Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition

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2.4Sc. 9

Editor’s NoteEnter Angelo

angelo When I would pray and think, I think and pray

Editor’s Note2To several subjects: God hath my empty words,

Editor’s Note3Whilst my invention, hearing not my tongue,

4Anchors on Isabel; God in my mouth,

Editor’s Note5As if I did but only chew his name,

6And in my heart the strong and swelling evil

Editor’s Note7Of my conception. The state whereon I studied

8Is like a good thing, being often read,

9Grown seared and tedious. Yea, my gravity,

10Wherein—let no man hear me—I take pride,

Editor’s Note11Could I with boot change for an idle plume

Editor’s Note12Which the air beats for vain. O place, O form,

Editor’s Note13How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,

14Wrench awe from fools, and tie the wiser souls

Editor’s Note15To thy false seeming! Blood, thou art blood.

Editor’s Note16Let's write 'good angel' on the devil's horn—

Editor’s Note17'Tis now the devil's crest.

Enter Servant

How now? Who's there?

Editor’s Note18

servant One Isabel, a sister, desires accèss to you.


angelo Teach her the way.

[Exit Servant]

O heavens,

20Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,

Editor’s Note21Making both it unable for itself,

22And dispossessing all my other parts

23Of necessary fitness?

Editor’s Note24So play the foolish throngs with one that swoons—

pg 222525Come all to help him, and so stop the air

26By which he should revive—and even so

Editor’s Note27The general subject to a well-wished king

Editor’s Note28Quit their own part and, in obsequious fondness,

Editor’s Note29Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love

30Must needs appear offence.

Enter Isabella

How now, fair maid?

Editor’s Note31

isabella I am come to know your pleasure.

Editor’s Note32

angelo That you might know it would much better please me

Editor’s Note33Than to demand what 'tis. Your brother cannot live.

Editor’s Note34

isabella Even so. God keep your honour.


angelo Yet may he live a while, and it may be

Editor’s Note36As long as you or I. Yet he must die.


isabella Under your sentence?


angelo Yea.


isabella When, I beseech you?—that in his reprieve,

Editor’s Note40Longer or shorter, he may be so fitted

41That his soul sicken not.


angelo Ha, fie, these filthy vices! It were as good

Editor’s Note43To pardon him that hath from nature stolen

44A man already made, as to remit

Editor’s Note45Their saucy sweetness that do coin God's image

46In stamps that are forbid. 'Tis all as easy

Editor’s Note47Falsely to take away a life true made

Editor’s Note48As to put metal in restrainèd moulds

Editor’s Note49To make a false one.


isabella 'Tis set down so in heaven, but not in earth.

Editor’s Note51

angelo Say you so? Then I shall pose you quickly.

52Which had you rather: that the most just law

53Now took your brother's life, or, to redeem him,

54Give up your body to such sweet uncleanness

55As she that he hath stained?

isabella Sir, believe this.

Editor’s Note56I had rather give my body than my soul.

Editor’s Note57

angelo I talk not of your soul. Our còmpelled sins

Editor’s Note58Stand more for number than account.

isabella How say you?

pg 2226 Editor’s Note59

angelo Nay, I'll not warrant that, for I can speak

60Against the thing I say. Answer to this.

61I now, the voice of the recorded law,

62Pronounce a sentence on your brother's life.

63Might there not be a charity in sin

Editor’s Note64To save this brother's life?

isabella Please you to do't,

65I'll take it as a peril to my soul

66It is no sin at all, but charity.

Editor’s Note67

angelo Pleased you to do't at peril of your soul

Editor’s Note68Were equal poise of sin and charity.


isabella That I do beg his life, if it be sin,

Editor’s Note70Heaven let me bear it. You granting of my suit,

71If that be sin, I'll make it my morn prayer

72To have it added to the faults of mine,

73And nothing of your answer.

angelo Nay, but hear me.

Editor’s Note74Your sense pursues not mine. Either you are ignorant,

Editor’s Note75Or seem so craftily, and that's not good.

