In the city of Vienna there once reigned a duke of such a mild and gentle temper,
that he suffered his subjects to neglect the laws with impunity; and there was
in particular one law, the existence of which was almost forgotten, the duke
never having put it in force during his whole reign. This was a law dooming
any man to the punishment of death, who should live with a woman that was not
his wife; and this law, through the lenity of the duke, being utterly disregarded,
the holy institution of marriage became neglected, and complaints were every
day made to the duke by the parents of the young ladies in Vienna, that their
daughters had been seduced from their protection, and were living as the companions
of single men. h2d19dj
The good duke perceived with sorrow this growing evil among his subjects; but
he thought that a sudden change in himself from the indulgence he had hitherto
shown, to the strict severity requisite to check this abuse, would make his
people (who had hitherto loved him) consider him as a tyrant; therefore he determined
to absent himself a while from his dukedom, and depute another to the full exercise
of his power, that the law against these dishonourable lovers might be put in
effect, without giving offence by an unusual severity in his own person.
Angelo, a man who bore the reputation of a saint in Vienna for his strict and
rigid life, was chosen by the duke as a fit person to undertake this important
change; and when the duke imparted his design to lord Escalus, his chief counsellor,
Escalus said: 'If any man in Vienna be of worth to undergo such ample grace
and honour, it is lord Angelo.' And now the duke departed from Vienna under
pretence of making a journey into Poland, leaving Angelo to act as the lord
deputy in his absence; but the duke's absence was only a feigned one, for he
privately returned to Vienna, habited like a friar, with the intent to watch
unseen the conduct of the saintly seeming Angelo.
It happened just about the time that Angelo was invested with his new dignity,
that a gentleman, whose name was Claudio, had seduced a young lady from her
parents; and for this offence, by command of the new lord deputy, Claudio was
taken up and committed to prison, and by virtue of the old law which had been
so long neglected, Angelo sentenced Claudio to be beheaded. Great interest was
made for the pardon of young Claudio, and the good old lord Escalus himself
interceded for him. 'Alas,' said he, 'this gentleman whom I would save had an
honourable father, for whose sake I pray you pardon the young man's transgression.'
But Angelo replied: 'We must not make a scare-crow of the law, setting it up
to frighten birds of prey, till custom, finding it harmless, makes it their
perch, and not their terror. Sir, he must die.'
Lucio, the friend of Claudio, visited him in the prison, and Claudio said to
him: 'I pray you, Lucio, do me this kind service. Go to my sister Isabel, who
this day proposes to enter the convent of Saint Clare; acquaint her with the
danger of my state; implore her that she make friends with the strict deputy;
bid her go herself to Angelo. I have great hopes in that; for she can discourse
with prosperous art, and well she can persuade; besides, there is a speechless
dialect in youthful sorrow, such as moves men.'
Isabel, the sister of Claudio, had, as he said, that day entered her noviciate
in the convent, and it was her intent, after passing through her probation as
a novice, to take the veil, and she was inquiring of a nun concerning the rules
of the convent, when they heard the voice of Lucio, who, as he entered that
religious house, said: 'Peace be in this place!' 'Who is it that speaks?' said
Isabel. 'It is a man's voice,' replied the nun: 'Gentle Isabel, go to him, and
learn his business; you may, I may not. When you have taken the veil, 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.' 'And
have you nuns no further privileges?' said Isabel. 'Are not these large enough?'
replied the nun. 'Yes, truly,' said Isabel: 'I speak not as desiring more, but
rather wishing a more strict restraint upon the sisterhood, the votarists of
Saint Clare.' Again they heard the voice of Lucio, and the nun said: 'He calls
again. I pray you answer him.' Isabel then went out to Lucio, and in answer
to his salutation, said: 'Peace and Prosperity! Who is it that calls?' Then
Lucio, approaching her with reverence, said: 'Hail, virgin, if such you be,
as the roses on your cheeks proclaim you are no less! can you bring me to the
sight of Isabel, a novice of this place, and the fair sister to her unhappy
brother Claudio?' 'Why her unhappy brother?' said Isabel, 'let me ask! for I
am that Isabel, and his sister.' 'Fair and gentle lady,' he replied, 'your brother
kindly greets you by me; he is in prison. „Woe is me! for what?' said
Isabel. Lucio then told her, Claudio was imprisoned for seducing a young maiden.
