ACT IV
Scene II.
 

The prison

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 of a
woman's head.

PROVOST
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.

POMPEY
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.

PROVOST
What ho, Abhorson! Where's Abhorson there?

Enter ABHORSON

ABHORSON
Do you call, sir?

PROVOST
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.

ABHORSON
A bawd, sir? Fie upon him! He will discredit our mystery.

PROVOST
Go to, sir; you weigh equally; a feather will turn the
scale. Exit

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?

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 should be hang'd, 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 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 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.

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.

Exeunt ABHORSON and POMPEY

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

Enter CLAUDIO

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?

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!

Exit CLAUDIO

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

Enter DUKE, disguised as before

Welcome, father.

DUKE
The best and wholesom'st spirits of the night
Envelop you, good Provost! Who call'd here of late?

PROVOST
None, since the curfew rung.

DUKE
Not Isabel?

PROVOST
No.

DUKE
They will then, ere't be long.

PROVOST
What comfort is for Claudio?

DUKE
There's some in hope.

PROVOST
It is a bitter deputy.

DUKE
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
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 th' unsisting postern with these strokes.

Re-enter PROVOST

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

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

PROVOST
None, sir, none.

DUKE
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.
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
And here comes Claudio's pardon.

MESSENGER
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.

PROVOST
I shall obey him.

Exit MESSENGER

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?

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 us'd it before.

DUKE
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 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
What is that Barnardine who is to be executed in th'
afternoon?

PROVOST
A Bohemian born; but here nurs'd up and bred.
One that is a prisoner nine years old.

DUKE
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.

PROVOST
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.

DUKE
It is now apparent?

PROVOST
Most manifest, and not denied by himself.

DUKE
Hath he borne himself penitently in prison? How seems he to
be touch'd?

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
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
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.

DUKE
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.

PROVOST
Pray, sir, in what?

DUKE
In the delaying death.

PROVOST
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.

DUKE
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.

PROVOST
Angelo hath seen them both, and will discover the favour.

DUKE
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.

PROVOST
Pardon me, good father; it is against my oath.

DUKE
Were you sworn to the Duke, or to the deputy?

PROVOST
To him and to his substitutes.

DUKE
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
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
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.

Exeunt