Editor’s Note76

isabella Let me be ignorant, and in nothing good

Editor’s Note77But graciously to know I am no better.


angelo Thus wisdom wishes to appear most bright

Editor’s Note79When it doth tax itself: as these black masks

Editor’s Note80Proclaim an énshield beauty ten times louder

81Than beauty could, displayed. But mark me.

Editor’s Note82To be receivèd plain, I'll speak more gross.

83Your brother is to die.

Editor’s Note84

isabella So.

Editor’s Note85

angelo And his offence is so, as it appears,

Editor’s Note86Accountant to the law upon that pain.


isabella True.

Editor’s Note88

angelo Admit no other way to save his life—

Editor’s Note89As I subscribe not that nor any other—

Editor’s Note90But, in the loss of question, that you his sister,

Editor’s Note91Finding yourself desired of such a person

Editor’s Note92Whose credit with the judge, or own great place,

93Could fetch your brother from the manacles

94Of the all-binding law, and that there were

Editor’s Note95No earthly mean to save him, but that either

pg 2227Editor’s Note96You must lay down the treasures of your body

Editor’s Note97To this supposed, or else to let him suffer—

98What would you do?


isabella As much for my poor brother as myself.

Editor’s Note100That is, were I under the terms of death,

Editor’s Note101Th'impression of keen whips I'd wear as rubies,

102And strip myself to death as to a bed

Editor’s Note103That longing have been sick for, ere I'd yield

104My body up to shame.

Link 105

angelo Then must your brother die.


isabella And 'twere the cheaper way.

107Better it were a brother died at once

108Than that a sister, by redeeming him,

Editor’s Note109Should die for ever.


angelo Were not you then as cruel as the sentence

111That you have slandered so?


isabella Ignominy in ransom and free pardon

Editor’s Note113Are of two houses; lawful mercy

114Is nothing kin to foul redemption.


angelo You seemed of late to make the law a tyrant,

Editor’s Note116And rather proved the sliding of your brother

117A merriment than a vice.


isabella O pardon me, my lord. It oft falls out

Editor’s Note119To have what we would have, we speak not what we mean.

Editor’s Note120I something do excuse the thing I hate

121For his advantage that I dearly love.

Editor’s Note122

angelo We are all frail.

isabella Else let my brother die—

Editor’s Note123If not a federy, but only he,

Editor’s Note124Own and succeed thy weakness.

angelo Nay, women are frail too.

Editor’s Note125

isabella Ay, as the glasses where they view themselves,

Editor’s Note126Which are as easy broke as they make forms.

Editor’s Note127Women? Help, heaven! Men their creation mar

128In profiting by them. Nay, call us ten times frail,

129For we are soft as our complexions are,

Editor’s Note130And credulous to false prints.

angelo I think it well,

Editor’s Note131And from this testimony of your own sex,

pg 2228Editor’s Note132Since I suppose we are made to be no stronger

Editor’s Note133Than faults may shake our frames, let me be bold.

Editor’s Note134I do arrest your words. Be that you are;

Editor’s Note135That is, a woman. If you be more, you're none.

Editor’s Note136If you be one, as you are well expressed

Editor’s Note137By all external warrants, show it now,

Editor’s Note138By putting on the destined livery.

Editor’s Note139

isabella I have no tongue but one. Gentle my lord,

Editor’s Note140Let me entreat you speak the former language.

Editor’s Note141

angelo Plainly conceive, I love you.


isabella My brother did love Juliet,

143And you tell me that he shall die for it.


angelo He shall not, Isabel, if you give me love.

Editor’s Note145

isabella I know your virtue hath a licence in't,

146Which seems a little fouler than it is,

Editor’s Note147To pluck on others.

angelo Believe me, on mine honour,

148My words express my purpose.


isabella Ha, little honour to be much believed,

150And most pernicious purpose! Seeming, seeming!

Editor’s Note151I will proclaim thee, Angelo; look for't.

