List iconMeasure for Measure:
Act 4, scene 2
List icon

Measure for Measure
Act 4, scene 2



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Human nature and the law often collide in Measure for Measure. As the play begins, the Duke of Vienna announces he…

Act 1, scene 1

The Duke of Vienna announces that he has been called away from the city, and that he is leaving Lord…

Act 1, scene 2

Angelo enforces Vienna’s law against fornication, ordering the brothels torn down and having Claudio arrested because his fiancée’s pregnancy exposes…

Act 1, scene 3

The duke obtains the clothing of a friar in order to disguise himself and secretly observe the conduct of Angelo…

Act 1, scene 4

Lucio persuades Isabella to intercede with Angelo.

Act 2, scene 1

Escalus tries to persuade Angelo to be less harsh to Claudio. Angelo instead gives orders that Claudio be executed the…

Act 2, scene 2

Isabella pleads with Angelo for Claudio’s life. Angelo refuses to relent but, overcome by desire for Isabella, tells her that…

Act 2, scene 3

The duke (in the role of a friar) visits the prison and there meets Juliet, who expresses both her love…

Act 2, scene 4

Angelo tells Isabella that only if she sleeps with him will he set Claudio free; if she refuses, Claudio will…

Act 3, scene 1

The duke, in his guise of “Friar,” persuades Claudio that death is preferable to life. When Isabella tells Claudio that…

Act 3, scene 2

Pompey is carried off to prison. Lucio refuses to provide bail money for him, and slanders the absent duke to…

Act 4, scene 1

Isabella reports to the “Friar” about the arrangements made with Angelo for that night’s assignation; Mariana agrees to sleep with…

Act 4, scene 2

At the prison, Pompey agrees to serve as the assistant to Abhorson, the public executioner. The duke, in his role…

Act 4, scene 3

Barnardine declares himself not ready to die. The provost and the “Friar” agree to spare him temporarily and to send…

Act 4, scene 4

Angelo learns of the duke’s return. Alone, he expresses his anguish that he has raped Isabella and had Claudio killed.

Act 4, scene 5

The duke makes plans with Friar Peter, whom he sends away on errands, and then greets Varrius.

Act 4, scene 6

Isabella and Mariana discuss the roles they are to play when they meet the duke, who is about to enter…

Act 5, scene 1

The duke, on his entry, is met by Isabella, who accuses Angelo of violating her chastity. She is arrested for…

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Scene 2
Enter Provost, Pompey, and Officer.

PROVOST Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off a man’s
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
5 cut off a woman’s head.
PROVOST Come, sir, leave me your snatches, and yield
 me a direct answer. Tomorrow morning are to die
 Claudio and Barnardine. Here is in our prison a
 common executioner, who in his office lacks a
10 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 15Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of
 mind, but yet I will be content to be a lawful

Measure for Measure
ACT 4. SC. 2

 hangman. I would be glad to receive some instruction
 from my fellow partner.
PROVOST What ho, Abhorson!—Where’s Abhorson
20 there?

Enter Abhorson.

ABHORSON Do you call, sir?
PROVOST Sirrah, here’s a fellow will help you tomorrow
 in your execution. If you think it meet, compound
 with him by the year and let him abide here
25 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 30Go to, sir; you weigh equally. A feather will
 turn the scale.He exits.
POMPEY Pray, sir, by your good favor—for surely, sir, a
 good favor you have, but that you have a hanging
 look—do you call, sir, your occupation a mystery?
ABHORSON 35Ay, 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,
40 if I should be hanged, I cannot imagine.
ABHORSON Sir, it is a mystery.
ABHORSON Every true man’s apparel fits your thief. If it
 be too little for your thief, your true man thinks it
45 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.

Enter Provost.

PROVOST Are you agreed?

Measure for Measure
ACT 4. SC. 2

POMPEY Sir, I will serve him, for I do find your hangman
50 is a more penitent trade than your bawd. He
 doth oftener ask forgiveness.
PROVOST, to Abhorson You, sirrah, provide your block
 and your axe tomorrow, four o’clock.
ABHORSON, to Pompey Come on, bawd. I will instruct
55 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.Pompey and Abhorson exit.
PROVOST, to Officer 
60 Call hither Barnardine and Claudio.
Officer exits.
 Th’ one has my pity; not a jot the other,
 Being a murderer, though he were my brother.

Enter Claudio, with Officer.

 Look, here’s the warrant, Claudio, for thy death.
 ’Tis now dead midnight, and by eight tomorrow
65 Thou must be made immortal. Where’s Barnardine?
 As fast locked up in sleep as guiltless labor
 When it lies starkly in the traveler’s bones.
 He will not wake.
PROVOST  Who can do good on him?
70 Well, go, prepare yourself. Knock within. But hark,
 what noise?—
 Heaven give your spirits comfort. Claudio exits,
 with Officer.
Knock within.  By and by!—
 I hope it is some pardon or reprieve
75 For the most gentle Claudio.

