Page images

Enter a Messenger.
Duke. This is his lordship’s man.
Prov. And here comes Claudio's pardon.

Mel. 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. Prov. I shall obey him.

(Exit Messenger. Duke. This is his pardon, purchas’d by such fin,

[Afide. For which the pardoner himself is in : Hence hath offence his quick celerity, When it is borne 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?

6 Enter a Messenger. Duke. This is his lordship's man.

Prov. And here comes Claudio's pardon.] The Provoft has just declared a fixed opinion that the execution will not be countermanded, and yet, upon the first appearance of the Messenger, he immediately guesses that his errand is to bring Claudio's pardon. It is evident, I think, that the names of the speakers are misplaced. If we suppose the Provost to say,

This is his lordship’s man, it is very natural for the Duke to subjoin,

And here comes Claudio's pardon. The Duke might believe, upon very reasonable grounds, that Angelo had now sent the pardon. It appears that he did so, froin what he says to himself, while the Provost is reading the letter;

This is his pardon, purchas'd by such fin,

Observ. and Conject. &c. printed at Oxf. 1766. When, immediately after the Duke had hinted his expectation of a pardon, the Provost sees the Messenger, he supposes the Duke to have known fomething, and changes his mind. Either reading may ferve equally well. JOHNSON.


[ocr errors]

Prov. I told you : lord Angelo, be-like, thinking me remiss in mine office, awakens me with this unwonted putting on; methinks, strangely; for he hath not us'd it before. Duke. Pray you, let's hear,

Provost reads the letter, Whatsoever you may bear to the contrary, let Claudia be execuied by four of the clock; and, in the afternoon, Barnardine : for my better satisfaction, let me have Claudio's bead sent me by five. Lei this be duly perform’d, 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 you peril. What say you to this, sir?

Duke. What is that Barnardine, who is to be exe, cuted in the afternoon ? Prov. A Bohemian born ; but here nurs'd up

and bred : one that is a prisoner nine years old.

Duke. How came it that the absent duke had not either deliver'd him to his liberty, or executed him ? I have heard, it was ever his manner to do so.

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

Duke. Is it now apparent ?
Prov. Most manifest, and not deny'd by himself.

Duke. Hath he born himself penitent in prison : how seems he to be touch'd ?

Priv. A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully, but as a drunken Neep; careless, reckless, and fearless of what's past, present, or to come; insensible of mortality, and desperately mortal.?

Duke. ? desperately mortal.] This expresfion is obscure. Sir Thomas Hanmer reads, mortally dejporate. Mortally is in low conversation Duke. He wants advice.


Prov. 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 often awak'd him, as if to carry him to execution, and Shew'd him a seeming warrant for it; it hath not mov'd him at all.

Duke. 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 a warrant to execute, is no greater forfeit to the law than Angelo, who hath fentenc'd 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

Prov. Pray, fir, in what?
Duke. In the delaying death.

Prov. Alack! 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.

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

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

Duke. Oh, death's a great disguiser : and you may used in this sense, but I know not whether it was ever written. I am inclined to believe, that desperately mortal means diperately mischievous. Or desperately mortal may mean a man likely to die in a desperate state, without reflection or repentance.



add to it. Shave the head,' and tie the beard, and fay it was the desire of the penitent to be fo barb'd 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 faint whom I profess, I will plead against it with my life.

Prov. Pardon me, good father ; it is again!t my oath. Duke. Were


sworn to the duke, or to the de

puty ?

Prov. To him, and to his substitutes.

Duke. You will think you have made no offence, if the duke avouch the justice of your dealing ?

Prov. But what likelihood is in that?

Duke. Not a resemblance, but a certainty. Yet since I see you fearful, that neither my coat, integrity, nor my persuasion, can with ease attempt you, I will go further than I meant, to pluck all fears out of you. Look, you, fir, here is the hand and seal of the duke; you know the character, I doubt not; and the signer is not strange to you.

. and tie the beard,] The Revifal recommends Mr. Simpson's cmendation, die the beard, but the present reading may stand. I believe it was usual to tie up the beard before decollation, that it might escape the blow. Sir T. More is said to have been very careful about this ornament of his face. It should however be remembered, that it was the custom to die beards. In the Midsummer Night's Dream, Bottom says,

“ I will discharge it either in your straw-colour'd beard, “your orange-tawny beard, your purple in grain, &c.” Again in the old comedy of Ram Alley, 1611.

" What colour'd beard comes next by the window ?
“ A black man's, I think.
“ I think, a red; for that is most in fashion.”

Steevens. A beard tied would give a very new air to that face, which had never been seen but with the beard loose, long, and squalid.


Prov. Prov. I know them both.

Duke, 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, which Angelo knows not : for he this very day receives letters of strange tenor; perchance, of the duke's death ; perchance, of his 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 fhrift, and advise him for a better place. Yet you are amaz’d, but this shall absolutely resolve you. Come away, it is almost clear dawn.



Enter Clown.

[ocr errors]

Clown. I am as well acquainted here, as I was in our house of profession : one would think, it were mistress Over-done's own house, for here be many of her old customers. First, here's young master Rath;: he's in for a commodity of brown paper and old gin

..norbing of what is writ.] We should read here writ—the Duke pointing to the letter in his hand. WARBURTON. the unfolding far calls up the shepherd:]

“ The far, that bids the shepherd fold,
" Now to the top of heav'n doth hold.” Milton's Comus.

STEEvens. * First, here's young master Rash, &c.] This enumeration of the inhabitants of the prison affords a very Ariking view of the practices predominant in Shakespeare's age. Besides those whole fol. lies are common to all times, we have four fighting men and a traveller. It is not unlikely that the originals of the pictures were then known. JOHNSON,


« PreviousContinue »