'Ah,' said she, 'I fear it is my cousin Juliet.' Juliet and Isabel were not
related, but they called each other cousin in remembrance of their school days'
friendship; and as Isabel knew that Juliet loved Claudio, she feared she had
been led by her affection for him into this transgression. 'She it is,' replied
Lucio. 'Why then, let my brother marry Juliet,' said Isabel. Lucio replied that
Claudio would gladly marry Juliet, but that the lord deputy had sentenced him
to die for his offence; 'Unless,' said he, 'You have the grace by your fair
prayer to soften Angelo, and that is my business between you and your poor brother.'
'Alas!' said Isabel, 'what poor ability is there in me to do him good? I doubt
I have no power to move Angelo.' 'Our doubts are traitors,' said Lucio, 'and
make us lose the good we might often win, by fearing to attempt it. Go to lord
Angelo! When maidens sue, and kneel, and weep, men give like gods.' 'I will
see what I can do,' said Isabel: 'I will but stay to give the prioress notice
of the affair, and then I will go to Angelo. Commend me to my brother: soon
at night I will send him word of my success.'
Isabel hastened to the palace, and threw herself on her knees before Angelo,
saying: 'I am a woeful suitor to your honour, if it will please your honour
to hear me.' 'Well, what is your suit?' said Angelo. She then made her petition
in the most moving terms for her brother's life. But Angelo said: 'Maiden, there
is no remedy; your brother is sentenced, and he must die.'
'O just, but severe law,' said Isabel: 'I had a brother then - Heaven keep your
honour!' and she was about to depart. But Lucio, who had accompanied her, said:
'Give it not over so; return to him again, entreat him, kneel down before him,
and hang upon his gown. You are too cold; if you should need a pin, you could
not with a more tame tongue desire it.' Then again Isabel on her knees implored
for mercy. 'He is sentenced,' said Angelo: 'it is too late.' 'Too late!' said
Isabel: 'Why, no: I that do speak a word may call it back again. Believe this,
my lord, no ceremony that to great ones belongs, not the king's crown, nor the
deputed sword, the marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe, becomes them with
one half so good a grace as mercy does.' 'Pray you begone,' said Angelo. But
still Isabel entreated; and she said: 'If my brother had been as you, and you
as he, you might have slipped like him, but he, like you, would not have been
so stem. I would to heaven I had your power, and you were Isabel. Should it
then be thus? No, I would tell you what it were to be a judge, and what a prisoner.'
'Be content, fair maid!' said Angelo: 'it is the law, not I, condemns your brother.
Were he my kinsman, my brother, or my son, it should be thus with him. He must
die to-morrow.' 'To-morrow?' said Isabel; 'Oh, that is sudden: spare him, spare
him; he is not prepared for death. Even for our kitchens we kill the fowl in
season; shall we serve Heaven with less respect than we minister to our gross
selves? Good, good, my lord, bethink you, none have died for my brother's offence,
though many have committed it. So you would be the first that gives this sentence,
and he the first that suffers it. Go to your own bosom, my lord; knock there,
and ask your heart what it does know that is like my brother's fault; if it
confess a natural guiltiness such as his is, let it not sound a thought against
my brother's life!' Her last words more moved Angelo than all she had before
said, for the beauty of Isabel had raised a guilty passion in his heart, and
he began to form thoughts of dishonourable love, such as Claudio's crime had
been; and the conflict in his mind made him to turn away from Isabel; but she
called him back, saying: 'Gentle my lord, turn back; hark, how I will bribe
you. Good my lord, turn back!' 'How, bribe me!' said Angelo, astonished that
she should think of offering him a bribe. 'Ay,' said Isabel, 'with such gifts
that Heaven itself shall share with you; not with golden treasures, or those
glittering stones, whose price is either rich or poor as fancy values them,
but with true prayers that shall be up to Heaven before sunrise - prayers from
preserved souls, from fasting maids whose minds are dedicated to nothing temporal.'
