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Act 1, Scene 4


ISABELLA: And have you nuns no farther privileges?

FRANCISCA: Are not these large enough?

ISABELLA: Yes, truly; I speak not as desiring more;
But rather wishing a more strict restraint
Upon the sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare.     [5]

LUCIO: [Within] Ho! Peace be in this place!

ISABELLA: Who's that which calls?

FRANCISCA: It is a man's voice. Gentle Isabella,
Turn you the key, and know his business of him;
You may, I may not; you are yet unsworn.     [10]
When you have vow'd, you must not speak with men
But in the presence of the prioress:
Then, if you speak, you must not show your face,
Or, if you show your face, you must not speak.
He calls again; I pray you, answer him.     [15]


ISABELLA: Peace and prosperity! Who is't that calls

[Enter LUCIO]

LUCIO: Hail, virgin, if you be, as those cheek-roses
Proclaim you are no less! Can you so stead me
As bring me to the sight of Isabella,
A novice of this place and the fair sister     [20]
To her unhappy brother Claudio?

ISABELLA: Why 'her unhappy brother'? let me ask,
The rather for I now must make you know
I am that Isabella and his sister.

LUCIO: Gentle and fair, your brother kindly greets you:     [25]
Not to be weary with you, he's in prison.

ISABELLA: Woe me! for what?

LUCIO: For that which, if myself might be his judge,
He should receive his punishment in thanks:
He hath got his friend with child.     [30]

ISABELLA: Sir, make me not your story.

LUCIO: It is true.
I would not--though 'tis my familiar sin
With maids to seem the lapwing and to jest,
Tongue far from heart--play with all virgins so:     [35]
I hold you as a thing ensky'd and sainted.
By your renouncement an immortal spirit,
And to be talk'd with in sincerity,
As with a saint.

ISABELLA: You do blaspheme the good in mocking me.     [40]

LUCIO: Do not believe it. Fewness and truth, 'tis thus:
Your brother and his lover have embraced:
As those that feed grow full, as blossoming time
That from the seedness the bare fallow brings
To teeming foison, even so her plenteous womb     [45]
Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry.

ISABELLA: Some one with child by him? My cousin Juliet?

LUCIO: Is she your cousin?

ISABELLA: Adoptedly; as school-maids change their names
By vain though apt affection.     [50]

LUCIO: She it is.

ISABELLA: O, let him marry her.

LUCIO: This is the point.
The duke is very strangely gone from hence;
Bore many gentlemen, myself being one,     [55]
In hand and hope of action: but we do learn
By those that know the very nerves of state,
His givings-out were of an infinite distance
From his true-meant design. Upon his place,
And with full line of his authority,     [60]
Governs Lord Angelo; a man whose blood
Is very snow-broth; one who never feels
The wanton stings and motions of the sense,
But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge
With profits of the mind, study and fast.     [65]
He--to give fear to use and liberty,
Which have for long run by the hideous law,
As mice by lions--hath pick'd out an act,
Under whose heavy sense your brother's life
Falls into forfeit: he arrests him on it;     [70]
And follows close the rigour of the statute,
To make him an example. All hope is gone,
Unless you have the grace by your fair prayer
To soften Angelo: and that's my pith of business
'Twixt you and your poor brother.     [75]

ISABELLA: Doth he so seek his life?

LUCIO: Has censured him
Already; and, as I hear, the provost hath
A warrant for his execution.

ISABELLA: Alas! what poor ability's in me     [80]
To do him good?

LUCIO:                Assay the power you have.

ISABELLA: My power? Alas, I doubt--

LUCIO: Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt. Go to Lord Angelo,     [85]
And let him learn to know, when maidens sue,
Men give like gods; but when they weep and kneel,
All their petitions are as freely theirs
As they themselves would owe them.

ISABELLA: I'll see what I can do.     [90]

LUCIO: But speedily.

ISABELLA: I will about it straight;
No longer staying but to give the mother
Notice of my affair. I humbly thank you:
Commend me to my brother: soon at night     [95]
I'll send him certain word of my success.

LUCIO: I take my leave of you.

ISABELLA: Good sir, adieu.


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