William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure in the complete original text.
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Measure for Measure

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Act IV. Scene II.

Scene II.—A Room in the Prison.


Prov. Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off
a man's head?
Pom. If the roan be a bachelor, sir, I can;
but if he be a married man, he is his wife's head,
and I can never cut off a woman's head.
Prov. 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 un-
pitied whipping, for you have been a notorious
Pom. 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.
Prov. What ho, Abhorson! Where's Abhor-
son, there?

Abhor. Do you call, sir?
Prov. 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.
Abhor, A bawd, sir? Fie upon him! he will
discredit our mystery.
Prov. Go to, sir; you weigh equally; a feather
will turn the scale. [Exit.
Pom. 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?
Abhor. Ay, sir; a mystery.
Pom. 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.
Abhor. Sir, it is a mystery.
Pom. Proof?
Abhor. Every true man's apparel fits your thief.
Pom. 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.
Prov. Are you agreed?
Pom. Sir, I will serve him; for I do find that
your hangman is a more penitent trade than
your bawd, he doth often ask forgiveness.
Prov. You, sirrah, provide your block and
your axe to-morrow four o'clock.
Abhor. Come on, bawd; I will instruct thee
in my trade; follow.
Pom. 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.
Prov. Call hither Barnardine and Claudio:
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 Barnar-
Claud. As fast lock'd up in sleep as guiltless
When it lies starkly in the traveller's bones;
He will not wake.
Prov. Who can do good on him?
Well, go; prepare yourself. [Knocking within.]
But hark, what noise?—
Heaven give your spirits comfort!—[Exit CLAU-
DIO.] 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
Envelop you, good provost! Who call'd here of
Prov. None since the curfew rang.
Duke. Not Isabel?
Prov. No.
Duke. They will, then, ere't be long.
Prov. What comfort is for Claudio?
Duke. There's some in hope.
Prov. 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 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 PKOVOST.
This is a gentle provost: seldom when
The steeled gaoler is the friend of men.
How now! What noise? That spirit's possess'd
with haste
That wounds the unsisting postern with these

Re-enter PROVOST.
Prov. There he must stay until the officer
Arise to let him in; he is call'd up.
Duke. Have you no countermand for Claudio
But he must die to-morrow?
Prov. None sir, none.
Duke. As near the dawning, provost, as it is,
You shall hear more ere morning.
Prov. 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.
Mes. [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.
Prov. I shall obey him. [Exit Messenger.
Duke. [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 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?
Prov. I told you: Lord Angelo, belike think-
ing me remiss in mine office, awakens me with this
unwonted putting on; methinks strangely, for
he hath not used it before.
Duke. Pray you, let's hear.
Prov. Whatsoever you may hear to the con-
trary 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 per-
formed; 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 this afternoon?
Prov. A Bohemian born, but here nursed up
and bred; one that is a prisoner nine years old.
Duke. How came it that the absent duke had
not either delivered him to his liberty or exe-
cuted him? I have heard it was ever his manner
to do so.
Prov. His friends still wrought reprieves for
him; and, indeed, his fact, till now in the go-
vernment of Lord Angelo, came not to an un-
doubtful proof.
Duke. It is now apparent?
Prov. Most manifest, and not denied by himself.
Duke. Hath he borne himself penitently in
prison? How seems he to be touched?
Prov. A man that apprehends death no more
dreadfully but as a drunken sleep; careless, reck-
less, and fearless of what's past, present, or to
come; insensible of mortality, and desperately
Duke. He wants advice.
Prov. 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.
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 sentenced
him. To make you understand this in a mani-
fested effect, I crave but four days' respite, for
the which you are to do me both a present and
a dangerous courtesy.
Prov. Pray, sir, in what?
Duke. In the delaying death.
Prov. 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.
Prov. 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 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.
Prov. Pardon me, good father; it is against
my oath.
Duke. Were you sworn to the duke or to the
Prov. To him, and to his substitutes.
Duke. You will think you have made no
offence, if the duke avouch the justice of your
Prov. 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 at-
tempt 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.
Prov. 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 An-
gelo knows not, for he this very day receives
letters of strange tenour; perchance of the duke's
death; perchance, his entering into some monas-
tery; 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 amaz'd, but this shall ab-
solutely resolve you. Come away; it is almost
clear dawn. [Exeunt.
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