Measure for Measure

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 5 Scene 1

page Act 5 Scene 1 Page 14

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DUKE VINCENTIO

Respect to your great place! and let the devil
315Be sometime honour’d for his burning throne!
Where is the duke? ’tis he should hear me speak.

DUKE VINCENTIO

All due respect to your great office—even the devil gets some respect for being the king of Hell. Where’s the duke? He’s the one who should hear me speak.

ESCALUS

The duke’s in us; and we will hear you speak:
Look you speak justly.

ESCALUS

We represent the duke, and we will hear you speak.
See that you speak honestly.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Boldly, at least. But, O, poor souls,
320Come you to seek the lamb here of the fox?
Good night to your redress! Is the duke gone?
Then is your cause gone too. The duke’s unjust,
Thus to retort your manifest appeal,
And put your trial in the villain’s mouth
325Which here you come to accuse.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Boldly, at least. But, oh, you poor souls, did you come to find your lambs in the fox’s den? Say goodnight to any justice, then. Is the duke gone? Then your case is gone too. The duke’s unjust, rejecting your accusation and turning your case over to the very villain you came here
to accuse.

LUCIO

This is the rascal; this is he I spoke of.

LUCIO

This is the rascal I was talking about.

ESCALUS

Why, thou unreverend and unhallow’d friar,
Is’t not enough thou hast suborn’d these women
To accuse this worthy man, but, in foul mouth
330And in the witness of his proper ear,
To call him villain? and then to glance from him
To the duke himself, to tax him with injustice?
Take him hence; to the rack with him! We’ll touse you
Joint by joint, but we will know his purpose.
335What ‘unjust’?

ESCALUS

Why, you disrespectful and unholy friar, it’s not enough that you’ve enlisted these women to accuse this worthy man, but with your foul mouth you call him a villain within his earshot? And then to shift your attack from him to the duke himself, to accuse the duke of being unjust? Take him away, to the rack with him! We’ll tear you limb from limb, until we discover your motive. To call the duke “unjust”!

DUKE VINCENTIO

Be not so hot; the duke
Dare no more stretch this finger of mine than he
Dare rack his own: his subject am I not,
Nor here provincial. My business in this state
340Made me a looker on here in Vienna,
Where I have seen corruption boil and bubble
Till it o’er-run the stew; laws for all faults,
But faults so countenanced, that the strong statutes
Stand like the forfeits in a barber’s shop,
345As much in mock as mark.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Don’t get so excited. The duke doesn’t dare to hurt my little finger any more than he’d torture his own. I’m not his subject, or a native of this province. My business in this state has made me an on-looker here in Vienna, where I’ve seen corruption boil and bubble until it overflows out of the brothels. You’ve got laws for all the crimes, but the crimes are so tolerated that the strong statutes are like those

joke lists of “house rules” in stores

Elizabethan barbers posted mock lists of penalties for customers behaving badly in the shop

joke lists of “house rules” in stores
—people look at them just to laugh.

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