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MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
Tuis play was first printed in the folio of 1623, and is supposed, upon the slight foundation of two or three doubtful allusions to contemporary events, to have been written in 1603. The fact of its having been played before the Court on St. Stephen’s night, December 26, 1604, which is gathered from Tylney's account of the expenses of The Revels from the end of October, 1604, to the end of the same month, 1605:
“By his Mates. plaiers. On St. Stivens Night in the Hall, A Play called Mesur for Mesur".
proves it to have been written before that date, and this really is all that is known with certainty respecting the period of its production. The plot appears to have been taken from Whetstone's drama, in two parts, called “ The right excellent and famous Historye of Promos and Cassandra,” &c. 1578, of which the “ Argument” is as follows:
“ In the cyttie of Julio (sometimes vnder the dominion of Coruinus Kinge of Hungarie and Boemia) there was a law, that what man so euer committed adultery should lose his head, and the woman offender should weare some disguised apparel during her life, to make her infamouslye noted. This seuere lawe, by the fauour of some mercifull magistrate, became little regarded vntill the time of Lord Promos auctority; who conuicting a yong gentleman named Andrugio of incontinency, condemned both him and his minion to the execution of this statute. Andrugio had a very vertuous and beawtiful gentlewoman to his sister, named Cassandra : Cassandra to enlarge her brothers life, submitted an humble petition to the Lord Promos: Promos regarding her good behauiours, and fantasying her great beawtie, was much delighted with the sweete order of her talke ; and, doying good that euill might come thereof, for a time he repryu'd her brother ; but, wicked man, tourning his liking vnto vnlawfull lust, he set downe the spoile of her honour raunsome for her brothers life. Chaste Cassandra, abhorring both him and his sute, by no perswasion would yeald to this raunsome : but in fine, wonne with the importunitye of hir brother (pleading for life) vpon these conditions she agreede to Promos; first that he should pardon her brother, and after marry her. Promos, as feareles in promisse as carelesse in performance, with sollemne vowe sygned her conditions : but worse then any infydel, his will satisfyed, he performed neither the one nor the other ; for, to keepe his aucthoritye vnspotted with fauour, and to preuent Cassandraes clamors, he commaunded the gayler secretly to present Cassandra with her brothers head. The gayler, with the outcryes of Andrugio [sic], abhorryng Promos lewdenes, by the prouidence of God prouided thus for his safety. He presented Cassandra with a felon's head newlie executed, who (being mangled, knew it not from her brothers, by the gayler who was set at libertie) was so agreeued at this trecherye, that, at the pointe to kyl her selfe, she spared that stroke to be auenged of Promos : and deuisyng a way, she concluded to make her fortunes knowne vnto the kinge. She (executinge this resolution) was so highly fauoured of the king, that forthwith he hasted to do justice on Promos : whose judgement was, to marrye Cassandra to repaire her crased honour; which donne, for his hainous offence he should lose his head. This maryage solempnised, Cassandra, tyed in the greatest bondes of affection to her husband, became an earnest suter for his life: the kinge (tendringe the generall benefit of the common weale before her special ease, although he fauoured her much,) would not graunt her sute. Andrugio (disguised amonge the company) sorrowing the griefe of his sister, bewrayde his safetye, and crauerd pardon. The kinge, to renowne the vertues of Cassandra, pardoned both him and Promos. The circumstances of this rare historye in action lyuelye foloweth."
Whetstone was indebted for the story, of which he afterwards introduced a prose narrative in his “ Heptameron of Civil Discourses," 1582, to Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi,-Parte Seconda, Deca. viii. Novella 5:
“Juriste è mandato da Massamiano Imperadore in Ispruchi, ove fà prendere un giovane violatore di una vergine, e condannalo a morte : la sorella cerca di liberarlo : Juriste da speranza alla donna di pigliarla per moglie, e di darle libero il fratello : ella con lui si giace, e la notte istessa Juriste få tagliar al giovane la testa, e la manda alla sorella. Ella ne fà querela all' Imperadore, il quale fà sposare ad Juriste la donna ; poscia lo fà dare ad essere ucciso : la donna lo libera, e con lui si vive amorevolissimamente."
Enter DUKE, Escalus, Lords, and Attendants. For common justice, you're as pregnant in
As art and practice hath enriched any DUKE. Escalus !
That we remember. There is our commission, ESCAL. My lord.
[Giving it. DUKE. Of government the properties to unfold, From which we would not have you warp.—Call Would seem in me to affect speech and discourse ;
hither, Since I am put to know, that your own science I
say, come before us Angelo.-Exceeds, in that, the lists of all advice
[Exit an Attendant. My strength can give you : then no more remains, What figure of us think you he will bear? But that, to your sufficiency, as your worth is able, For you must know, we have with special soul And let them work. The nature of our people, Elected him our absence to supply, Our city's institutions, and the terms
Lent himn our terror, drest him with our love,
-Then no more remains,
And let them work.)
to sense: we might read
." Then no more remains, But that, [ Tendering his Commission.) to your sufficiency, And, as your worth is able, let them work."