Measure for Measure

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 2

page Act 4 Scene 2 Page 8

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DUKE VINCENTIO

160More 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
165no 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
dangerous courtesy.

DUKE VINCENTIO

More of him soon. Provost, I see honesty and loyalty in your face. If I’m wrong, my old skill at reading people deceives me, but because I’m confident of my ability, I’ll take a chance. Claudio, whom you have a warrant to execute, deserves to die no more than Angelo, who sentenced him. I can clearly demonstrate this, but I need four days, so I’m going to ask you to do me an immediate and dangerous favor.

PROVOST

170Pray, sir, in what?

PROVOST

What is it, sir?

DUKE VINCENTIO

In the delaying death.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Delay the death.

PROVOST

A lack, 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
175as Claudio’s, to cross this in the smallest.

PROVOST

Sorry, but how can I, with the time fixed and an explicit command to deliver his head to Angelo, at risk of penalty? I’ll find myself in Claudio’s shoes if I swerve from this in even the smallest way.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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 born to Angelo.

DUKE VINCENTIO

By my holy vows, I guarantee your safety if you follow my instructions. Execute this Barnardine this morning, and take his head to Angelo.

PROVOST

Angelo hath seen them both, and will discover the favour.

PROVOST

Angelo’s seen both of them, and will recognize the face.

DUKE VINCENTIO

180O, 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 any thing
fall to you upon this, more than thanks and good
185fortune, by the saint whom I profess, I will plead
against it with my life.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Oh, death’s a great disguiser, and you can help disguise him more. Shave his head and trim his beard, and say it was the prisoner’s request to be shaved before his death. You know that’s a common thing. If anything happens to you because of this—aside from thanks and good fortune —by the patron saint of my brotherhood, I’ll plead against it with my life.

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