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Vincentio, duke of Vienna.
Angelo, lord deputy in the duke's abfence.
Efcalus, an ancient lord, joined with Angelo in the deputations. Claudio, a young gentleman.
Lucio, a fantastick.
Two other like gentlemen.
Varrius, a gentleman, fervant to the duke
Elbow, a fimple conftable.
Froth, a foolish gentleman.
Clown, fervant to Mrs. Over-dones
Abhorfon, an executioner.
Barnardine, a dissolute prisoner.
Ifabella, fifter to Claudio.
Mariana, betrothed to Angelo.
Miftrefs Overdone, a bard.
Lords, gentlemen, guards, officers, and other attendant
Varrius might be omitted, for he is only once spoken to and fays nothing. JOHNSON.
MEASURE for MEASURE.
ACT I. SCENE I.
A room in the Duke's Palace.
Enter Duke, ESCALUS, Lords, and Attendants.
Efcal. My Lord.
Duke. Of government the properties to unfold, Would seem in me to affect speech and difcourse;
1 The story is taken from Cinthio's Novels, Decad. 8. Novel 5. POPE. We are fent to Cinthio for the plot of Meafure for Measure, and Shakspeare's judgment hath been attacked for fome deviations from him in the conduct of it, when probably all he knew of the matter was from Madam Ifabella, in the Heptameron of Whetstone, Lond. 4to. 1582.She reports, in the fourth dayes Exercise, the rare Hiftorie of Promos and Caffandra. A marginal note informs us, that Whetstone was the author of the Comedie on that fubject; which likewife had probably fallen into the hands of Shakspeare. FARMER.
There is perhaps not one of Shakspeare's plays more darkened than this by the peculiarities of its authour, and the unfkilfulness of its editors, by distortions of phrafe, or negligence of tranfcription. JOHNSON. Shakspeare took the fable of this play from the Promos and Caffondra of G. Whetstone, published in 1578. See Theobald's note at the end.
A hint, like a feed, is more or lefs prolifick, according to the qualities of the foil on which it is thrown. This ftory, which in the hands of Whetstone produced little more than barren infipidity, under the culture of Shakspeare became fertile of entertainment. The curious reader will find that the old play of Promos and Cassandra exhibits an almost complete embryo of Measure for Meafure; yet the hints on which it is formed are fo flight, that it is nearly as impoffible to detect them, as it is to point out in the acorn the future ramifications of the oak.
The reader will find the argument of G. Whetstone's Promos and Caffandra, at the end of this play. It is too bulky to be inferted here. See likewife the piece itself among Six old Plays on which Shakspeare founded &c. published by S. Leacroft, Charing-crofs. STEEVENS. Measure for Meafure was, I believe, written in 1603. See an Attempt to ascertain the order of Shakspeare's plays, ante. MALONE.
Since I am put to know 2, that your own science
My ftrength can give you:
Then no more remains,
as your worth is able, The nature of our people,
Our city's inftitutions, and the terms
2 Since I am put to know, I am put to know may mean, I am obliged to acknowledge. So, in King Henry VI. Part II. fc. i:
had I first been put to fpeak my mind." STEEVENS.
- lifts] Bounds, limits. JOHNSON.
But that to
Then no more remains,
And let them work.] I have not the fmallest doubt that the compofitor's eye glanced from the middle of the fecond of thefe lines to that under it in the Mf. and that by this means two half lines have been omitted.. The very fame error may be found in Macbeth, edit. 1632: which, being taught, return, "To plague the ingredients of our poison'd chalice To our own lips."
"--which, being taught, return,
"To plague the inventor. This even-banded juftice "Commends the ingredients of our poifon'd chalice" &c. Again, in Much ado about nothing, edit. 1623. p. 103: "And I will break with her.
Was't not to this end, &c."
"And I will break with her, "And thou shalt have ber. Mr. Theobald would fupply the defect thus: But that to your fufficiency you add Due diligence, as your worth is able, &c.
Sir T. Hanmer reads:
But that to your fufficiency you join
A will to ferve us, as your worth is able, &c.
The following paflage, in K. Henry IV. P. I. which is constructed in a manner fomewhat fimilar to the prefent when corrected, appears to me to ftrengthen the fuppofition that two half lines have been loft: "Send danger from the caft unto the weft,
"So bonour crofs it from the north to fouth,
Sufficiency is fkill in government; ability to execute his office. And let them work, a figurative expreffion; Let them ferment. MALONE. Some words feem to have been loft here, the fenfe of which, perhaps, may be thus fupplied:
then no more remains,
But that to your fufficiency you put
A zeal as willing as your worth is able, &c. TYRWHITT.
For common justice, you are as pregnant in 6,
That we remember: There is our commiffion,
From which we would not have you warp.-Call hither,
For you must know, we have with special foul 7
Lent him our terror, dreft him with our love;
To undergo fuch ample grace and honour,
Duke. Look where he comes.
Ang. Always obedient to your grace's will, I come to know your pleasure.
There is a kind of character in thy life,
and the terms
For common juftice,] Terms means the technical language of the courts. An old book called Les Termes de la Ley, (written in Henry the Eighth's time) was in Shakspeare's days, and is now, the accidence of young students in the law. BLACKSTONE.
6 -as pregnant in,] Pregnant is ready, knowing. JOHNSON. with fpecial foul] By the words with special foul elected him, I believe, the poet meant no more than that be was the immediate choice of bis heart. So, in the Tempeft:
-"for feveral virtues
"Have I lik'd feveral women, never any
"With fo full foul, but fome defect" &c.
This feems to be only a tranflation of the ufual formal words inferted in all royal grants: "de gratia noftra fpeciali, et ex mero
There is a kind of character in thy life,
That, to the obferver, doth thy history
Fully unfold:] What is there peculiar in this, that a man's life in
forms the obferver of his biftory?
Hiftory may be taken in a more diffufe and licentious meaning, for future occurrences, or the part of life yet to come. If this fenfe be'received, the paflage is clear and proper. JOHNSON.
Fully unfold: Thyfelf and thy belongings
As if we had them not.
Spirits are not finely touch'd, But to fine iffues 4: nor nature never lends 5
The smallest fcruple of her excellence,
But, like a thrifty goddefs, fhe determines.
Herfelf the glory of a creditor,
Both thanks and ufe . But I do bend my speech
Shakspeare has the fame thought in Henry IV. which is fome comment on this paffage before us:
"There is a hiftory in all men's lives,
"Figuring the nature of the times deceas'd:
-are not thine own fo proper,] i. e. are not fo much thy own property. STEEVENS.
them on thee.] The old copy reads—they on thee. STEEVENS. Corrected by Sir Tho. Hanmer. MALONE.
-for if our virtues &c.]
Paulum fepulta diftat inertiæ
Celata virtus.-Hor. THEOBALD.
4- to fine iffues:] To great confequences; for high purpofes. JOHNSON. nor nature never lends] Two negatives, not employed to make an affirmative, are common in our author. STEEVENS.
- fhe determines
Herself the glory of a creditor,
Both thanks and ufe.] i. e. She (Nature) requires and allots to berfelf the fame advantages that creditors ufually enjoy,-thanks for the endowments she has bestowed, and extraordinary exertions in those whom the hath thus favoured, by way of intereft for what she has lent. Use, in the phrafeology of our author's age, fignified intereft of money. MALONE.
I do bend my fpeech
To one that can my part in him advertife;] I believe, the meaning is, I am talking to one who is himself already fufficiently converfant with the nature and duties of my office;-of that office, which I have now delegated to bim. MALONE.