Vienna. A street.
(Lucio; First Gentleman; Second Gentleman; Mistress Overdone; Pompey; Provost; Claudio; Juliet; Officers)
Lucio is talking to two gentlemen, discussing politics and joking. Mistress Overdone, their favorite bawd, approaches. She tells them that Claudio has been arrested and is to be executed for having got Juliet pregnant. The men leave to find out more while mistress Overdone complains about how poor business is getting. Her servant Pompey arrives to inform her that a new proclamation orders that all houses of prostitution in the suburbs of Vienna will be pulled down. The bawd wonders what will become of her, but Pompey consoles her by pointing out that changing houses does not mean she has to change her job. Claudio, on his way to prison, is met by Lucio and the two gentlemen. He explains that he and Juliet were contracted to be married, and simply hadn’t announced it yet for financial reasons, so their sleeping together wasn’t even adultery; but Angelo has revived a forgotten law that sentences him to death. Lucio advises appealing to the Duke, but the latter is nowhere to be found. Claudio’s one hope is that his sister Isabella, who is training to become a nun, will plead for him with Angelo; he asks Lucio to visit Isabella and convince her to do so. (131 lines)
Enter Lucio and two other Gentlemen.
If the Duke with the other dukes come not to composition with the King of Hungary, why then all the dukes fall upon the King.
Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary’s!
Thou conclud’st like the sanctimonious pirate, that went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scrap’d one out of the table.
“Thou shalt not steal”?
Ay, that he raz’d.
Why, ’twas a commandment to command the captain and all the rest from their functions; they put forth to steal. There’s not a soldier of us all, that in the thanksgiving before meat, do relish the petition well that prays for peace.
I never heard any soldier dislike it.
I believe thee; for I think thou never wast where grace was said.
No? A dozen times at least.
What? In metre?
In any proportion, or in any language.
I think, or in any religion.
Ay, why not? Grace is grace, despite of all controversy; as for example, thou thyself art a wicked villain, despite of all grace.
Well; there went but a pair of shears between us.
I grant; as there may between the lists and the velvet. Thou art the list.
And thou the velvet—thou art good velvet; thou’rt a three-pil’d piece, I warrant thee. I had as lief be a list of an English kersey as be pil’d, as thou art pil’d, for a French velvet. Do I speak feelingly now?
I think thou dost; and indeed with most painful feeling of thy speech. I will, out of thine own confession, learn to begin thy health; but, whilst I live, forget to drink after thee.
I think I have done myself wrong, have I not?
Yes, that thou hast; whether thou art tainted or free.
Enter Bawd Mistress Overdone.
Behold, behold, where Madam Mitigation comes!
I have purchas’d as many diseases under her roof as come to—
To what, I pray?
To three thousand dolors a year.
Ay, and more.
A French crown more.
Thou art always figuring diseases in me; but thou art full of error, I am sound.
Nay, not (as one would say) healthy; but so sound as things that are hollow.
Thy bones are hollow; impiety has made a feast of thee.
How now, which of your hips has the most profound sciatica?
Well, well; there’s one yonder arrested and carried to prison was worth five thousand of you all.
Who’s that, I pray thee?
Marry, sir, that’s Claudio, Signior Claudio.
Claudio to prison? ’Tis not so.
Nay, but I know ’tis so. I saw him arrested; saw him carried away; and which is more, within these three days his head to be chopp’d off.
But after all this fooling, I would not have it so. Art thou sure of this?
I am too sure of it; and it is for getting Madam Julietta with child.
Believe me, this may be. He promis’d to meet me two hours since, and he was ever precise in promise-keeping.
Besides, you know, it draws something near to the speech we had to such a purpose.
But most of all agreeing with the proclamation.
Away! Let’s go learn the truth of it.
Exit with Gentlemen.
Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk.
Enter Clown Pompey.
How now? What’s the news with you?
Yonder man is carried to prison.
Well; what has he done?
But what’s his offense?
Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.
What? Is there a maid with child by him?
No; but there’s a woman with maid by him. You have not heard of the proclamation, have you?
What proclamation, man?
All houses in the suburbs of Vienna must be pluck’d down.
And what shall become of those in the city?
They shall stand for seed. They had gone down too, but that a wise burgher put in for them.
But shall all our houses of resort in the suburbs be pull’d down?
To the ground, mistress.
Why, here’s a change indeed in the commonwealth! What shall become of me?
Come; fear not you; good counsellors lack no clients. Though you change your place, you need not change your trade; I’ll be your tapster still. Courage! There will be pity taken on you. You that have worn your eyes almost out in the service, you will be consider’d.
What’s to do here, Thomas tapster? Let’s withdraw.
Here comes Signior Claudio, led by the Provost to prison; and there’s Madam Juliet.
Enter Provost, Claudio, Juliet, Officers.
Fellow, why dost thou show me thus to th’ world?
Bear me to prison, where I am committed.
I do it not in evil disposition,
But from Lord Angelo by special charge.
Thus can the demigod, Authority,
Make us pay down for our offense by weight
The words of heaven: on whom it will, it will;
On whom it will not, so; yet still ’tis just.
Enter Lucio and two Gentlemen.
Why, how now, Claudio? Whence comes this restraint?
From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty:
As surfeit is the father of much fast,
So every scope by the immoderate use
Turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue,
Like rats that ravin down their proper bane,
A thirsty evil, and when we drink we die.
If I could speak so wisely under an arrest, I would send for certain of my creditors; and yet, to say the truth, I had as lief have the foppery of freedom as the mortality of imprisonment. What’s thy offense, Claudio?
What but to speak of would offend again.
What, is’t murder?
Call it so.
Away, sir, you must go.
One word, good friend. Lucio, a word with you.
A hundred! If they’ll do you any good.
Is lechery so look’d after?
Thus stands it with me: upon a true contract
I got possession of Julietta’s bed.
You know the lady; she is fast my wife,
Save that we do the denunciation lack
Of outward order. This we came not to,
Only for propagation of a dow’r
Remaining in the coffer of her friends,
From whom we thought it meet to hide our love
Till time had made them for us. But it chances
The stealth of our most mutual entertainment
With character too gross is writ on Juliet.
With child, perhaps?
Unhappily, even so.
And the new deputy now for the Duke—
Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness,
Or whether that the body public be
A horse whereon the governor doth ride,
Who, newly in the seat, that it may know
He can command, lets it straight feel the spur;
Whether the tyranny be in his place,
Or in his eminence that fills it up,
I stagger in—but this new governor
Awakes me all the enrolled penalties
Which have, like unscour’d armor, hung by th’ wall
So long that nineteen zodiacs have gone round
And none of them been worn; and for a name
Now puts the drowsy and neglected act
Freshly on me—’tis surely for a name.
I warrant it is; and thy head stands so tickle on thy shoulders that a milkmaid, if she be in love, may sigh it off. Send after the Duke, and appeal to him.
I have done so, but he’s not to be found.
I prithee, Lucio, do me this kind service:
This day my sister should the cloister enter,
And there receive her approbation.
Acquaint her with the danger of my state;
Implore her, in my voice, that she make friends
To the strict deputy; bid herself assay him.
I have great hope in that; for in her youth
There is a prone and speechless dialect,
Such as move men; beside, she hath prosperous art
When she will play with reason and discourse,
And well she can persuade.
I pray she may; as well for the encouragement of the like, which else would stand under grievous imposition, as for the enjoying of thy life, who I would be sorry should be thus foolishly lost at a game of tick-tack. I’ll to her.
I thank you, good friend Lucio.
Within two hours.
Come, officer, away!