A hall in Angelo’s house.
(Angelo; Escalus; Servants; Justice; Provost; Elbow; Froth; Pompey; Officers)
Angelo argues that the laws must be enforced for them to be anything but a mockery, while Escalus pleads that they should not go too far, arguing that Claudio’s fault is fairly common. Angelo is adamant, however, pointing out that being tempted and actually going through with the temptation are two different things. Elbow, a constable who has been charged with helping to clean up Vienna, brings in Froth and Pompey, whom he has found in a brothel. In mangled language they argue over the circumstances of the arrest, until Angelo is so bored that he walks out. Escalus, left in charge, resolves the matter kindly, dismissing Froth and threatening Pompey with a whipping if he continues to act as a pimp. Having rid himself of the fools, Escalus continues to meditate on the pity of Claudio’s death. (166 lines)
Enter Angelo, Escalus, and Servants, Justice.
We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Their perch and not their terror.
Ay, but yet
Let us be keen, and rather cut a little,
Than fall, and bruise to death. Alas, this gentleman,
Whom I would save, had a most noble father!
Let but your honor know
(Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue)
That in the working of your own affections,
Had time coher’d with place, or place with wishing,
Or that the resolute acting of your blood
Could have attain’d th’ effect of your own purpose,
Whether you had not sometime in your life
Err’d in this point which now you censure him,
And pull’d the law upon you.
’Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall. I not deny
The jury, passing on the prisoner’s life,
May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try. What’s open made to justice,
That justice seizes. What knows the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? ’Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take’t,
Because we see it; but what we do not see
We tread upon, and never think of it.
You may not so extenuate his offense
For I have had such faults; but rather tell me,
When I, that censure him, do so offend,
Let mine own judgment pattern out my death,
And nothing come in partial. Sir, he must die.
Be it as your wisdom will.
Where is the Provost?
Here, if it like your honor.
See that Claudio
Be executed by nine tomorrow morning.
Bring him his confessor, let him be prepar’d,
For that’s the utmost of his pilgrimage.
Well; heaven forgive him! And forgive us all!
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall;
Some run from brakes of ice and answer none,
And some condemned for a fault alone.
Enter Elbow, Froth, Clown Pompey, Officers.
Come, bring them away. If these be good people in a commonweal that do nothing but use their abuses in common houses, I know no law. Bring them away.
How now, sir, what’s your name? And what’s the matter?
If it please your honor, I am the poor Duke’s constable, and my name is Elbow. I do lean upon justice, sir, and do bring in here before your good honor two notorious benefactors.
Benefactors? Well; what benefactors are they? Are they not malefactors?
If it please your honor, I know not well what they are; but precise villains they are, that I am sure of, and void of all profanation in the world that good Christians ought to have.
This comes off well. Here’s a wise officer.
Go to; what quality are they of? Elbow is your name?
Why dost thou not speak, Elbow?
He cannot, sir; he’s out at elbow.
What are you, sir?
He, sir! A tapster, sir; parcel-bawd; one that serves a bad woman; whose house, sir, was (as they say) pluck’d down in the suburbs; and now she professes a hot-house; which, I think, is a very ill house too.
How know you that?
My wife, sir, whom I detest before heaven and your honor—
How? Thy wife?
Ay, sir; whom I thank heaven is an honest woman.
Dost thou detest her therefore?
I say, sir, I will detest myself also, as well as she, that this house, if it be not a bawd’s house, it is pity of her life, for it is a naughty house.
How dost thou know that, constable?
Marry, sir, by my wife, who, if she had been a woman cardinally given, might have been accus’d in fornication, adultery, and all uncleanliness there.
By the woman’s means?
Ay, sir, by Mistress Overdone’s means; but as she spit in his face, so she defied him.
Sir, if it please your honor, this is not so.
Prove it before these varlets here, thou honorable man, prove it.
Do you hear how he misplaces?
Sir, she came in great with child; and longing (saving your honors’ reverence) for stew’d prunes. Sir, we had but two in the house, which at that very distant time stood, as it were, in a fruit-dish, a dish of some threepence—your honors have seen such dishes; they are not china dishes, but very good dishes.
Go to, go to; no matter for the dish, sir.
No indeed, sir, not of a pin; you are therein in the right. But to the point. As I say, this Mistress Elbow, being (as I say) with child, and being great-bellied, and longing (as I said) for prunes; and having but two in the dish (as I said), Master Froth here, this very man, having eaten the rest (as I said) and (as I say) paying for them very honestly; for, as you know, Master Froth, I could not give you threepence again.
Very well; you being then (if you be rememb’red) cracking the stones of the foresaid prunes—
Ay, so I did indeed.
Why, very well; I telling you then (if you be rememb’red) that such a one and such a one were past cure of the thing you wot of, unless they kept very good diet, as I told you—
All this is true.
Why, very well then—
Come; you are a tedious fool. To the purpose: what was done to Elbow’s wife, that he hath cause to complain of? Come me to what was done to her.
Sir, your honor cannot come to that yet.
No, sir, nor I mean it not.
Sir, but you shall come to it, by your honor’s leave. And I beseech you, look into Master Froth here, sir; a man of fourscore pound a year; whose father died at Hallowmas. Was’t not at Hallowmas, Master Froth?
Why, very well; I hope here be truths. He, sir, sitting (as I say) in a lower chair, sir—’twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where indeed you have a delight to sit, have you not?
