Document:  All > Shakespeare > Comedies > Measure Fore Measure > Act IV, scene II

Jump to: the first appearance of besides,_upon_the_very_siege_of_justice




	[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 off 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 instruction 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 hanged, 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 POMPEY and ABHORSON]

	The 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]

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

	[Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before]

		       Welcome father.

DUKE VINCENTIO: The best and wholesomest spirts of the night
	Envelope you, good Provost! Who call'd here of late?

Provost: None, since the curfew rung.

DUKE VINCENTIO: Not Isabel?

Provost:           No.

DUKE VINCENTIO:                   They will, then, ere't be long.

Provost: What comfort is for Claudio?

DUKE VINCENTIO: There's some in hope.

Provost: It is a bitter deputy.

DUKE VINCENTIO: 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 possessed with haste
	That wounds the 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 VINCENTIO: Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,
	But he must die to-morrow?

Provost: None, sir, none.

DUKE VINCENTIO: 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 VINCENTIO: And here comes Claudio's pardon.

Messenger: [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.

Provost: I shall obey him.

	[Exit Messenger]

DUKE VINCENTIO: [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 born 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?

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 used it before.

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

Provost: A Bohemian born, but here nursed un and bred; one
	that is a prisoner nine years old.

DUKE VINCENTIO: 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.

Provost: 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.

DUKE VINCENTIO: It is now apparent?

Provost: Most manifest, and not denied by himself.

DUKE VINCENTIO: Hath he born himself penitently in prison? how
	seems he to be touched?

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 VINCENTIO: 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 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 VINCENTIO: 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.

Provost: Pray, sir, in what?

DUKE VINCENTIO: In the delaying death.

Provost: A lack, 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 VINCENTIO: 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 born to Angelo.

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

DUKE VINCENTIO: 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.

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

DUKE VINCENTIO: Were you sworn to the duke, or to the deputy?

Provost: To him, and to his substitutes.

DUKE VINCENTIO: 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 VINCENTIO: 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 VINCENTIO: 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, 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.

	[Exeunt]




	MEASURE FOR MEASURE





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