• A monastery.
    Enter DUKE VINCENTIO and FRIAR THOMAS

    DUKE VINCENTIO

    No, holy father; throw away that thought;
    Believe not that the dribbling dart of love
    Can pierce a complete bosom. Why I desire thee
    To give me secret harbour, hath a purpose
    5More grave and wrinkled than the aims and ends
    Of burning youth.

    FRIAR THOMAS

    May your grace speak of it?

    DUKE VINCENTIO

    My holy sir, none better knows than you
    How I have ever loved the life removed
    10And held in idle price to haunt assemblies
    Where youth, and cost, and witless bravery keeps.
    I have deliver’d to Lord Angelo,
    A man of stricture and firm abstinence,
    My absolute power and place here in Vienna,
    15And he supposes me travell’d to Poland;
    For so I have strew’d it in the common ear,
    And so it is received. Now, pious sir,
    You will demand of me why I do this?

    FRIAR THOMAS

    Gladly, my lord.

    DUKE VINCENTIO

    20We have strict statutes and most biting laws.
    The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds,
    Which for this nineteen years we have let slip;
    Even like an o’ergrown lion in a cave,
    That goes not out to prey. Now, as fond fathers,
    25Having bound up the threatening twigs of birch,
    Only to stick it in their children’s sight
    For terror, not to use, in time the rod
    Becomes more mock’d than fear’d; so our decrees,
    Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead;
    30And liberty plucks justice by the nose;
    The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
    Goes all decorum.
  • A monastery.
    DUKE VINCENTIO and FRIAR THOMAS enter.

    DUKE VINCENTIO

    No, holy father, forget that idea. Don’t think that Cupid’s feeble arrow can pierce this invulnerable bosom. I want you to shelter me secretly for a reason more ageless and serious than any youthful, burning desire.

    FRIAR THOMAS

    Can you talk about it?

    DUKE VINCENTIO

    Reverend sir, no one knows better than you how I’ve always loved the quiet life and never cared much for the social scene where young people brag and throw their money around. I’ve given Lord Angelo, a man of strict self-discipline and self-denial, my absolute power and position here in Vienna. He thinks I’ve gone to Poland, since I’ve spread that rumor among the general public, and everybody believes it. Now, religious sir, do you want to know why I did this?

    FRIAR THOMAS

    Yes, my lord.

    DUKE VINCENTIO

    I instituted strict statutes and firm laws, necessary controls for headstrong human natures, but for nineteen years I’ve let them grow lax, like an old, fat lion that lies in his cave and never leaves to hunt. Now, a doting father can make a birch whipping rod and wave it in his children’s faces, but if he only threatens and never uses it, eventually they’ll laugh at it and not fear it. Similarly, our regulations have gone unenforced, and so they’re as good as dead. People are flouting the law with their loose living. The proper order of things is turned upside down, as if babies were spanking their nannies.