'Well, come to me to-morrow,' said Angelo. And for this short respite of her
brother's life, and for this permission that she might be heard again, she left
him with the joyful hope that she should at last prevail over his stern nature:
and as she went away she said: 'Heaven keep your honour safe! Heaven save your
honour!' Which when Angelo heard, he said within his heart: 'Amen, I would be
saved from thee and from thy virtues': and then, affrighted at his own evil
thoughts, he said: 'What is this? What is this? Do I love her, that I desire
to hear her speak again, and feast upon her eyes? What is it I dream on? The
cunning enemy of mankind, to catch a saint, with saints does bait the hook.
Never could an immodest woman once stir my temper, but this virtuous woman subdues
me quite. Even till now, when men were fond, I smiled and wondered at them.'
In the guilty conflict in his mind Angelo suffered more that night than the
prisoner he had so severely sentenced; for in the prison Claudio was visited
by the good duke, who, in his friar's habit, taught the young man the way to
heaven, preaching to him the words of penitence and peace. But Angelo felt all
the pangs of irresolute guilt: now wishing to seduce Isabel from the paths of
innocence and honour, and now suffering remorse and horror for a crime as yet
but intentional. But in the end his evil thoughts prevailed; and he who had
so lately started at the offer of a bribe, resolved to tempt this maiden with
so high a bribe, as she might not be able to resist, even with the precious
gift of her dear brother's life.
When Isabel came in the morning, Angelo desired she might be admitted alone
to his presence: and being there, he said to her, if she would yield to him
her virgin honour and transgress even as Juliet had done with Claudio, he would
give her her brother's life; 'For, 9 said he, 'I love you, Isabel.' 'My brother,'
said Isabel, 'did so love Juliet, and yet you tell me he shall die for it.'
'But,' said Angelo, 'Claudio shall not die, if you will consent to visit me
by stealth at night, even as Juliet left her father's house at night to come
to Claudio.' Isabel, in amazement at his words, that he should tempt her to
the same fault for which he passed sentence upon her brother, said: 'I would
do as much for my poor brother as for myself; that is, were I under sentence
of death, the impression of keen whips I would wear as rubies, and go to my
death as to a bed that longing I had been sick for, ere I would yield myself
up to this shame.' And then she told him, she hoped he only spoke these words
to try her virtue. But he said: 'Believe me, on my honour, my words express
my purpose.' Isabel, angered to the heart to hear him use the word Honour to
express such dishonourable purposes, said: 'Ha! little honour to be much believed;
and most pernicious purpose. I will proclaim thee, Angelo, look for it! Sign
me a present pardon for my brother, or I will tell the world aloud what man
thou art!' 'Who will believe you, Isabel?' said Angelo; 'my unsoiled name, the
austereness of my life, my word vouched against yours, will outweigh your accusation.
Redeem your brother by yielding to my will, or he shall die to-morrow. As for
you, say what you can, my false will overweigh your true story. Answer me to-morrow.'
'To whom should I complain? Did I tell this, who would believe me?' said Isabel,
as she went towards the dreary prison where her brother was confined. When she
arrived there, her brother was in pious conversation with the duke, who in his
friar's habit had also visited Juliet, and brought both these guilty lovers
to a proper sense of their fault; and unhappy Juliet with tears and a true remorse
confessed that she was more to blame than Claudio, in that she willingly consented
to his dishonourable solicitations.
