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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Watercolors of Shakespearean Characters 
~ Bastards, Frauds & Tellers of the Truth  ~


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BARNADINE in MEASURE FOR MEASURE
by Hannah Tompkins
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Barnadine Watercolor by Hannah Tompkins

 

Barnadine has been imprisoned for 12 years and nobody knows exactly why. Part of his adjustment to this long confinement was an intimate association with spirits...the bottled kind. The other part was a 'detachment' from the scene which allowed him a certain objectivity to exercise his truth-telling, through which he defies the so-called authorities.

The Provost says of him:
"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."    (Act IV sc.ii)
Barnadine appears but twice in the whole play with a mere dozen lines, but like Cassandra's, the impact is not determined by the length.

His execution has been ordered but he is not very cooperative about it. He dismisses the urging of Pompey and the executioner Abhorson, that he ready himself for his fate, with a casual:
"I have been drinking all night; I am not fitted for°t."
Finally, the Duke arrives, in the guise of a Friar, and also pleads with him, but to no avail.
Barnadine: "I swear I will not die today for any man's persuasion."

Duke: "But hear you."

Barnadine: "Not a word: if you have anything to say to me, come to my ward; for thence will not I today."
And he stomps off back to his cell closing the door behind him. These are his last words in the play, and for Barnadine, as a symbol of truth, they are fitting indeed.

In the last Act he is brought before the Duke, who has shed his disguise and is back in royal garb. The Provost introduces Barnadine:
"One in prison, that should by private order else have died, I have reserved alive... his name is Barnadine."
The Duke, realizing his limits with this man says:
"Sirrah, thou art said to have a stubborn soul, That apprehends no further than this world, And squarest thy life according."
And with that Barnadine is set free. Truth too has a stubborn soul. No matter how long it is imprisoned, it will not die for any man's pursuasion and will eventually be liberated


Copyright © 1982 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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