|Measure for Measure|
| Measure for Measure
| Act 4, Scene 2
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Enter Provost and POMPEYProvost
Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off a man's head?POMPEY
If the man be a bachelor, sir, I can; but if he be aProvost
married man, he's his wife's head, and I can never
cut off a woman's head.
Come, sir, leave me your snatches, and yield me aPOMPEY
direct answer. To-morrow morning are to die Claudio
and Barnardine. Here is in our prison a common
executioner, who in his office lacks a helper: if
you will take it on you to assist him, it shall
redeem you from your gyves; if not, you shall have
your full time of imprisonment and your deliverance
with an unpitied whipping, for you have been a
Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of mind;Provost
but yet I will be content to be a lawful hangman. I
would be glad to receive some instruction from my
What, ho! Abhorson! Where's Abhorson, there?ABHORSON
Do you call, sir?Provost
Sirrah, here's a fellow will help you to-morrow inABHORSON
your execution. If you think it meet, compound with
him by the year, and let him abide here with you; if
not, use him for the present and dismiss him. He
cannot plead his estimation with you; he hath been a bawd.
A bawd, sir? fie upon him! he will discredit our mystery.Provost
Go to, sir; you weigh equally; a feather will turnPOMPEY
Pray, sir, by your good favour,--for surely, sir, aABHORSON
good favour you have, but that you have a hanging
look,--do you call, sir, your occupation a mystery?
Ay, sir; a mysteryPOMPEY
Painting, sir, I have heard say, is a mystery; andABHORSON
your whores, sir, being members of my occupation,
using painting, do prove my occupation a mystery:
but what mystery there should be in hanging, if I
should be hanged, I cannot imagine.
Sir, it is a mystery.POMPEY
Every true man's apparel fits your thief: if it beProvost
too little for your thief, your true man thinks it
big enough; if it be too big for your thief, your
thief thinks it little enough: so every true man's
apparel fits your thief.
Are you agreed?POMPEY
Sir, I will serve him; for I do find your hangman isProvost
a more penitent trade than your bawd; he doth
oftener ask forgiveness.
You, sirrah, provide your block and your axeABHORSON
to-morrow four o'clock.
Come on, bawd; I will instruct thee in my trade; follow.POMPEY
I do desire to learn, sir: and I hope, if you haveProvost
occasion to use me for your own turn, you shall find
me yare; for truly, sir, for your kindness I owe you
a good turn.
Call hither Barnardine and Claudio:CLAUDIO
Exeunt POMPEY and ABHORSONThe one has my pity; not a jot the other,
Being a murderer, though he were my brother.
Enter CLAUDIOLook, here's the warrant, Claudio, for thy death:
'Tis now dead midnight, and by eight to-morrow
Thou must be made immortal. Where's Barnardine?
As fast lock'd up in sleep as guiltless labourProvost
When it lies starkly in the traveller's bones:
He will not wake.
Who can do good on him?DUKE VINCENTIO
Well, go, prepare yourself.
Knocking withinBut, hark, what noise?
Heaven give your spirits comfort!
Exit CLAUDIOBy and by.
I hope it is some pardon or reprieve
For the most gentle Claudio.
Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as beforeWelcome father.
The best and wholesomest spirts of the nightProvost
Envelope you, good Provost! Who call'd here of late?
None, since the curfew rung.DUKE VINCENTIO
They will, then, ere't be long.Provost
What comfort is for Claudio?DUKE VINCENTIO
There's some in hope.Provost
It is a bitter deputy.DUKE VINCENTIO
Not so, not so; his life is parallel'dProvost
Even with the stroke and line of his great justice:
He doth with holy abstinence subdue
That in himself which he spurs on his power
To qualify in others: were he meal'd with that
Which he corrects, then were he tyrannous;
But this being so, he's just.
Knocking withinNow are they come.
Exit ProvostThis is a gentle provost: seldom when
The steeled gaoler is the friend of men.
Knocking withinHow now! what noise? That spirit's possessed with haste
That wounds the unsisting postern with these strokes.
There he must stay until the officerDUKE VINCENTIO
Arise to let him in: he is call'd up.
Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,Provost
But he must die to-morrow?
None, sir, none.DUKE VINCENTIO
As near the dawning, provost, as it is,Provost
You shall hear more ere morning.
You something know; yet I believe there comes
No countermand; no such example have we:
Besides, upon the very siege of justice
Lord Angelo hath to the public ear
Profess'd the contrary.
Enter a MessengerThis is his lordship's man.