As Isabel entered the room where Claudio was confined, she said: 'Peace be here,
grace, and good company!' 'Who is there?' said the disguised duke; 'come in;
the wish deserves a welcome.' 'My business is a word or two with Claudio,' said
Isabel. Then the duke left them together, and desired the provost, who had the
charge of the prisoners, to place him where he might overhear their conversation.
'Now, sister, what is the comfort?' said Claudio. Isabel told him he must prepare
for death on the morrow. 'Is there no remedy?' said Claudio. 'Yes, brother,'
replied Isabel, 'there is, but such a one, as if you consented to it would strip
your honour from you, and leave you naked.' 'Let me know the point,' said Claudio.
'O, I do fear you, Claudio!' replied his sister; 'and I quake, lest you should
wish to live, and more respect the trifling term of six or seven winters added
to your life, than your perpetual honour! Do you dare to die? The sense of death
is most in apprehension, and the poor beetle that we tread upon, feels a pang
as great as when a giant dies.' 'Why do you give me this shame?' said Claudio.
'Think you I can fetch a resolution from flowery tenderness? If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride, and hug it in my arms.' 'There spoke my
brother,' said Isabel; 'there my father's grave did utter forth a voice. Yes,
you must die; yet would you think it, Claudio! this outward sainted deputy,
if I would yield to him my virgin honour, would grant your life. 0, were it
but my life, I would lay it down for your deliverance as frankly as a pin!'
'Thanks, dear Isabel,' said Claudio. 'Be ready to die to-morrow,' said Isabel.
'Death is a fearful thing,' said Claudio. 'And shamed life a hateful,' replied
his sister. But the thoughts of death now overcame the constancy of Claudio's
temper, and terrors, such as the guilty only at their deaths do know, assailing
him, he cried out: 'Sweet sister, let me live! The sin you do to save a brother's
life, nature dispenses with the deed so far, that it becomes a virtue.' 'O faithless
coward! 0 dishonest wretch!' said Isabel; 'would you preserve your life by your
sister's shame? 0 fie, fie, fie! I thought, my brother, you had in you such
a mind of honour, that had you twenty heads to render up on twenty blocks, you
would have yielded them up all, before your sister should stoop to such dishonour.'
'Nay, hear me, Isabel!' said Claudio. But what he would have said in defence
of his weakness, in desiring to live by the dishonour of his virtuous sister,
was interrupted by the entrance of the duke; who said: 'Claudio, I have overheard
what has passed between you and your sister. Angelo had never the purpose to
corrupt her; what he said, has only been to make trial of her virtue. She having
the truth of honour in her, has given him that gracious denial which he is most
glad to receive. There is no hope that he will pardon you; therefore pass your
hours in prayer, and make ready for death.' Then Claudio repented of his weakness,
and said: 'Let me ask my sister's pardon! I am so out of love with life, that
I will sue to be rid of it.' And Claudio retired, overwhelmed with shame and
sorrow for his fault.
The duke being now alone with Isabel, commended her virtuous resolution, saying:
'The hand that made you fair, has made you good.' 'O,' said Isabel, 'how much
is the good duke deceived in Angelo! if ever he return, and I can speak to him,
I will discover his government.' Isabel knew not that she was even now making
the discovery she threatened. The duke replied: 'That shall not be much amiss;
yet as the matter now stands, Angelo will repel your accusation; therefore lend
an attentive ear to my advisings. I believe that you may most righteously do
a poor wronged lady a merited benefit, redeem your brother from the angry law,
do no stain to your own most gracious person, and much please the absent duke,
if peradventure he shall ever return to have notice of this business.' Isabel
said, she had a spirit to do anything he desired, provided it was nothing wrong.
