Enter Provost and Pompey
Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off a man's
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.
Come, sir, leave me your snatches, and yield
me a direct answer. Tomorrow 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 notorious bawd.
Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of
mind, 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?
Do you call, sir?
Sirrah, here's a fellow will help you tomorrow
in 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 cannnot
plead his estimation with you. He hath been a bawd.
A bawd, sir? Fie upon him, he will discredit
Go to, sir, you weigh equally. A feather will
turn the scale.
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?
Ay, sir, a mystery.
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 should be
hanged, I cannot imagine.
Sir, it is a mystery.
Every true man's apparel fits your thief. If it
be 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?
Sir, I will serve him, for I do find your hangman
is a more penitent trade than your bawd. He doth
oftener ask forgiveness.
You, sirrah, provide your block and your axe
tomorrow four o'clock.
Come, on, bawd. I will instruct thee in my
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
Call hither Barnardine and Claudio.
Exeunt Pompey and Abhorson
Th' 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 tomorrow
Thou must be made immortal. Where's Barnardine?
As fast locked up in sleep as guiltless labour
When it lies starkly in the traveller's bones.
He will not wake.
Who can do good on him?
Well, go, prepare yourself.
But hark, what noise?
Heaven give your spirits comfort.
By and by.
I hope it is some pardon or reprieve
For the most gentle Claudio.
Enter Duke as a friar
The best and wholesom'st spirts of the night
Envelop you, good provost. Who called here of late?
None since the curfew rung.
They will then, ere't be long.
What comfort is for Claudio?
There's some in hope.
It is a bitter deputy.
Not so, not so; his life is paralleled
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 mealed with that
Which he corrects, then were he tyrannous,
But this being so, he's just.
Now are they come.
This is a gentle provost; seldom when
The steeled gaoler is the friend of men.
How now? What noise? That spirit's possessed with haste
That wounds th' unsisting postern with these strokes.
There he must stay until the officer
Arise to let him in. He is called up.
Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,
But he must die tomorrow?
None, sir, none.
As near the dawning, provost, as it is,
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
Professed the contrary.
Enter a Messenger
This is his lordship's man.
And here comes Claudio's pardon.
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.
This is his pardon, purchased by such sin
For which the pardoner himself is in:
Hence hath offence his quick celerity,
When it is borne in high authority,
When vice makes mercy, mercy's so extended
That for the fault's love is th' offender friended.
Now, sir, what news?
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
Pray you, let's hear.
(reads the letter)
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.
answer (v.) 4
suffer the consequences [for], be accountable [for]
What say you to this, sir?
What is that Barnardine who is to be executed in
A Bohemian born, but here nursed up and
bred. One that is a prisoner nine years old.
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.
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.
It is now apparent?
Most manifest, and not denied by himself.
Hath he borne himself penitently in prison? How
seems he to be touched?
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.
He wants advice.
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.
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 dangerous courtesy.
Pray, sir, in what?
In the delaying death.
Alack, 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.
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 borne to Angelo.
Angelo hath seen them both, and will discover
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 anything 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.
Were you sworn to the Duke or to the deputy?
To him, and to his substitutes.
You will think you have made no offence if the
Duke avouch the justice of your dealing?
But what likelihood is in that?
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
I know them both.
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, th' unfolding star
rising, morning [telling the shepherd that it is time to release his sheep from the fold]
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.
Exit with Provost