Duke. Hath he borne himselfe penitently in prison? How seemes he to be touch'd? Pro. A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully, but as a drunken sleepe, carelesse, wreaklesse, and fearelesse of what's past, present, or to come: insensible of mortality, and desperately mortall

Duke. He wants aduice

Pro. He wil heare none: he hath euermore had the liberty of the prison: giue him leaue to escape hence, hee would not. Drunke many times a day, if not many daies entirely drunke. We haue verie oft awak'd him, as if to carrie him to execution, and shew'd him a seeming warrant for it, it hath not moued him at all

Duke. More of him anon: There is written in your brow Prouost, honesty and constancie; if I reade it not truly, my ancient skill beguiles me: but in the boldnes of my cunning, I will lay my selfe in hazard: Claudio, whom heere you haue warrant to execute, is no greater forfeit to the Law, then Angelo who hath sentenc'd him. To make you vnderstand this in a manifested effect, I craue but foure daies respit: for the which, you are to do me both a present, and a dangerous courtesie

Pro. Pray Sir, in what? Duke. In the delaying death

Pro. Alacke, how may I do it? Hauing the houre limited, and an expresse command, vnder penaltie, to deliuer his head in the view of Angelo? I may make my case as Claudio's, to crosse this in the smallest

Duke. 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

Pro. Angelo hath seene them both, And will discouer the fauour

Duke. Oh, death's a great disguiser, and you may adde to it; Shaue the head, and tie the beard, and say it was the desire of the penitent to be so bar'de before his death: you know the course is common. If any thing fall to you vpon this, more then thankes and good fortune, by the Saint whom I professe, I will plead against it with my life

Pro. Pardon me, good Father, it is against my oath

Duke. Were you sworne to the Duke, or to the Deputie? Pro. To him, and to his Substitutes

Duke. You will thinke you haue made no offence, if the Duke auouch the iustice of your dealing? Pro. But what likelihood is in that? Duke. Not a resemblance, but a certainty; yet since I see you fearfull, that neither my coate, integrity, nor perswasion, can with ease attempt you, I wil go further then I meant, to plucke all feares out of you. Looke you Sir, heere is the hand and Seale of the Duke: you know the Charracter I doubt not, and the Signet is not strange to you? Pro. I know them both

Duke. The Contents of this, is the returne of the Duke; you shall anon ouer-reade it at your pleasure: where you shall finde within these two daies, he wil be heere. This is a thing that Angelo knowes not, for hee this very day receiues letters of strange tenor, perchance of the Dukes death, perchance entering into some Monasterie, but by chance nothing of what is writ. Looke, th' vnfolding Starre calles vp the Shepheard; put not your selfe into amazement, how these things should be; all difficulties are but easie when they are knowne. Call your executioner, and off with Barnardines head: I will giue him a present shrift, and aduise him for a better place. Yet you are amaz'd, but this shall absolutely resolue you: Come away, it is almost cleere dawne.


William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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