'Virtue is bold, and never fearful,' said the duke: and then he asked her, if
she had ever heard of Mariana, the sister of Frederick, the great soldier who
was drowned at sea. 'I have heard of the lady,' said Isabel, 'and good words
went with her name.' 'This lady,' said the duke, 'is the wife of Angelo; but
her marriage dowry was on board the vessel in which her brother perished, and
mark how heavily this befell to the poor gentlewoman! for, beside the loss of
a most noble and renowned brother, who in his love towards her was ever most
kind and natural, in the wreck of her fortune she lost the affections of her
husband, the well-seeming Angelo; who pretending to discover some dishonour
in this honourable lady (though the true cause was the loss of her dowry) left
her in tears, and dried not one of them with his comfort. His unjust unkindness,
that in all reason should have quenched her love, has, like an impediment in
the current, made it more unruly, and Mariana loves her cruel husband with the
full continuance of her first affection.' The duke then more plainly unfolded
his plan. It was, that Isabel should go to lord Angelo, and seemingly consent
to come to him as he desired at midnight; that by this means she would obtain
the promised pardon; and that Mariana should go in her stead to the appointment,
and pass herself upon Angelo in the dark for Isabel. 'Nor, gentle daughter,'
said the feigned friar, 'fear you to do this thing; Angelo is her husband, and
to bring them thus together is no sin.' Isabel being pleased with this project,
departed to do as he directed her; and he went to apprise Mariana of their intention.
He had before this time visited this unhappy lady in his assumed character,
giving her religious instruction and friendly consolation, at which times he
had learned her sad story from her own lips; and now she, looking upon him as
a holy man, readily consented to be directed by him in this undertaking.
When Isabel returned from her interview with Angelo, to the house of Mariana,
where the duke had appointed her to meet him, he said: 'Well met, and in good
time; what is the news from this good deputy?' Isabel related the manner in
which she had settled the affair. 'Angelo,' said she, 'has a garden surrounded
with a brick wall, on the western side of which is a vineyard, and to that vineyard
is a gate.' And then she showed to the duke and Mariana two keys that Angelo
had given her; and she said: 'This bigger key opens the vineyard gate; this
other a little door which leads from the vineyard to the garden. There I have
made my promise at the dead of the night to call upon him, and have got from
him his word of assurance for my brother's life. I have taken a due and wary
note of the place; and with whispering and most guilty diligence he showed me
the way twice over.' 'Are there no other tokens agreed upon between you, that
Mariana must observe?' said the duke. 'No, none,' said Isabel, 'only to go when
it is dark. I have told him my time can be but short; for I have made him think
a servant comes along with me, and that this servant is persuaded I come about
my brother.' The duke commended her discreet management, and she, turning to
Mariana, said: 'Little have you to say to Angelo, when you depart from him,
but soft and low: Remember now my brother!'
Mariana was that night conducted to the appointed place by Isabel, who rejoiced
that she had, as she supposed, by this device preserved both her brother's life
and her own honour. But that her brother's life was safe the duke was not well
satisfied, and therefore at midnight he again repaired to the prison, and it
was well for Claudio that he did so, else would Claudio have that night been
beheaded; for soon after the duke entered the prison, an order came from the
cruel deputy, commanding that Claudio should be beheaded, and his head sent
to him by five o'clock in the morning. But the duke persuaded the provost to
put off the execution of Claudio, and to deceive Angelo, by sending him the
head of a man who died that morning in the prison. And to prevail upon the provost
to agree to this, the duke, whom still the provost suspected not to be anything
more or greater than he seemed, showed the provost a letter written with the
duke's hand, and sealed with his seal, which when the provost saw, he concluded
this friar must have some secret order from the absent duke, and therefore he
consented to spare Claudio; and he cut off the dead man's head, and carried
it to Angelo.
Then the duke in his own name, wrote to Angelo a letter, saying, that certain
accidents had put a stop to his journey, and that he should be in Vienna by
the following morning, requiring Angelo to meet him at the entrance of the city,
there to deliver up his authority; and the duke also commanded it to be proclaimed,
that if any of his subjects craved redress for injustice, they should exhibit
their petitions in the street on his first entrance into the city.
