Measure for Measure

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

A room in the prison.
A room in the prison.
Enter Provost and POMPEY
The Provost and POMPEY enter.

PROVOST

Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off a man’s head?

PROVOST

Come here, you. Can you cut off a man’s head?

POMPEY

If the man be a bachelor, sir, I can; but if he be a
cut off a woman’s head.

POMPEY

If the man’s a bachelor, sir, I can. But if he’s a
married man, he’s also his wife’s head, and I can never cut off a woman’s head.

PROVOST

5Come, sir, leave me your snatches, and yield me a
direct answer. To-morrow morning are to die Claudio
and Barnardine. Here is in our prison a common
executioner, who in his office lacks a helper: if
you will take it on you to assist him, it shall
10redeem 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.

PROVOST

Come on, sir, spare me your jokes and give me a straight answer. Claudio and Barnardine are to die tomorrow morning. Here in our prison we have a public executioner, who needs a helper. If you’ll take on the job of assisting him, it’ll free you from your chains. If you don’t, you’ll have to serve your full sentence, with a fierce whipping before you’re released because you’ve been a notorious pimp.

POMPEY

Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of mind;
15but yet I will be content to be a lawful hangman. I
would be glad to receive some instruction from my
fellow partner.

POMPEY

Sir, I’ve been an illegal pimp for longer than I can remember, but I’ll be happy to be a legal hangman. I’d be glad for my new partner to teach me.

PROVOST

What, ho! Abhorson! Where’s Abhorson, there?

PROVOST

ABHORSON (the executioner) enters.
Enter ABHORSON

ABHORSON

Do you call, sir?

ABHORSON

Did you call, sir?

PROVOST

20Sirrah, here’s a fellow will help you to-morrow in
your execution. If you think it meet, compound with
him by the year, and let him abide here with you; if
not, use him for the present and dismiss him. He
cannot plead his estimation with you; he hath been a bawd.

PROVOST

Here’s a fellow to help you with tomorrow’s executions. If he works out, settle on an annual salary and let him stay here with you. If he doesn’t, use him just for now and then fire him. He can’t claim to be too good for the work since he’s been a pimp.