In act I, scene 5, of Measure for Measure, Lucio says:

Lucio. This is the point.
The Duke is very strangely gone from hence;
Bore many gentlemen (my selfe being one)
In hand, and hope of action: but we doe learne,
By those that know the very Nerues of State,
His giuing-out, were of an infinite distance
From his true meant designe: vpon his place,
(And with full line of his authority)
Gouernes Lord Angelo; [...]

I did some research on Wiktionary and ShakespearesWords.com but to no avail. What does "Bore many gentlemen" mean here?

  • Note: In the link provided by the OP it is Scene 5, but in some editions I found online these lines occur in Scene 4 as originally stated. Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 14:48
  • @KateBunting if your comment is relevant information to your answer, please edit your answer to include it. Comments may be ephemeral and should not be relied upon for content if it belongs in the answer,.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


I found this definition for To bear in hand from the 1913 edition of Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary.

to keep (one) up in expectation, usually by promises never to be realized; to amuse by false pretenses; to delude.
to keep in expectation with false pretenses.

Lucio appears to be saying that the Duke had deceived many gentlemen, including himself, into expecting 'action'; presumably military action.

(NB The OP originally stated that the lines are from Act 1, Scene 4. This is true for several editions of the play, though in the version shown it is indeed Scene 5.)

  • Since Lucio seems to be a soldier (he's talking to two gentlemen who appear ro be soldiers in Act 1, Scene 2), it probably is military action.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 19:14

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