Measure for Measure

by: William Shakespeare

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ISABELLA

Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne’er be quiet,
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder;
140Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
145Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.

ISABELLA

If men of power could thunder and wield lightning as the god

Jove

king of the gods in Roman mythology

Jove
himself does, Jove would never have any peace, for every puny, petty official would use his heaven for thunder, nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven, you use your sharp, sulfur-scented lightning bolts to split the hard gnarled oak tree, rather than the soft myrtle bush. But give a proud man a little bit of temporary authority and he forgets what it means to be made in God’s image. Instead, like an angry ape that mimics people’s behavior, he does such incredibly grotesque things before high heaven that the angels, if they were human, would either weep or die laughing.

LUCIO

150[Aside to ISABELLA] O, to him, to him, wench! he
will relent;
He’s coming; I perceive ’t.

LUCIO

(aside to ISABELLA) Oh, keep at him, keep at him, girl! He’s going to relent. He’s coming around, I can tell.

PROVOST

[Aside] Pray heaven she win him!

PROVOST

(to himself) Pray heaven she wins him over!

ISABELLA

We cannot weigh our brother with ourself:
155Great men may jest with saints; ’tis wit in them,
But in the less foul profanation.

ISABELLA

We can’t use ourselves as a standard to judge others. Great men may joke about the saints; that’s good fun. But if an ordinary person does it, it’s profane.

LUCIO

Thou’rt i’ the right, girl; more o, that.

LUCIO

You’re right, girl. Keep talking like that.

ISABELLA

That in the captain’s but a choleric word,
Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.

ISABELLA

When a captain curses, it’s just angry words. When a private does it, it’s blasphemy.