Measure for Measure By William Shakespeare Act IV

SCENE II. A Room in the prison.

[Enter PROVOST and CLOWN.]

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

CLOWN.
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.

CLOWN.
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.]

CLOWN.
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.

CLOWN.
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.

CLOWN.
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?

CLOWN.
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.

CLOWN.
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 CLOWN and ABHORSON.]

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. But hark, what noise?
[Knocking within.]
Heaven give your spirits comfort!

[Exit CLAUDIO.]

By and by! —
I hope it is some pardon or reprieve
For the most gentle Claudio. — Welcome, father.

[Enter DUKE.]

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?

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