Abridged Measure for Measure/#14/Solution/Act 4, Scene 2.1

The Provost and Pompey (Mistress Overdone’s servant) are on stage. Pompey tells the Provost that he is willing to assist the executioner, Abhorson, for “tomorrow morning are to die Claudio and Barnardine.” Abhorson enters. The Provost tells him “provide your block and your axe tomorrow, four o’clock.” Pompey and Abhorson exit. The Provost tells an officer to “call hither Barnardine and Claudio.” A guarded Claudio enters. The Provost says “’Tis now dead midnight, and by eight tomorrow thou must be made immortal. Where’s Barnardine?” Claudio says “As fast locked up in sleep. He will not wake.” Claudio exits. There’s a knock within. The Provost says to himself “I hope it is some pardon or reprieve for the most gentle Claudio.” The Duke-Friar enters and asks “Has Isabel called here of late?” The Provost says “No.” Lodowick says “There’s some hope.” The Provost says “It is a cruel deputy.” Lodowick replies “Not so. His life conforms with the straight course of justice.” There’s a knock within. The Provost exits. The Duke-Friar says to himself “This is a gentle provost. Seldom when the hardened jailer is the friend of men.” The Provost re-enters saying “The person knocking must stay at the gate.” The Duke-Friar asks “Have you no countermand for Claudio yet?” The Provost says “No.” Lodowick says “You shall hear more before morning.” The Provost says “Happily you something know.” A Messenger enters. Both the Provost and Lodowick believe the Messenger is there to deliver the pardon. The Messenger gives the Provost a paper. The paper reads “Whatsoever you may hear to the contrary, let Claudio be executed by four of the clock, and in the afternoon Bernadine. Have Claudio’s head sent to me by five.” The Duke-Friar asks “What is that Barnardine?” The Provost says “One that is a prisoner nine years old; 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. He will hear no advice. He hath had the liberty of the prison; give him liberty to escape hence, he would not.” The Duke-Friar says most directly to the Provost “I will lay myself in hazard Claudio is no guiltier to the law than Angelo, who hath sentenced him. I crave but four days’ respite.” The Provost replies “Alack, how may I do it having the hour limited and an express command to deliver his head in the view of Angelo?” Lodowick responds “Let this Barnardine be this morning executed and his head borne to Angelo. Death’s a great disguiser. Shave the head and tie the beard. You know the course is common.” The Provost says “Pardon me, good father, it is against my oath. I am sworn to the Duke and his substitutes.” Lodowick says “What if the Duke avouch the justice of your dealing?” The Provost says “But what likelihood is in that?” The Duke-Friar says “Not only a likelihood, but a certainty. Look you, sir, here is the hand and seal of the Duke.” He shows the Provost a paper. He says “You know the style of writing and the signet is not unfamiliar to you.” The Provost says “I know them both.” Referring to the paper, Lodowick hurriedly says “The contents of this is the return of the Duke; o’erread it at your pleasure. The Duke shall be here within these two days. This is a thing Angelo knows not of. Call your executioner, and off with Barnardine’s head. I will advise him of a better place in heaven. You are amazed, but this shall absolutely resolve you. Come away; it is almost clear dawn.”

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