I have so, because it is an open room and good for winter.
Why, very well then; I hope here be truths.
This will last out a night in Russia
When nights are longest there. I’ll take my leave,
And leave you to the hearing of the cause,
Hoping you’ll find good cause to whip them all.
I think no less. Good morrow to your lordship.
Now, sir, come on. What was done to Elbow’s wife, once more?
Once, sir? There was nothing done to her once.
I beseech you, sir, ask him what this man did to my wife.
I beseech your honor, ask me.
Well, sir, what did this gentleman to her?
I beseech you, sir, look in this gentleman’s face. Good Master Froth, look upon his honor; ’tis for a good purpose. Doth your honor mark his face?
Ay, sir, very well.
Nay, I beseech you mark it well.
Well, I do so.
Doth your honor see any harm in his face?
I’ll be suppos’d upon a book, his face is the worst thing about him. Good then; if his face be the worst thing about him, how could Master Froth do the constable’s wife any harm? I would know that of your honor.
He’s in the right, constable. What say you to it?
First, and it like you, the house is a respected house; next, this is a respected fellow; and his mistress is a respected woman.
By this hand, sir, his wife is a more respected person than any of us all.
Varlet, thou liest! Thou liest, wicked varlet! The time is yet to come that she was ever respected with man, woman, or child.
Sir, she was respected with him before he married with her.
Which is the wiser here: Justice or Iniquity? Is this true?
O thou caitiff! O thou varlet! O thou wicked Hannibal! I respected with her before I was married to her? If ever I was respected with her, or she with me, let not your worship think me the poor Duke’s officer. Prove this, thou wicked Hannibal, or I’ll have mine action of batt’ry on thee.
If he took you a box o’ th’ ear, you might have your action of slander too.
Marry, I thank your good worship for it. What is’t your worship’s pleasure I shall do with this wicked caitiff?
Truly, officer, because he hath some offenses in him that thou wouldst discover if thou couldst, let him continue in his courses till thou know’st what they are.
Marry, I thank your worship for it. Thou seest, thou wicked varlet, now, what’s come upon thee. Thou art to continue now, thou varlet, thou art to continue.
Where were you born, friend?
Here in Vienna, sir.
Are you of fourscore pounds a year?
Yes, and’t please you, sir.
What trade are you of, sir?
A tapster, a poor widow’s tapster.
Your mistress’ name?
Hath she had any more than one husband?
Nine, sir; Overdone by the last.
Nine? Come hither to me, Master Froth. Master Froth, I would not have you acquainted with tapsters; they will draw you. Master Froth, and you will hang them. Get you gone, and let me hear no more of you.
I thank your worship. For mine own part, I never come into any room in a tap-house, but I am drawn in.
Well; no more of it, Master Froth. Farewell.
Come you hither to me, Master Tapster. What’s your name, Master Tapster?
Troth, and your bum is the greatest thing about you, so that in the beastliest sense you are Pompey the Great. Pompey, you are partly a bawd, Pompey, howsoever you color it in being a tapster, are you not? Come, tell me true, it shall be the better for you.
Truly, sir, I am a poor fellow that would live.
How would you live, Pompey? By being a bawd? What do you think of the trade, Pompey? Is it a lawful trade?
If the law would allow it, sir.
But the law will not allow it, Pompey; nor it shall not be allow’d in Vienna.
Does your worship mean to geld and splay all the youth of the city?
Truly, sir, in my poor opinion, they will to’t then. If your worship will take order for the drabs and the knaves, you need not to fear the bawds.
There is pretty orders beginning, I can tell you: it is but heading and hanging.
If you head and hang all that offend that way but for ten year together, you’ll be glad to give out a commission for more heads. If this law hold in Vienna ten year, I’ll rent the fairest house in it after threepence a bay. If you live to see this come to pass, say Pompey told you so.
Thank you, good Pompey; and in requital of your prophecy, hark you: I advise you let me not find you before me again upon any complaint whatsoever; no, not for dwelling where you do. If I do, Pompey, I shall beat you to your tent, and prove a shrewd Caesar to you; in plain-dealing, Pompey, I shall have you whipt. So for this time, Pompey, fare you well.
I thank your worship for your good counsel;
but I shall follow it as the flesh and fortune shall better determine.
Whip me? No, no, let carman whip his jade,
The valiant heart’s not whipt out of his trade.
Come hither to me, Master Elbow; come hither, Master Constable. How long have you been in this place of constable?
Seven year and a half, sir.
I thought, by the readiness in the office, you had continu’d in it some time. You say seven years together?
And a half, sir.
Alas, it hath been great pains to you. They do you wrong to put you so oft upon’t. Are there not men in your ward sufficient to serve it?
Faith, sir, few of any wit in such matters. As they are chosen, they are glad to choose me for them. I do it for some piece of money, and go through with all.
Look you bring me in the names of some six or seven, the most sufficient of your parish.
To your worship’s house, sir?
To my house. Fare you well.
What’s a’ clock, think you?
I pray you home to dinner with me.
I humbly thank you.
It grieves me for the death of Claudio,
But there’s no remedy.
Lord Angelo is severe.
It is but needful.
Mercy is not itself, that oft looks so;
Pardon is still the nurse of second woe.
But yet, poor Claudio; there is no remedy.