And here comes Claudio's pardon.Messenger
[Giving a paper]Provost
My lord hath sent you this note; and by me this
further charge, that you swerve not from the
smallest article of it, neither in time, matter, or
other circumstance. Good morrow; for, as I take it,
it is almost day.
I shall obey him.DUKE VINCENTIO
[Aside] This is his pardon, purchased by such sinProvost
For which the pardoner himself is in.
Hence hath offence his quick celerity,
When it is born in high authority:
When vice makes mercy, mercy's so extended,
That for the fault's love is the offender friended.
Now, sir, what news?
I told you. Lord Angelo, belike thinking me remissDUKE VINCENTIO
in mine office, awakens me with this unwonted
putting-on; methinks strangely, for he hath not used it before.
Pray you, let's hear.Provost
'Whatsoever you may hear to the contrary, let
Claudio be executed by four of the clock; and in the
afternoon Barnardine: for my better satisfaction,
let me have Claudio's head sent me by five. Let
this be duly performed; with a thought that more
depends on it than we must yet deliver. Thus fail
not to do your office, as you will answer it at your peril.'
What say you to this, sir?
What is that Barnardine who is to be executed in theProvost
A Bohemian born, but here nursed un and bred; oneDUKE VINCENTIO
that is a prisoner nine years old.
How came it that the absent duke had not eitherProvost
delivered him to his liberty or executed him? I
have heard it was ever his manner to do so.
His friends still wrought reprieves for him: and,DUKE VINCENTIO
indeed, his fact, till now in the government of Lord
Angelo, came not to an undoubtful proof.
It is now apparent?Provost
Most manifest, and not denied by himself.DUKE VINCENTIO
Hath he born himself penitently in prison? howProvost
seems he to be touched?
A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully butDUKE VINCENTIO
as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless
of what's past, present, or to come; insensible of
mortality, and desperately mortal.
He wants advice.Provost
He will hear none: he hath evermore had the libertyDUKE VINCENTIO
of the prison; give him leave to escape hence, he
would not: drunk many times a day, if not many days
entirely drunk. We have very oft awaked him, as if
to carry him to execution, and showed him a seeming
warrant for it: it hath not moved him at all.
More of him anon. There is written in your brow,Provost
provost, honesty and constancy: if I read it not
truly, my ancient skill beguiles me; but, in the
boldness of my cunning, I will lay myself in hazard.
Claudio, whom here you have warrant to execute, is
no greater forfeit to the law than Angelo who hath
sentenced him. To make you understand this in a
manifested effect, I crave but four days' respite;
for the which you are to do me both a present and a
Pray, sir, in what?DUKE VINCENTIO
In the delaying death.Provost
A lack, how may I do it, having the hour limited,DUKE VINCENTIO
and an express command, under penalty, to deliver
his head in the view of Angelo? I may make my case
as Claudio's, to cross this in the smallest.
By the vow of mine order I warrant you, if myProvost
instructions may be your guide. Let this Barnardine
be this morning executed, and his head born to Angelo.
Angelo hath seen them both, and will discover the favour.DUKE VINCENTIO
O, death's a great disguiser; and you may add to it.Provost
Shave the head, and tie the beard; and say it was
the desire of the penitent to be so bared before his
death: you know the course is common. If any thing
fall to you upon this, more than thanks and good
fortune, by the saint whom I profess, I will plead
against it with my life.
Pardon me, good father; it is against my oath.DUKE VINCENTIO
Were you sworn to the duke, or to the deputy?Provost
To him, and to his substitutes.DUKE VINCENTIO
You will think you have made no offence, if the dukeProvost
avouch the justice of your dealing?
But what likelihood is in that?DUKE VINCENTIO
Not a resemblance, but a certainty. Yet since I seeProvost
you fearful, that neither my coat, integrity, nor
persuasion can with ease attempt you, I will go
further than I meant, to pluck all fears out of you.
Look you, sir, here is the hand and seal of the
duke: you know the character, I doubt not; and the
signet is not strange to you.
I know them both.DUKE VINCENTIO
The contents of this is the return of the duke: you
shall anon over-read it at your pleasure; where you
shall find, within these two days he will be here.
This is a thing that Angelo knows not; for he this
very day receives letters of strange tenor;
perchance of the duke's death; perchance entering
into some monastery; but, by chance, nothing of what
is writ. Look, the unfolding star calls up the
shepherd. Put not yourself into amazement how these
things should be: all difficulties are but easy
when they are known. Call your executioner, and off
with Barnardine's head: I will give him a present
shrift and advise him for a better place. Yet you
are amazed; but this shall absolutely resolve you.
Come away; it is almost clear dawn.
| Measure for Measure
| Act 4, Scene 2
Previous scene | Next scene