Enter Duke, as a Friar.

 Welcome, father.

Measure for Measure
ACT 4. SC. 2

DUKE, as Friar 
 The best and wholesom’st spirits of the night
 Envelop you, good provost. Who called here of late?
 None since the curfew rung.
DUKE, as Friar 80 Not Isabel?
DUKE, as Friar They will, then, ere ’t be long.
PROVOST What comfort is for Claudio?
DUKE, as Friar 
 There’s some in hope.
PROVOST 85 It is a bitter deputy.
DUKE, as Friar 
 Not so, not so. His life is paralleled
 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
90 To qualify in others. Were he mealed with that
 Which he corrects, then were he tyrannous,
 But this being so, he’s just. Knock within. Now are
 they come.Provost exits.
 This is a gentle provost. Seldom when
95 The steelèd jailer is the friend of men.

Enter Provost. Knocking continues.

 How now, what noise? That spirit’s possessed with
 That wounds th’ unsisting postern with these strokes.
 There he must stay until the officer
100 Arise to let him in. He is called up.
DUKE, as Friar 
 Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,
 But he must die tomorrow?
PROVOST  None, sir, none.

Measure for Measure
ACT 4. SC. 2

DUKE, as Friar 
 As near the dawning, provost, as it is,
105 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
110 Lord Angelo hath to the public ear
 Professed the contrary.

Enter a Messenger.

 This is his Lordship’s man.
DUKE, as Friar And here comes Claudio’s pardon.
MESSENGER, giving Provost a paper My lord hath sent
115 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.Provost reads message.
Messenger exits.
DUKE, aside 
120 This is his pardon, purchased by such sin
 For which the pardoner himself is in.
 Hence hath offense his quick celerity
 When it is borne in high authority.
 When vice makes mercy, mercy’s so extended
125 That for the fault’s love is th’ offender friended.
 As Friar. 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
130 not used it before.
DUKE, as Friar Pray you let’s hear.
PROVOST, reads the letter. 
 Whatsoever you may hear to the contrary, let Claudio
 be executed by four of the clock, and in the afternoon

Measure for Measure
ACT 4. SC. 2

 Barnardine. For my better satisfaction, let me have
135 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, as Friar 140What is that Barnardine who is to be
 executed in th’ afternoon?
PROVOST A Bohemian born, but here nursed up and
 bred; one that is a prisoner nine years old.
DUKE, as Friar How came it that the absent duke had
145 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, as Friar 150It is now apparent?
PROVOST Most manifest, and not denied by himself.
DUKE, as Friar Hath he borne himself penitently in
 prison? How seems he to be touched?
PROVOST A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully
155 but as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and
 fearless of what’s past, present, or to come; insensible
 of mortality and desperately mortal.
DUKE, as Friar He wants advice.
PROVOST He will hear none. He hath evermore had the
160 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
165 at all.
DUKE, as Friar 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.

Measure for Measure
ACT 4. SC. 2

170 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
175 dangerous courtesy.
PROVOST Pray, sir, in what?
DUKE, as Friar In the delaying death.
PROVOST Alack, how may I do it, having the hour
 limited, and an express command, under penalty,
180 to deliver his head in the view of Angelo? I may
 make my case as Claudio’s, to cross this in the
DUKE, as Friar By the vow of mine order I warrant
 you, if my instructions may be your guide. Let this
185 Barnardine be this morning executed and his head
 borne to Angelo.
PROVOST Angelo hath seen them both and will discover
 the favor.
DUKE, as Friar O, death’s a great disguiser, and you
190 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
195 will plead against it with my life.
PROVOST Pardon me, good father, it is against my oath.
DUKE, as Friar Were you sworn to the Duke or to the
PROVOST To him and to his substitutes.
DUKE, as Friar 200You will think you have made no
 offense if the Duke avouch the justice of your
PROVOST But what likelihood is in that?
DUKE, as Friar Not a resemblance, but a certainty; yet
205 since I see you fearful, that neither my coat, integrity,

Measure for Measure
ACT 4. SC. 3

 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. He shows the Provost a paper. You know the
210 character, I doubt not, and the signet is not strange
 to you.
PROVOST I know them both.
DUKE, as Friar The contents of this is the return of the
 Duke; you shall anon overread it at your pleasure,
215 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
220 what is writ. Look, th’ 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
225 shrift, and advise him for a better place. Yet you are
 amazed, but this shall absolutely resolve you.
He gives the Provost the paper.
 Come away; it is almost clear dawn.
They exit.