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

Sir, I've been an illegal pimp for as long as I can remember, but I'd be happy to be a legal executioner. It'd be helpful to receive some instructions from my fellow worker.

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

Hello there! Abhorson! Where's Aborhson? Are you there?

Enter ABHORSON

ABHORSON

Do you call, sir?

ABHORSON

Did you call me, sir?

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

Sir, this man will help you tomorrow with the execution. If you see fit, take him on full-time and let him live here with you. If not, use him for now and then get rid of him. He can't say much for himself when it comes to his reputation; he's been a pimp.

ABHORSON

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

ABHORSON

A pimp, sir? Get rid of him! He'll ruin all the mystery.

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

Enough, sir. The two of you are equally on the scale. A feather would tip it.

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

Please, sir, if you don't mind — and I'm sure you don't mind, except that you have a hanging look about you—did you refer to your occupation, sir, as a "mystery?"

ABHORSON

Ay, sir; a mystery

ABHORSON

Yes, 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, if I should be hanged, I cannot imagine.

POMPEY

Sir, I've heard that painting is a mystery. And whores, sir, who work in my occupation, paint their faces, so that makes my occupation a mystery. But the mystery of hanging? If I were going to be hanged, I can't imagine.

ABHORSON

Sir, it is a mystery.

ABHORSON

Sir, it is a mystery.

POMPEY

Proof?

POMPEY

Proof?

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

Every executioner's clothes fit the thief. If the clothes are too small for the thief, the executioner thinks they look big enough. If they're too big for the thief, the executioner thinks they're small enough. So every executioner's clothes fit a thief.

Re-enter Provost

PROVOST

Are you agreed?

PROVOST

Have you reached an agreement?

POMPEY

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

POMPEY

Sir, I'll work for him. I think being a hangman is a more holy trade than being a pimp; he asks for forgiveness more often.

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

You, sir: bring your block and your ax tomorrow at four o'clock.

ABHORSON

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

ABHORSON

Come on, pimp. I'll teach you my trade. Follow me.

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

I want to learn, sir. And I hope—if you have the need to use me for longer—that you'll find I'm up to the task. For, truly, I owe you for your kindness, sir. 

PROVOST

Call hither Barnardine and Claudio.

PROVOST

Bring Barnadine and Claudio here.

Exeunt POMPEY and ABHORSON

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

I pity one of them, but wouldn't pity the other one—a murderer—even if he were my own brother.

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?

Look, Claudio: here's the warrant for your death. It's now exactly midnight, and by eight tomorrow you'll be on your way to the afterlife. Where's Barnadine?

CLAUDIO

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

CLAUDIO

As fast asleep as an innocent traveler when he sleeps along the road. He won't wake up.

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

What can anyone do to help him? Well, go, prepare yourself. [The sound of knocking comes from offstage] But wait, what's that noise? May God give you peace.

Exit CLAUDIO

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

[Shouting offstage] Just a moment!

[To himself] I hope it's a pardon or reprieve for the very noble Claudio.

Enter DUKE VINCENTIO disguised as before

Welcome father.

Welcome, father.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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

DUKE VINCENTIO

Bless you. I hope you're having a good night, good Provost! Who came here so late?

PROVOST

None, since the curfew rung.

PROVOST

No one, since the last bells rung.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Not Isabel?

DUKE VINCENTIO

Not Isabella?

PROVOST

No.

PROVOST

No.

DUKE VINCENTIO

They will, then, ere't be long.

DUKE VINCENTIO

They will, then, before too long.

PROVOST

What comfort is for Claudio?

PROVOST

Is there any comfort for Claudio?

DUKE VINCENTIO

There's some in hope.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Hope brings some comfort.

PROVOST

It is a bitter deputy.

PROVOST

Angelo is a terrible deputy.

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

Not true, not true! His life holds up to the standard of his extreme justice. He keeps his own desires at bay with holy discipline; that's what gives him the authority to correct faults in others. If he were the same as the people he corrected, he'd be a tyrant. But, because of his good character, he's just. [The sound of knocking comes from offstage] Now they're here.

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.

This is a good provost. It's not often that a steely jailor is friendly like this. [The sound of more knocking] What now? What's that noise? Anyone who knocks that hard at the back door must be in a real hurry!

Re-enter Provost

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

He'll stay there until the officer comes to let him in. His time has come.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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

DUKE VINCENTIO

You don't have a pardon for Claudio yet? He has to die tomorrow?

PROVOST

None, sir, none.

PROVOST

No pardon, sir, none.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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

DUKE VINCENTIO

Although it's already near morning, Provost, you'll hear more before dawn.

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

I hope you know something, but I don't think there's a pardon coming. There's no precedent for it. Besides, Lord Angelo has spoken against overturning justice to the public. 

Enter a MESSENGER

This is his lordship's man.

This is his Lordship Angelo's servant.

DUKE VINCENTIO

And here comes Claudio's pardon.

DUKE VINCENTIO

And here comes Claudio's pardon.

