placed on a board on his chest. More and more weights are added until the man dies.

“Anyone who slanders a Prince deserves such punishment,” Duke Vincentio said.

Some officers took Lucio away to prison.

Duke Vincentio spoke to many people in turn:

“Claudio, make sure that you marry and restore the honor of Juliet, whom you wronged.

“May you have joy, Mariana!

“Love Mariana, Angelo. I have been her confessor, and I know that she is virtuous.

“Thank you, good friend Escalus, for your great goodness. There’s more to come. You shall be rewarded with more than mere words.

“Thank you, Provost, for your care and secrecy: You have played your role well. We shall employ you in a worthier place: You shall be promoted.

“Forgive the Provost, Angelo, who brought you the head of Ragozine instead of Claudio’s, but this is an offence that pardons itself.

“Dear Isabella, I have a proposal that much concerns your future happiness. If you say yes to my proposal of marriage, what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.”

Using the royal plural, Duke Vincentio then said to everyone, “So, let us all go to our palace; there we’ll tell you some things to come that it is fitting that you know.”

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