"We must not make a scarecrow of the law; setting it up to fear the birds of prey and let it keep one shape till custom make it their perch and not their terror."


William Shakespeare The quote is from the 1603 play of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Measure for Measure, and at the start of Scene 2, representing the words of the villain Angelo to the wise Escalus. Angelo proposes strict adherence to the letter of the law so it not fall victim to "birds of prey".

In the play, Angelo defers to the honour of respecting the law to urge Escalus to maintain a decision advantageous to Angelo's plans.

Escalus replies:

"Ay, but yet let us be keen, and rather cut a little, than fall, and bruise to death."


  • Oil painting of William Shakespeare made in about 1610 by John Taylor. Original held by the National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG1.


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