Abridged Measure for Measure/#9/Proposition/Act 2, Scene 4

Angelo is on stage. He lets us know that “Heaven hath my empty words, whilst my mind, hearing not my tongue anchors on Isabel.” A Servant enters and says “One Isabel, a sister, desires access to you.” Isabella enters and says “I am come to know your pleasure.” Angelo says “Your brother cannot live.” She says “When, I beseech you?” He doesn’t answer her, instead asking “Which had you rather, that the just law take your brother’s life, or, to redeem him, give up your body to such sweet uncleanness as she that he hath stained?” She says “I would rather give my body than my soul.” He says “I talk not of your soul.” Isabella asks “How say you?” He asks “Might there not be a charity in sin to save this brother’s life?” She says “That I do beg his life, if it be sin heaven let me bear it.” He says “Your sense pursues not mine. I’ll speak more gross; your brother is to die.” She says “So.” He says “But, finding yourself desired by such a person who could fetch your brother from the all-binding law, you must lay down the treasures of your body to this person, or else to let your brother die. What would you do?” She says “I would subject myself to whips and tie myself to death before I’d yield my body up to shame.” Angelo says “Then must your brother die.” She responds “Better it were a brother died at once than that a sister, by redeeming him, should be condemned to eternal damnation.” Unwilling to concede, he tries a more subtle approach, tying women to frailty. She says “Gentle my lord, let me entreat you speak the former language.” Angelo says “Plainly, I love you.” She says “My brother did love Juliet, and you tell me that he shall die for it.” Angelo says “He shall not, Isabel, if you give me love.” She replies “Sign me a present pardon for my brother or with an outstretched throat I’ll tell the world aloud what man thou art.” He says “Who will believe thee, Isabel?” He gets angrier, saying “Redeem thy brother by yielding up thy body to my will, or else he must not only die the death, but thy unkindness shall his death draw out to long’ring sufferance. Answer me tomorrow.” He exits. She says to herself “To whom should I complain? I’ll to my brother who hath such a mind of honor that he’d yield twenty heads to the block if he had them before his sister should her body stoop to such abhorred pollution. Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die. More than our brother is our chastity. I’ll tell him of Angelo’s request, and fit his mind to death, for his soul’s rest.”

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