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Act 4, Scene 2

[Enter Provost and POMPEY]

Provost: 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 a
married man, he's his wife's head, and I can never
cut off a woman's head.

Provost: Come, sir, leave me your snatches, and yield me a     [5]
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     [10]
your full time of imprisonment and your deliverance
with an unpitied whipping, for you have been a
notorious bawd.

POMPEY: Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of mind;
but yet I will be content to be a lawful hangman. I     [15]
would be glad to receive some instruction from my
fellow partner.

Provost: What, ho! Abhorson! Where's Abhorson, there?


ABHORSON: Do you call, sir?

Provost: Sirrah, here's a fellow will help you to-morrow in     [20]
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.

ABHORSON: A bawd, sir? fie upon him! he will discredit our mystery.     [25]

Provost: Go to, sir; you weigh equally; a feather will turn
the scale.


POMPEY: Pray, sir, by your good favour,--for surely, sir, a
good favour you have, but that you have a hanging
look,--do you call, sir, your occupation a mystery?     [30]

ABHORSON: Ay, sir; a mystery

POMPEY: Painting, sir, I have heard say, is a mystery; and
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     [35]
should be hanged, I cannot imagine.

ABHORSON: Sir, it is a mystery.

POMPEY: Proof?

ABHORSON: Every true man's apparel fits your thief: if it be
too little for your thief, your true man thinks it     [40]
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.

[Re-enter Provost]

Provost: Are you agreed?

POMPEY: Sir, I will serve him; for I do find your hangman is     [45]
a more penitent trade than your bawd; he doth
oftener ask forgiveness.

Provost: You, sirrah, provide your block and your axe
to-morrow four o'clock.

ABHORSON: Come on, bawd; I will instruct thee in my trade; follow.     [50]

POMPEY: I do desire to learn, sir: and I hope, if you have
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.

Provost: Call hither Barnardine and Claudio:     [55]


The one has my pity; not a jot the other,
Being a murderer, though he were my brother.


Look, 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?     [60]

CLAUDIO: As fast lock'd up in sleep as guiltless labour
When it lies starkly in the traveller's bones:
He will not wake.

Provost:                Who can do good on him?
Well, go, prepare yourself.

[Knocking within]

                But, hark, what noise?
Heaven give your spirits comfort!     [65]


                          By and by.
I hope it is some pardon or reprieve
For the most gentle Claudio.

[Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before]

                Welcome father.

DUKE VINCENTIO: The best and wholesomest spirts of the night
Envelope you, good Provost! Who call'd here of late?

Provost: None, since the curfew rung.     [70]


Provost:      No.

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'd     [75]
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;     [80]
But this being so, he's just.

[Knocking within]

                                         Now are they come.

[Exit Provost]

This is a gentle provost: seldom when
The steeled gaoler is the friend of men.

[Knocking within]

How now! what noise? That spirit's possessed with haste
That wounds the unsisting postern with these strokes.     [85]

[Re-enter Provost]

Provost: There he must stay until the officer
Arise to let him in: he is call'd up.

DUKE VINCENTIO: Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,
But he must die to-morrow?

Provost: None, sir, none.     [90]

DUKE VINCENTIO: As near the dawning, provost, as it is,
You shall hear more ere morning.

Provost: Happily
You something know; yet I believe there comes
No countermand; no such example have we:     [95]
Besides, upon the very siege of justice
Lord Angelo hath to the public ear
Profess'd the contrary.

[Enter a Messenger]

               This is his lordship's man.

DUKE VINCENTIO: And here comes Claudio's pardon.

Messenger: [Giving a paper]     [100]

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.     [105]

Provost: I shall obey him.

[Exit Messenger]

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:     [110]
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     [115]
putting-on; methinks strangely, for he hath not used it before.

DUKE VINCENTIO: Pray you, let's hear.

Provost: [Reads]

'Whatsoever you may hear to the contrary, let
Claudio be executed by four of the clock; and in the     [120]
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.'     [125]
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.     [130]

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     [135]
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?     [140]

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.     [145]

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     [150]
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.     [155]
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     [160]
dangerous courtesy.

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     [165]
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.     [170]

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     [175]
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?     [180]

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     [185]
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     [190]
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.     [195]
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     [200]
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     [205]
are amazed; but this shall absolutely resolve you.
Come away; it is almost clear dawn.


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