• A room in the prison.
    Enter Provost and POMPEY

    PROVOST

    Come hither, sirrah. Can 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.

    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.

    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.

    PROVOST

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

    ABHORSON

    Do 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.
  • A room in the prison.
    The Provost and POMPEY enter.

    PROVOST

    Come here, you. Can you cut off a man’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

    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’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

    Hey, Abhorson! Where are you, Abhorson?

    Abhorson

    the name combines the words “abhor” and “whoreson” (son of a whore)

    ABHORSON (the executioner) enters.

    ABHORSON

    Did you call, sir?

    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.