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
Pray, sir, in what?
In the delaying death.
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.
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.
Angelo hath seen them both, and will discover the favour.
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
Pardon me, good father; it is against my oath.
Were you sworn to the duke, or to the deputy?
To him and to his substitutes.
You will think you have made no offence if the duke avouch the
justice of your dealing?
But what likelihood is in that?
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.
I know them both.
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, 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.