DUKE VINCENTIO: [Aside] This is his pardon, purchased by such sin
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?
Provost: I told you. Lord Angelo, belike thinking me remiss
in mine office, awakens me with this unwonted 
putting-on; methinks strangely, for he hath not used it before.
DUKE VINCENTIO: Pray you, let's hear.
'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?
DUKE VINCENTIO: What is that Barnardine who is to be
executed in the afternoon?
Provost: A Bohemian born, but here nursed un and bred; one
that is a prisoner nine years old. 
DUKE VINCENTIO: How came it that the absent duke had not either
delivered him to his liberty or executed him? I
have heard it was ever his manner to do so.
Provost: His friends still wrought reprieves for him: and,
indeed, his fact, till now in the government of Lord 
Angelo, came not to an undoubtful proof.
DUKE VINCENTIO: It is now apparent?
Provost: Most manifest, and not denied by himself.
DUKE VINCENTIO: Hath he born himself penitently in prison? how
seems he to be touched? 
Provost: A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully but
as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless
of what's past, present, or to come; insensible of
mortality, and desperately mortal.
DUKE VINCENTIO: He wants advice. 
Provost: He will hear none: he hath evermore had the liberty
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.
DUKE VINCENTIO: More of him anon. There is written in your brow,
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 
Provost: Pray, sir, in what?
DUKE VINCENTIO: In the delaying death.
Provost: A lack, how may I do it, having the hour limited,
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.
DUKE VINCENTIO: By the vow of mine order I warrant you, if my
instructions may be your guide. Let this Barnardine
be this morning executed, and his head born to Angelo. 
Provost: Angelo hath seen them both, and will discover the favour.
DUKE VINCENTIO: O, death's a great disguiser; and you may add to it.
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.
Provost: 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 duke
avouch the justice of your dealing?
Provost: But what likelihood is in that?
DUKE VINCENTIO: Not a resemblance, but a certainty. Yet since I see 
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.
Provost: 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.