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
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 instructions from my fellow partner.
What ho, Abhorson! Where's Abhorson there?
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.
A bawd, sir? Fie upon him! He will discredit our mystery.
Go to, sir; you weigh equally; a feather will turn the
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?
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 hang'd, I cannot imagine.
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.
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 pow'r
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
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 th' unsisting postern with these strokes.
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.
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.
DUKE [Aside] This is his pardon, purchas'd 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 us'd it before.
PROVOST [Reads] '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 th'
A Bohemian born; but here nurs'd up and bred.
One that is a prisoner nine years old.
How came it that the absent Duke had not either deliver'd 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 undoubted proof.
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
awak'd him, as if to carry him to execution, and show'd 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 sentenc'd 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.
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
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 bar'd 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?
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.
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, th'
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 amaz'd, but this shall
absolutely resolve you. Come away; it is almost clear dawn.