• A room in ANGELO’s house.
    Enter ANGELO

    ANGELO

    When I would pray and think, I think and pray
    To several subjects. Heaven hath my empty words;
    Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue,
    Anchors on Isabel: Heaven in my mouth,
    5As if I did but only chew his name;
    And in my heart the strong and swelling evil
    Of my conception. The state, whereon I studied
    Is like a good thing, being often read,
    Grown fear’d and tedious; yea, my gravity,
    10Wherein—let no man hear me—I take pride,
    Could I with boot change for an idle plume,
    Which the air beats for vain. O place, O form,
    How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,
    Wrench awe from fools and tie the wiser souls
    15To thy false seeming! Blood, thou art blood:
    Let’s write good angel on the devil’s horn:
    ’Tis not the devil’s crest.
    Enter a Servant
    How now! who’s there?

    SERVANT

    One Isabel, a sister, desires access to you.

    ANGELO

    20Teach her the way.
  • A room in ANGELO’s house.
    ANGELO enters.

    ANGELO

    When I try to pray and think, I think and pray about different things. My empty words focus on heaven, while my imagination ignores what I’m saying and fixates on Isabel. It’s as if I’m only mouthing God’s name, while an evil idea grows in my heart. The politics I used to study with such interest now seem dry and tedious. The dignity I was so proud of (I hope no one hears this) is now worth even less than some silly hat feather waving uselessly in the wind. Oh, how often do rank and ceremonial trappings impress the foolish and entrap even the wise! Passions are passions—they cannot simply be swept away. You can write “good angel” on the devil’s horns, but that doesn’t change his devilish nature.

    empty words

    “empty” here can mean two things: the first meaning is “absent-minded or without conviction,” since Angelo speaks to heaven but his thoughts are on Isabel; it also suggests “meaningless,” since his impure thoughts about Isabel prove he doesn’t mean the pious words he speaks.

    A Servant enters.
    Hello! Who’s there?

    SERVANT

    One Isabel, a nun, wishes to see you.

    ANGELO

    Show her the way.