A line-by-line translation

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure Translation Act 4, Scene 2

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Enter Provost and POMPEY

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

Come here, sir. Could you cut off a man's head?

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 cut off a woman's head.

POMPEY

I can if he's a bachelor, sir. But if he's a married man, he's his wife's head, and I could never cut off a woman's head. 

PROVOST

Come, 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 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.

PROVOST

Come on, sir, none of your jokes—give me a direct answer. Tomorrow morning, Claudio and Barnadine are sentenced to die. There's a common executioner here in our prison who needs a helper. If you'll help him, you can get out of prison early. If not, you'll serve your full sentence and be released with a full whipping, since you're a notorious pimp.

POMPEY

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

POMPEY

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PROVOST

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

PROVOST

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Enter ABHORSON

ABHORSON

Do you call, sir?

ABHORSON

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PROVOST

Sirrah, 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

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ABHORSON

A bawd, sir? fie upon him! he will discredit our mystery.

ABHORSON

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PROVOST

Go to, sir; you weigh equally; a feather will turnthe scale.

PROVOST

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Exit

POMPEY

Pray, sir, by your good favour,—for surely, sir, agood favour you have, but that you have a hanginglook,—do you call, sir, your occupation a mystery?

POMPEY

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ABHORSON

Ay, sir; a mystery

ABHORSON

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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, if I should be hanged, I cannot imagine.

POMPEY

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ABHORSON

Sir, it is a mystery.

ABHORSON

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POMPEY

Proof?

POMPEY

Lorem

ABHORSON

Every true man's apparel fits your thief: if it be too little for your thief, your true man thinks it 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.

ABHORSON

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Re-enter Provost

PROVOST

Are you agreed?

PROVOST

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POMPEY

Sir, I will serve him; for I do find your hangman isa more penitent trade than your bawd; he dothoftener ask forgiveness.

POMPEY

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PROVOST

You, sirrah, provide your block and your axeto-morrow four o'clock.

PROVOST

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ABHORSON

Come on, bawd; I will instruct thee in my trade; follow.

ABHORSON

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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

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PROVOST

Call hither Barnardine and Claudio.

PROVOST

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Exeunt POMPEY and ABHORSON

The one has my pity; not a jot the other,Being a murderer, though he were my brother.

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Enter CLAUDIO

Look, here's the warrant, Claudio, for thy death: 'Tis now dead midnight, and by eight to-morrow Thou must be made immortal. Where's Barnardine?

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CLAUDIO

As fast lock'd up in sleep as guiltless labourWhen it lies starkly in the traveller's bones:He will not wake.

CLAUDIO

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PROVOST

Who can do good on him?Well, go, prepare yourself. [Knocking within] But, hark, what noise?Heaven give your spirits comfort!

PROVOST

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Exit CLAUDIO

By and by.I hope it is some pardon or reprieveFor the most gentle Claudio.

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Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before

Welcome father.

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DUKE VINCENTIO

The best and wholesomest spirts of the nightEnvelope you, good Provost! Who call'd here of late?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

None, since the curfew rung.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

Not Isabel?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

No.

PROVOST

Lor

DUKE VINCENTIO

They will, then, ere't be long.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

What comfort is for Claudio?

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

There's some in hope.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

It is a bitter deputy.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

Not so, not so; his life is parallel'd 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 To qualify in others: were he meal'd with that Which he corrects, then were he tyrannous; But this being so, he's just. [Knocking within] Now are they come.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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Exit PROVOST

This is a gentle provost: seldom when The steeled gaoler is the friend of men. [Knocking within] How now! what noise? That spirit's possessed with haste That wounds the unsisting postern with these strokes.

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Re-enter Provost

PROVOST

There he must stay until the officerArise to let him in: he is call'd up.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,But he must die to-morrow?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

None, sir, none.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

As near the dawning, provost, as it is,You shall hear more ere morning.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

Happily You something know; yet I believe there comes No countermand; no such example have we: Besides, upon the very siege of justice Lord Angelo hath to the public ear Profess'd the contrary.

PROVOST

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Enter a MESSENGER

This is his lordship's man.

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DUKE VINCENTIO

And here comes Claudio's pardon.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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MESSENGER

[Giving a paper] My lord hath sent 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.

MESSENGER

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PROVOST

I shall obey him.

PROVOST

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Exit Messenger

DUKE VINCENTIO

[aside] This is his pardon, purchased by such sin For which the pardoner himself is in. Hence hath offence his quick celerity, When it is born in high authority: When vice makes mercy, mercy's so extended, That for the fault's love is the offender friended. Now, sir, what news?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

I told you. Lord Angelo, belike thinking me remissin mine office, awakens me with this unwontedputting-on; methinks strangely, for he hath not used itbefore.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

Pray you, let's hear.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

[Reads] 'Whatsoever you may hear to the contrary, let Claudio be executed by four of the clock; and in the afternoon Barnardine: for my better satisfaction, let me have 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?

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

What is that Barnardine who is to be executed in theafternoon?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

A Bohemian born, but here nursed un and bred; onethat is a prisoner nine years old.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

How came it that the absent duke had not eitherdelivered him to his liberty or executed him? Ihave heard it was ever his manner to do so.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

His friends still wrought reprieves for him: and,indeed, his fact, till now in the government of LordAngelo, came not to an undoubtful proof.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

It is now apparent?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

Most manifest, and not denied by himself.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

Hath he born himself penitently in prison? howseems he to be touched?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

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; insensible of mortality, and desperately mortal.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

He wants advice.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

He will hear none: he hath evermore had the 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 at all.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

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. 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 dangerous courtesy.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

Pray, sir, in what?

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

In the delaying death.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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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 as Claudio's, to cross this in the smallest.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

By the vow of mine order I warrant you, if myinstructions may be your guide. Let this Barnardinebe this morning executed, and his head born to Angelo.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

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

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

O, 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 fortune, by the saint whom I profess, I will plead against it with my life.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

Pardon me, good father; it is against my oath.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

Were you sworn to the duke, or to the deputy?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

To him, and to his substitutes.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

You will think you have made no offence, if the dukeavouch the justice of your dealing?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

But what likelihood is in that?

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

Not a resemblance, but a certainty. Yet since I see you fearful, that neither my coat, integrity, 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: you know the character, I doubt not; and the signet is not strange to you.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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PROVOST

I know them both.

PROVOST

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DUKE VINCENTIO

The contents of this is the return of the duke: you shall anon over-read it at your pleasure; 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 what is writ. Look, the 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 shrift and advise him for a better place. Yet you are amazed; but this shall absolutely resolve you. Come away; it is almost clear dawn.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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Exeunt

Measure for measure
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Bailey sincox
About the Translator: Bailey Sincox

Bailey Sincox is a PhD student in English at Harvard University, where she researches the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Her teaching experience includes accessible online courses with edX on Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. She holds a Master's from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor's from Duke University.