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Till you have heard me in my true complaint,
O, worthy duke,
By course of justice! Ang. And she will speak most bitterly, and strange.
Isab. Most strange, but yet most truly, will I speak: That Angelo 's forsworn; is it not strange? That Angelo 's a murderer; is 't not strange? That Angelo is an adulterous thief, An hypocrite, a virgin-violater; Is it not strange, and strange? Duke.
Nay, it is ten times strange. Isab. It is not truer he is Angelo, Than this is all as true as it is strange: Nay, it is ten times true; for truth is truth To the end of reckoning.' Duke.
Away with her:-Poor soul, She speaks this in the infirmity of sense.
Isab. O prince, I conjure thee, as thou believ'st There is another comfort than this world, That thou neglect me not, with that opinion That I am touch'd with madness : make not impos
sible That which but seems unlike: 'tis not impossible, But one, the wicked'st caitiff on the ground,
truth is truth To the end of reckoning.] That is, truth has no gradations ; nothing which admits of increase can be so much what it is, as truth is truth. There may be a strange thing, and a thing more strange, but if a proposition be true, there can be none more true.
May seem as shy, as grave, as just, as absolute,
By mine honesty,
O, gracious duke,
as shy, as grave, as just, as absolute,] As sby; as reserv. ed, as abstracted : as just; as nice, as exact: as absolute; as complete in all the round of duty. Johnson.
* In all bis dressings, &c.] In all his semblance of virtue, in all his habiliments of office. Fohnson.
3 — characts,] i. e. characters. See Dugdale, Orig. Furid. p. 81:-" That he use ne hide, no charme, ne carecte."
Tyrwhite. So, in Gower, De Confessione Amantis, B. I:
“ With his carrecte would him enchaunt.” Again, B. V, fol. 103:
“ And read his carecte in the wise." Again, B. VI, fol. 140.
“ Through his carectes and figures." Again :
“ And his carecte as he was taught,
“ He rad,” &c. Steevens. Charact signifies an inscription. The stat. 1 Edward VI, c.2, directed the seals of office of every bishop to have "certain characts under the king's arms for the knowledge of the diocese." Characters are the letters in which the inscription is written. Charactery is the materials of which characters are composed. “ Fairies use flowers for their charactery.”
Merry Wives of Windsor. Blackstone. 4 ds e'er I beard &c.] I suppose Shakspeare wrote: As ne'er I beard in madness. Malonc.
do not banish reason For inequality :] Let not the high quality of my adversary prejudice you against me. Fohnson.
Inequality appears to me to mean, in this place, apparent incoll. sistency; and to have no reference to the high rank of Angelo, as Johnson supposes. M. Mason.
To make the truth appear, where it seems hid;
Many that are not mad, Have sure more lack of reason.—What would you
Isab. I am the sister of one Claudio,
That 's I, an 't like your grace:
That 's he, indeedo
No, my good lord;
I wish you now then;
Lucio. I warrant your honour.
Duke. It may be right; but you are in the wrong
I went To this pernicious caitiff deputy.
I imagine the meaning rather is-Do not suppose I am mad, because I speak passionately and unequally. Malone.
6 And hide the false, seems true.] And for ever bide, i e. plunge into eternal darkness, the false one, i. e. Angelo, who now seems honest. Many other words would have expressed our poet's meaning better than bile; but he seems to have chosen it merely for the sake of opposition to the preceding line. Mr. Theobald unnecessarily reads-Not hide the false,- which has been fol lowed by the subsequent editors. Malone.
I do not profess to understand these words; nor can I perceive How the meaning suggested by Mr. Malone is to be deduced from them. Steevens.
Duke. That 's somewhat madly spoken.
Pardon it; The phrase is to the matter.
Duke. Mended again: the matter ;--Proceed.
Isab. In brief,—to set the needless process by, How I persuaded, how I pray'd, and kneelid, How he refellid me, and how I reply'd; (For this was of much length) the vile conclusion I now begin with grief and shame to utter: He would not, but by gift of my chaste body To his concupiscible intemperate lust, Release my brother; and, after much debatement, My sisterly remorse confutes mine honour, And I did yield to him: But the next morn betimes, His purpose surfeiting, he sends a warrant For my poor brother's head. Duke.
This is most likely! Isab. O, that it were as like, as it is true !2
7 bow be refelld me,] To refel is to refute.
“ Refellere et coarguere mendacium.” Cicero pro Ligario. Ben Jonson uses the word :
“ Friends not to refel you,
“ Or any way quell you." Again, in The Second Part of Robert Earl of Huntington, 1601 :
“ Therefore go on, young Bruce, proceed, refell
• The allegation.” The modern editors changed the word to repel. Steevens.
To bis concupiscible &c.] Such is the old reading. The modern editors unauthoritatively substitute concupiscent. Steevens. 9 My sisterly remorse ---} i. e. pity. So, in King Richard III :
“ And gentle, kind, effeminate remorse." Steevens. 1 His purpose surfeiting,] Thus the old copy: We might read forfeiting, but the former word is too much in the manner of Shakspeare to be rejected. So, in Othello:
my hopes not surfeited to death.” Steevens. 2 0, that it were as like as it is true.'] Like is not here used for probable, but for seemly. She catches at the Duke's word, and turns it into another sense; of which there are a great many examples in Shakspeare, and the writers of that time.
Warburton, I do not see why like may not stand here for probable, or why the lady should not wish, that since her tale is true, it may ob. tain belief. If Dr. Warburton's explication be right, we should read :
0! that it were as likely as 'tis true! Likely I have never found for seemly. Johnson.
Duke. By heaven, fond wretch, thou know'st not
what thou speak'st; Or else thou art suborn'd against his honour, In hateful practice;4 First, his integrity Stands without blemish :-next, it imports no reason, That with such vehemency he should pursue Faults proper to himself; if he had so offended, He would have weigh'd thy brother by himself And not have cut him off: Some one hath set you on; Confess the truth, and say by whose advice Thou cam'st here to complain. Isab.
And is this all? Then, oh, you blessed ministers above, Keep me in patience; and, with ripen'd time, Unfold the evil which is here wrapt up In countenance !5 —Heaven shield your grace from
woe, As I, thus wrong'd, hence unbelieved go!
Duke. I know, you ’d fain be gone: -An officer! To prison with her:- Shall we thus permit A blasting and a scandalous breath to fall On him so near us? This needs must be a practice.
Though I concur in Dr. Johnson's explanation, I cannot help observing that likely is used by Shakspeare himself for seemly. So, in King Henry IV, Part II, Act Ill, sc. ii: Sir John, they are your likeliest men.” Steevens.
The meaning I think is : O that it had as much of the appearance, as it has of the reality, of truth! Malone.
fond wretch,] Fond wretch is foolislo wretch. So, in Coriolanus, Act IV, sc. i:
“ 'Tis fond to wail inevitable strokes.” Steevens. 4 In bateful practice;] Practice was used by the old writers for any unlawful or insidious stratagem. So again:
“ This must needs be practice.” And again :
“Let me have way to find this practice out.” Johnsov. 5 In countenance ! ] i e. in partial favour. Warburton.
Countenance, in my opinion does not mean partial favour, as Warburton supposes, but false appearance, hypocrisy. Isabella does not mean to accuse the Duke of partiality; but alludes to the sanctified demeanor of Angelo, which, as she supposes, prevented the Duke from believing her story. M. Mason.
practice.] Practice, in Shakspeare, very often means shameful artifice, unjustifiable stratagem. So, in King Lear:
- This is practice, Gloster.”