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Measure for Measure

William Shakespeare

Act 3 Scene 1

page Act 3 Scene 1 Page 1

Original Text

Modern Text

A room in the prison.
A room in the prison.
Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before, CLAUDIO, and Provost
DUKE VINCENTIO, disguised as before, enters with CLAUDIO and the Provost.


So then you hope of pardon from Lord Angelo?


So, you hope for a pardon from Lord Angelo?


The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope:
I’ve hope to live, and am prepared to die.


Hope is the only medicine miserable people have. I hope to live, and am prepared to die.


5Be absolute for death; either death or life
Shall thereby be the sweeter. Reason thus with life:
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art,
Servile to all the skyey influences,
10That dost this habitation, where thou keep’st,
Hourly afflict: merely, thou art death’s fool;
For him thou labour’st by thy flight to shun
And yet runn’st toward him still. Thou art not noble;
For all the accommodations that thou bear’st
15Are nursed by baseness. Thou’rt by no means valiant;
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
Of a poor worm. Thy best of rest is sleep,
And that thou oft provokest; yet grossly fear’st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself;
20For thou exist’st on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou strivest to get,
And what thou hast, forget’st. Thou art not certain;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,
25After the moon. If thou art rich, thou’rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear’s thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none;
For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,
30The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,
For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth nor age,
But, as it were, an after-dinner’s sleep,
Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth
35Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich,
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,
To make thy riches pleasant. What’s yet in this
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
40Lie hid moe thousand deaths: yet death we fear,
That makes these odds all even.


Be ready to die; then either death or life will be all the sweeter. Tell life this: if I lose you, I lose something that only fools would want to keep. You’re just a breath, subject to all the changes of weather that hourly buffet the body you occupy. You’re simply death’s dupe, constantly struggling to run away from him, while all the while you’re running toward him. You’re not noble, because all your civilized comforts come from lowly plants and animals. You’re by no means brave, because the forked tongue of a little snake scares you. Sleep is your best way to rest, and you do that a lot, yet you stupidly fear death, which is basically the same thing. You’re not a single being, because you’re composed of thousands of grains of dust. You’re not happy, because you’re always trying to get what you don’t have, and what you do have, you forget about. You’re unstable, your moods changing as often as the phases of the moon. If you’re rich, you’re actually poor—like an ass staggering under a load of gold bars, you’re just carrying your heavy wealth for a period, and you lose that wealth when you die. You don’t have any friends, for even your children—the offspring of your own loins—curse the gout, skin rashes, and colds for not carrying you off sooner. You’re neither old or young, but always suspended in a sort of mid-afternoon nap, because when young, you’re like an old beggar, wheedling money from your feeble elders. And when you’re old and rich yourself, you have neither the passion, love, agility, or beauty to enjoy your wealth. So, what in all this is worth living for? Life hides more than a thousand deaths. Yet it’s death, which fixes all these problems, that we fear.

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