Editor’s Note152Sign me a present pardon for my brother,

Editor’s Note153Or with an outstretched throat I'll tell the world aloud

Editor’s Note154What man thou art.

angelo Who will believe thee, Isabel?

155My unsoiled name, th'austereness of my life,

Editor’s Note156My vouch against you, and my place i'th' state,

157Will so your accusation overweigh

Editor’s Note158That you shall stifle in your own report,

159And smell of calumny. I have begun,

Editor’s Note160And now I give my sensual race the rein.

161Fit thy consent to my sharp appetite.

Editor’s Note162Lay by all nicety and prolixious blushes

Editor’s Note163That banish what they sue for. Redeem thy brother

Editor’s Note164By yielding up thy body to my will,

Editor’s Note165Or else he must not only die the death,

Editor’s Note166But thy unkindness shall his death draw out

Editor’s Note167To ling'ring sufferance. Answer me tomorrow,

Editor’s Note168Or by the affection that now guides me most,

pg 2229169I'll prove a tyrant to him. As for you,

170Say what you can, my false o'erweighs your true.


isabella To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,

Editor’s Note172Who would believe me? O perilous mouths,

173That bear in them one and the selfsame tongue

Editor’s Note174Either of condemnation or approof,

Editor’s Note175Bidding the law make curtsy to their will,

176Hooking both right and wrong to th'appetite,

177To follow as it draws! I'll to my brother.

Editor’s Note178Though he hath fall'n by prompture of the blood,

179Yet hath he in him such a mind of honour

Editor’s Note180That had he twenty heads to tender down

181On twenty bloody blocks, he'd yield them up

182Before his sister should her body stoop

183To such abhorred pollution.

184Then Isabel live chaste, and brother die:

185More than our brother is our chastity.

186I'll tell him yet of Angelo's request,

187And fit his mind to death, for his soul's rest.


Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2.4.0 Angelo He may have changed, in a variety of ways, since his previous soliloquy and exit; sometimes, he looks as though he has passed a sleepless night.
Editor’s Note
2.4.2 several distinct, different
Editor’s Note
2.4.3 invention powers of inventiveness
Editor’s Note
2.4.5 chew i.e. fail to swallow and digest (suggesting a reference to the bread of the Communion service); mumble over
Editor’s Note
2.4.7 conception imagination, ideas, thoughts
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2.4.7 state mode of spiritual existence; dignity
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2.4.11 with boot advantageously
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2.4.11 idle frivolous
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2.4.12 the air (object of beats)
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2.4.12 place high office
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2.4.12 form outward formality
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2.4.13 case dress, external covering
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2.4.13 habit clothing, robes; deportment
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2.4.15 Blood, thou art blood (contrasts with 1.4.56–7)
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2.4.16 angel (alluding to Angelo's name)
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2.4.16 devil's horn i.e. his distinguishing feature
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2.4.17 crest Heraldic device worn on helmets and shields; here suggesting 'emblem'. The Devil was thought to be a fallen angel, and was proverbially adept at imitating piety.
Editor’s Note
2.4.18 sister nun, member of a female religious order
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2.4.18 desires accèss (as, in another sense, Angelo does to Isabella)
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2.4.18 sister (suggesting that Isabella, though only a novice, wears clothing that signals her religious vocation)
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2.4.21 unable weak, ineffectual
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2.4.24 play act
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2.4.27 general subject common people
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2.4.28 part roles, function
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2.4.28 obsequious eager to serve, dutiful
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2.4.28 fondness affection; folly
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2.4.29 untaught ignorant
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2.4.31 your pleasure your will, decision (also, unintentionally, 'what gratifies you')
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2.4.32 know (quibbling on carnal 'knowledge')
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2.4.32–3 That … 'tis (might be spoken aside)
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2.4.33 to demand for you to ask
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2.4.34 Even so just so, so be it
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2.4.34 God … honour (a form of farewell)
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2.4.34 keep preserve, protect
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2.4.34 God … honour This echoes her departure line at 2.2.167, and presumably her movements echo that earlier deferential departure, forcing Angelo in his next line to interrupt her exit.
Editor’s Note
2.4.36 he must die (proverbially 'we are all subject to temptation')
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2.4.40 fitted prepared for death
Editor’s Note
2.4.43–4 from … made i.e. committed murder
Editor’s Note
2.4.45 Their saucy sweetness that the lecherous indulgence in pleasure of those who
Editor’s Note
2.4.45–6 coin … forbid i.e. beget illegitimate children (an image of minting fake coins and an allusion to Genesis 1:27)
Editor’s Note
2.4.47 Falsely wrongfully
Editor’s Note
2.4.47 true honestly, legitimately
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2.4.48 metal (also mettle, 'spirit, vigour')
Editor’s Note
2.4.48 restrainèd forbidden
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2.4.48 moulds (applicable to both the image of coining and the womb)
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2.4.49 false counterfeit; illegitimate
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2.4.51 pose confuse, perplex (by questioning)
Editor’s Note
2.4.56 I … soul Isabella fails to understand Angelo's offer
Editor’s Note
2.4.57–8 Our … account (from the Christian commonplace, 'compelled sins are no sins')
Editor’s Note
2.4.58 more … account i.e. to make up the list rather than count against you in God's judgement
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2.4.59 warrant that guarantee that to be true
Editor’s Note
2.4.64 Please if it please
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2.4.67–8 Pleased … Were if it pleased … it were
Editor’s Note
2.4.68 poise of balance between
Editor’s Note
2.4.70 You granting of supposing you grant
Editor’s Note
2.4.74 sense interpretation (also suggesting 'sensuality')
Editor’s Note
2.4.75 good satisfactory (but Isabella takes it as 'virtuous')
Editor’s Note
2.4.75 and that's not good This phrase can be delivered lightly, or ironically, or threateningly. However played, this can be a turning point, and in his remaining speeches there is usually a restrained violence lying just below the surface. Isabella may sense the danger and begin to back away, or may remain naively oblivious.
Editor’s Note
2.4.76–7 Let … better (from the saying attributed to Socrates 'I know nothing except that I know not')
Editor’s Note
2.4.77 graciously through God's grace
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2.4.79 tax reprove