Early in the morning Isabel came to the prison, and the duke, who there awaited
her coming, for secret reasons thought it good to tell her that Claudio was
beheaded; therefore when Isabel inquired if Angelo had sent the pardon for her
brother, he said: 'Angelo has released Claudio from this world. His head is
off, and sent to the deputy.' The much-grieved sister cried out: 'O unhappy
Claudio, wretched Isabel, injurious world, most wicked Angelo!' The seeming
friar bid her take comfort, and when she was become a little calm, he acquainted
her with the near prospect of the duke's return, and told her in what manner
she should proceed in preferring her complaint against Angelo; and he bade her
not fear if the cause should seem to go against her for a while. Leaving Isabel
sufficiently instructed, he next went to Mariana, and gave her counsel in-what
manner she also should act.
Then the duke laid aside his friar's habit, and in his own royal robes, amidst
a joyful crowd of his faithful subjects, assembled to greet his arrival, entered
the city of Vienna, where he was met by Angelo, who delivered up his authority
in the proper form. And there came Isabel, in the manner of a petitioner for
redress, and said: 'Justice, most royal duke! I am the sister of one Claudio,
who, for the seducing a young maid, was condemned to lose his head. I made my
suit to lord Angelo for my brother's pardon. It were needless to tell your grace
how I prayed and kneeled, how he repelled me, and how I replied; for this was
of much length. The vile conclusion I now begin with grief and shame to utter.
Angelo would not but by my yielding to his dishonourable love release my brother;
and after much debate within myself, my sisterly remorse overcame my virtue,
and I did yield to him. But the next morning betimes, Angelo, forfeiting his
promise, sent a warrant for my poor brother's head!' The duke affected to disbelieve
her story; and Angelo said that grief for her brother's death, who had suffered
by the due course of the law, had disordered her senses. And now another suitor
approached, which was Mariana; and Mariana said: 'Noble prince, as there comes
light from heaven, and truth from breath, as there is sense in truth and truth
in virtue, I am this man's wife, and my good lord, the words of Isabel are false;
for the night she says was with Angelo, I passed that night with him in the
garden-house. As this is true, let me in safety rise, or else for ever be fixed
here a marble monument.' Then did Isabel appeal for the truth of what she had
said to friar Lodowick, that being the name the duke had assumed in his disguise.
Isabel and Mariana had both obeyed his instructions in what they said, the duke
intending that the innocence of Isabel should be plainly proved in that public
manner before the whole city of Vienna; but Angelo little thought that it was
from such a cause that they thus differed in their story, and he hoped from
their contradictory evidence to be able to clear himself from the accusation
of Isabel; and he said, assuming the look of offended innocence: 'I did but
smile till now; but, good my lord, my patience here is touched, and I perceive
these poor distracted women are but the instruments of some greater one, who
sets them on. Let me have way, my lord, to find this practice out.' 'Ay, with
all my heart,' said the duke, 'and punish them to the height of your pleasure.
You, lord Escalus, sit with lord Angelo, lend him your pains to discover this
abuse; the friar is sent for that set them on, and when he comes, do with your
injuries as may seem best in any chastisement. I for a while will leave you,
but stir not you, lord Angelo, till you have well determined upon this slander.'
The duke then went away, leaving Anglo well pleased to be deputed judge and
umpire in his own cause. But the duke was absent only while he threw off his
royal robes and put on big friar's habit; and in that disguise again he presented
himself before Angelo and Escalus: and the good old Escalus, who thought Angelo
had been falsely accused, said to the supposed friar: 'Come, sir, did you set
these women on to slander lord Angelo?' He replied: 'Where is the duke? It is
he who should hear me speak.' Escalus said: 'The duke is in us, and we will
hear you. Speak justly.' 'Boldly at least,' retorted the friar; and then he
blamed the duke for leaving the cause of Isabel in the hands of him she had
accused, and spoke so freely of many corrupt practices he had observed, while,
as he said, he had been a looker-on in Vienna, that Escalus threatened him with
the torture for speaking words against the state, and for censuring the conduct
of the duke, and ordered him to be taken away to prison. Then, to the amazement
of all-present, and to the utter confusion of Angelo, the supposed friar threw
off his disguise, and they saw it was the duke himself.
