Measure for Measure By William Shakespeare Act IV


They will then, ere't be long.

What comfort is for Claudio?

There's some in hope.

It is a bitter deputy.

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. — Now are they come.

[Knocking within — PROVOST goes out.]

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 strokes.

[PROVOST returns, speaking to one at the door.]

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

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

None, sir, none.

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.

[Enter a Messenger.]

This is his lordship's man.

And here comes Claudio's pardon.

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.

I shall obey him.

[Exit Messenger.]

[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 the 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 used it before.

Pray you, let's hear.

[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 the afternoon?

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

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.

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.

It is now apparent?

Most manifest, and not denied by himself.

Hath he borne himself penitently in prison? How seems he to be

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.

He wants advice.

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.

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