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2.4.79 these (generic, not demonstrative)
Editor’s Note
2.4.79 masks (as worn by modest ladies in public, perhaps including some in the audience; perhaps also a figurative reference to Isabella's habit)
Editor’s Note
2.4.80 ènshield shielded round gives an awkward gloss, but gives the sense of en, which is, after all, stressed
Editor’s Note
2.4.82 receivèd understood
Editor’s Note
2.4.82 gross clearly; brutally, coarsely
Editor’s Note
2.4.84 So (expressing acquiescence)
Editor’s Note
2.4.85 so in such a way
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2.4.86 Accountant accountable
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2.4.86 pain punishment
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2.4.88 Admit suppose
Editor’s Note
2.4.89 subscribe not agree to neither
Editor’s Note
2.4.90 loss looseness, freedom
Editor’s Note
2.4.90 question conversation
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2.4.91 of by
Editor’s Note
2.4.92 place office, rank
Editor’s Note
2.4.95–6 No … body (perhaps an ironic echo of Matthew 6:19 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal')
Editor’s Note
2.4.95 mean means
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2.4.96 treasures i.e. precious virginity, sealed-away delights
Editor’s Note
2.4.97 supposed supposed man
Editor’s Note
2.4.100 under the terms subject to an appointed time; i.e. sentenced to
Editor’s Note
2.4.101–4 whips … My body In modern productions this is often lent a strong sense of sexual sadomasochism, which may colour the whole performance; but it can also be interpreted as the traditional language of Christian martyrdom.
Editor’s Note
2.4.103 longing desire (subject of have, which is influenced by I)
Editor’s Note
2.4.109 die for ever i.e. suffer perdition of the soul. Angelo expresses the more usual attitude to compelled sins at 2.4.57–8
Editor’s Note
2.4.113 two houses different families
Editor’s Note
2.4.116 proved argues to be, represented as
Editor’s Note
2.4.116 sliding lapse
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2.4.119 would wish to
Editor’s Note
2.4.120 something to some extent
Editor’s Note
2.4.122 We are all frail (proverbial; from Ecclesiastes 8:5: 'we are frail every one')
Editor’s Note
2.4.122 Else otherwise
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2.4.123 federy confederate, accomplice
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2.4.124 succeed inherit
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2.4.124 thy weakness i.e. what you, not I, term weakness
Editor’s Note
2.4.125–6 as … forms (from the proverb, 'A woman and a glass are ever in danger')
Editor’s Note
2.4.125 glasses mirrors
Editor’s Note
2.4.126 forms images
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2.4.127 Help, heaven heaven help them
Editor’s Note
2.4.127 their creation (man's creation in God's image—to supposed superiority over women)
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2.4.130 credulous (by extension, 'susceptible')
Editor’s Note
2.4.130 false prints (primarily 'counterfeit stamps': coin-making as an image for verbal seduction, sexual 'pressing', and procreation)
Editor’s Note
2.4.130 think it well i.e. agree entirely
Editor’s Note
2.4.131 testimony (pronounced as three syllables: tèst'mony)
Editor’s Note
2.4.132–3 no … shake i.e. not so strong that faults cannot
Editor’s Note
2.4.133 bold presumptuous
Editor’s Note
2.4.134 arrest seize upon
Editor’s Note
2.4.134 that that which
Editor’s Note
2.4.135 more (i.e. better than you described women)
Editor’s Note
2.4.136 expressed shown to be
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2.4.137 warrants evidence
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2.4.138 destined livery (of frailty and subjection to men)
Editor’s Note
2.4.139 tongue speech, language
Editor’s Note
2.4.140 the former language (i.e. of severe justice)
Editor’s Note
2.4.141 I love you In performance this may be pathetic, shamed, arrogant, desperate, or even accompanied with a lunge at her body. The incomplete verse-line may suggest an awkward pause after his declaration. Isabella's response can be as varied as the ways women respond to an unwanted proposal.
Editor’s Note
2.4.145 virtue moral excellence; sexual purity; merit of office
Editor’s Note
2.4.145 licence liberty of action (to appear licentious)
Editor’s Note
2.4.147 pluck on lure
Editor’s Note
2.4.151 proclaim denounce
Editor’s Note
2.4.152 present immediate
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2.4.153 outstretched opened wide
Editor’s Note
2.4.154 What what kind of
Editor’s Note
2.4.156 vouch attestation
Editor’s Note
2.4.158 report narration; reputation
Editor’s Note
2.4.160 race run; stock
Editor’s Note
2.4.160 now … rein Between 'I love you' and this point Angelo sometimes becomes increasingly, explicitly violent. In the 2014 Goodman Theatre production, Angelo was close to raping her from behind.
Editor’s Note
2.4.162 nicety congress
Editor’s Note
2.4.162 prolixious time-wasting
Editor’s Note
2.4.163 banish … for (i.e. drive away compunction by provoking desire)
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2.4.164 will lust
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2.4.165 die the death be put to death (a biblical phrasing)
Editor’s Note
2.4.166 unkindness unnatural behaviour; lack of affection (to Claudio or Angelo)
Editor’s Note
2.4.167 ling'ring sufferance protracted pain
Editor’s Note
2.4.167 Answer reply favourably to
Editor’s Note
2.4.168 affection passion
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2.4.172–4 O … approof (a proverbial idea)
Editor’s Note
2.4.172 perilous harm-inflicting
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2.4.174 approof approval
Editor’s Note
2.4.175 make curtsy bow in reverence
Editor’s Note
2.4.178 prompture instigation
Editor’s Note
2.4.180 tender yield in payment
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