The duke first addressed Isabel. He said to her: 'Come hither, Isabel. Your
friar is now your prince, but with my habit I have not changed my heart. I am
still devoted to your service.' 'O give me pardon,' said Isabel, 'that 1, your
vassal, have employed and troubled your unknown sovereignty.' He answered that
he had most need of forgiveness from her, for not having prevented the death
of her brother - for not yet would he tell her that Claudio was living; meaning
first to make a further trial of her goodness. Angelo now knew the duke had
been a secret witness of his bad deeds, and he said: 'O my dread lord, I should
be guiltier than my guiltiness, to think I can be indiscernible, when I perceive
your grace, like power divine, has looked upon my actions. Then, good prince,
no longer prolong my shame, but let my trial be my own confession. Immediate
sentence and death is all the grace I beg.' The duke replied: 'Angelo, thy faults
are manifest. We do condemn thee to the very block where Claudio stooped to
death; and with like haste away with him; and for his possessions, Mariana,
we do instate and widow you withal, to buy a better husband.' 'O my dear lord,'
said Mariana, 'I crave no other, nor no better man': and then on her knees,
even as Isabel had begged the life of Claudio, did this kind wife of an ungrateful
husband beg the life of Angelo; and she said: 'Gentle my liege, 0 good my lord!
Sweet Isabel, take my part!
Lend me your knees, and all my life to come I will lend you all my life, to
do you service!' The duke said: 'Against all sense you importune her. Should
Isabel kneel down to beg for mercy, her brother's ghost would break his paved
bed, and take her hence in horror.' Still Mariana said: 'Isabel, sweet Isabel,
do but kneel by me, hold up your hand, say nothing! I will speak all. They say,
best men are moulded out of faults, and for the most part become much the better
for being a little bad. So may my husband. Oh Isabel, will you not lend a knee?'
The duke then said: 'He dies for Claudio.' But much pleased was the good duke,
when his own Isabel, from whom he expected all gracious and honourable acts,
kneeled down before him, and said: 'Most bounteous sir, look, if it please you,
on this man condemned, as if my brother lived. I partly think a due sincerity
governed his deeds, till he did look on me. Since it is so, let him not die!
My brother had but justice, in that he did the thing for which he died.'
The duke, as the best reply he could make to this noble petitioner for her enemy's
life, sending for Claudio from his prison-house, where he lay doubtful of his
destiny, presented to her this lamented brother living; and he said to Isabel:
'Give me your hand, Isabel; for your lovely sake I pardon Claudio. Say you will
be mine, and he shall be my brother too.' By this time lord Angelo perceived
he was safe; and the duke, observing his eye to brighten up a little, said:
'Well, Angelo, look that you love your wife; her worth has obtained your pardon:
joy to you, Mariana! Love her, Angelo! I have confessed her, and know her virtue.'
Angelo remembered, when dressed in a little brief authority, how hard his heart
had been, and felt how sweet is mercy.
The duke commanded Claudio to marry Juliet, and offered himself again to the
acceptance of Isabel, whose virtuous and noble conduct had won her prince's
heart. Isabel, not having taken the veil, was free to marry; and the friendly
offices, while hid under the disguise of a humble friar, which the noble duke
had done for her, made her with grateful joy accept the honour he offered her;
and when she became duchess of Vienna, the excellent example of the virtuous
Isabel worked such a complete reformation among the young ladies of that city,
that from that time none ever fell into the transgression of Juliet, the repentant
wife of the reformed Claudio. And the mercy-loving duke long reigned with his
beloved Isabel, the happiest of husbands and of princes.