Measure for Measure

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 2 Scene 4

page Act 2 Scene 4 Page 8

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ANGELO

Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i’ the state,
170Will so your accusation overweigh,
That you shall stifle in your own report
And smell of calumny. I have begun,
And now I give my sensual race the rein:
Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite;
175Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes,
That banish what they sue for; redeem thy brother
By yielding up thy body to my will;
Or else he must not only die the death,
But thy unkindness shall his death draw out
180To lingering sufferance. Answer me to-morrow,
Or, by the affection that now guides me most,
I’ll prove a tyrant to him. As for you,
Say what you can, my false o’erweighs your true.

ANGELO

Who will believe you, Isabel? My spotless reputation, my strict way of living, my testimony against you, and my position will all outweigh your accusation. You’ll be silenced and discredited, accused of slander. The starting gate is open now, and my desires are off and running. Feed my hunger—no more of your modesty and time-wasting blushes, which charm me and then banish me for being charmed. Save your brother by sleeping with me, or he’ll be put to death. And not only that, but it’ll be death by torture, drawn out by your cruelty. Accept my offer tomorrow, or by my almighty passion, I’ll tyrannize him. As for you, say what you want. My lie, which calls your claim false, will outweigh your true claim.
Exit
He exits.

ISABELLA

To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,
185Who would believe me? O perilous mouths,
That bear in them one and the self-same tongue,
Either of condemnation or approof;
Bidding the law make court’sy to their will:
Hooking both right and wrong to the appetite,
190To follow as it draws! I’ll to my brother:
Though he hath fallen by prompture of the blood,
Yet hath he in him such a mind of honour.
That, had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he’ld yield them up,
195Before his sister should her body stoop
To such abhorr’d pollution.
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity.
I’ll tell him yet of Angelo’s request,
200And fit his mind to death, for his soul’s rest.

ISABELLA

Who can I complain to? If I reported this, who would believe me? Oh, dangerous mouths, with double-talking tongues that can both condemn and approve, and make the law bow to their wishes. They put their sexual desires before notions of right and wrong! I’ll go to my brother. Although he gave in to his body’s demands, his mind’s so honorable that, if he had twenty heads to lay on twenty bloody execution blocks, he’d give them all up, rather than let his sister pollute her body. So, Isabel, you’ll live chaste, and brother, you’ll die. My chastity is more important than my brother. I’ll tell him of Angelo’s request, and prepare him for death—and the eternal rest of his soul.

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