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A room in the prison.

Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off
a man's head?

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 of a woman's head.

Come, sir, leave me your snatches,
and yield me a 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 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 fellow partner. (20)

What, ho! Abhorson! Where's Abhorson,

Do you call, sir?

Sirrah, here's a fellow will help you
to-morrow 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 cannot plead
his estimation with you; he hath been a bawd. (29)

A bawd, sir? fie upon him! he will
discredit our mystery.

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: (50)
so every true man's apparel fits your thief. Re-enter PROVOST.

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 to-morrow four o'clock.

Come on, bawd; I will instruct
thee in my trade; follow.

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.

Call hither Barnardine and Claudio:
[Exeunt Pompey and Abhorson.

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?

As fast lock'd up in sleep as guiltless labour (70)

When it lies starkly in the traveller's bones:

He will not wake.

Who can do good on him?

Well, go, prepare yourself. [Knocking within.

But, hark, what noise?

Heaven give your spirits comfort! [Exit Claudio.

By and by.

I hope it is some pardon or reprieve

For the most gentle Claudio. Enter DUKE disguised as before.

Welcome, father.

The best and wholesomest spirits of the night

Envelope you, good Provost! Who call'd here of late?

None, since the curfew rung.

Not Isabel?


They will, then, ere't be long. (80)

What comfort is for Claudio?

There's some in hope.

It is a bitter deputy.

Not so, not so; his life is parallel'd

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 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 possess'd with haste

That wounds the unsisting postern with these strokes.
Re-enter PROVOST.

There he must stay until the officer

Arise to let him in: he is call'd up.

Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,

But he must die to-morrow?

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

Profess'd the contrary.

This is his lordship's man.

And here comes Claudlo's pardon.

[Giving a paper.]
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.
[Exit Messenger.

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 the 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 it before.

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?

What is that Barnardine who is to
be executed in the afternoon?

A Bohemian born, but here nursed
up and bred; one that is a prisoner nine years

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. (140)

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

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. (162)

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 my self 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. (180)

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 the favour.

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.

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? (202)

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 you. (210)

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 tenour; 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.

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