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

[Giving the Sheriff a paper] Angelo has sent you this note, and has also asked me to tell you not to overlook even the smallest part of it when it comes to timing, what to do, or other circumstances. Good morning—since, as far as I can tell, it's almost day.

PROVOST

I shall obey him.

PROVOST

I'll obey him. 

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

[To himself] This is his pardon, which was earned by committing a sin with the pardoner himself. Look how quickly wrongdoing can work when it's done by someone with authority. When sin leads to mercy, mercy extends itself to befriend the offender for the sake of his fault. 

[To PROVOST] Now, sir, what's the news?

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

I told you. Lord Angelo—who thinks I'm not very good at my job—has woken me up with all this. I think it's strange; he's never done it before.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Pray you, let's hear.

DUKE VINCENTIO

Let's hear it, then.

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

[Reading from the paper] "Whatever you might hear to the contrary, make sure Claudio is executed by four o'clock, and Barnadine in the afternoon. So that I can be sure, send me Claudio's head by five. Do this exactly as I say, and keep in mind that more depends on it than just what we do. Don't fail to do what you're supposed to, or you'll answer for it at your own risk."

[To DUKE VINCENTIO] What do you say to that, sir?

DUKE VINCENTIO

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

DUKE VINCENTIO

Who is this Barnadine that's supposed to be executed in the afternoon?

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

He's Czech by birth, but he grew up here. He's been a prisoner for nine years.

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

How come the absent Duke didn't either set him free or execute him? I've heard he typically used to do that.

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

His friends kept asking us to set him free. And, in fact, his case was unsettled until now, under Lord Angelo.

DUKE VINCENTIO

It is now apparent?

DUKE VINCENTIO

Is it settled now?

PROVOST

Most manifest, and not denied by himself.

PROVOST

Completely. Barnadine himself doesn't deny his crime.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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

DUKE VINCENTIO

Has he seemed remorseful in prison? Does he regret it?

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

He's about as afraid of death as he is of a drunken sleep. He's careless, reckless, and fearless of the past, present, and future. He doesn't care about his own mortality, even though he's a mortal man.

DUKE VINCENTIO

He wants advice.

DUKE VINCENTIO

He needs advice.

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

He won't listen to it. He likes being in prison. If you gave him the opportunity to escape, he wouldn't. He's drunk several times a day, and some days he's drunk all day. We have often tried to wake him, as if we were about to execute him—even though we didn't have a warrant for it—and he didn't care at all.

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

I want to hear more about him later. Provost, I can tell that you're an honest, dependable man. If I'm wrong, then my lifelong skills have failed me. But I'll trust my instinct and take the risk. Although you have a warrant here for Claudio's execution, Claudio is no more guilty under the law than Angelo, the man who sentenced him. If you give me four days, I can prove this to you completely. In the meantime, I need you to do me an immediate and dangerous favor.

PROVOST

Pray, sir, in what?

PROVOST

What's that, sir?

DUKE VINCENTIO

In the delaying death.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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

PROVOST

But how can I do it? The hour's been set and I have an express command—under threat—to bring Claudio's head to Angelo! I'll be sentenced to die like Claudio if I mess this up in the slightest. 

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

I swear by the vow I made to my order that you'll be safe if you can follow my instructions. Have Barnadine executed this morning, and send his head to Angelo.

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

Angelo has seen both of them—he'll figure out the swap.

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

Oh, death changes the way people look—and you can add to it. Shave the head and tie the beard. Say it was the dead man's desire to be shaved before death; you know it's a common thing. If you get any trouble because of this, I swear by my patron saint that I will fight for you with my life.

PROVOST

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

PROVOST

Forgive me, good father. But it goes against my promise.

DUKE VINCENTIO

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

DUKE VINCENTIO

Did you swear to the Duke, or to the deputy?

PROVOST

To him, and to his substitutes.

PROVOST

To the Duke and to his substitutes. 

DUKE VINCENTIO

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

DUKE VINCENTIO

Will you believe you've done nothing wrong if the Duke signs off on what you're doing?

PROVOST

But what likelihood is in that?

PROVOST

But what's the chance of that?

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

It's not only possible, it's certain. But since I can tell that you're afraid—and that my outfit, my integrity, and my argument can't convince you—I'll go further than I meant to go to put you at ease. Look here, sir: this is the handwriting and seal of the Duke. You know his handwriting, I'm sure, and the seal is familiar to you?

PROVOST

I know them both.

PROVOST

I know both of them.

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

Then consider this letter like the return of the Duke. Later, you can read over it as much as you like, and you'll find out that he'll be here in two days. Angelo doesn't know that. Today he's received some strange letters—possibly about the Duke's death, or about him going into a monastery. But he doesn't know anything about what's written here. Look, you'll be guided just like the shepherds were guided to Jesus' manger by the star in Bethlehem. You shouldn't be afraid of these things, since problems become much easier once we figure out what they are. Call your executioner and tell him to chop off Barnadine's head. I'll give him his last confession and prepare him for what's after death. You still seem amazed. But this letter will make up your mind. Come on, let's go; it's almost completely light out.

Exeunt

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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.