Abhorson is another character whose name has been chosen to suggest what the audience might think of him: it is a mixture of ‘abhor' (hate) and ‘whore-son' (literally, son of a prostitute - a term of abuse). The provost clearly has a low opinion of him, telling him (in Act IV sc ii) that he is no better than the bawd Pompey - ‘Go to, sir, you weigh equally: a feather will turn the scale.'

Abhorson, however, is proud of his function as an executioner, claiming (in Act IV sc ii) that his job is a ‘mystery' (an English derivation of the French word ‘metier'– that is, a skilful trade requiring specialist knowledge). But the fact that Pompey is able to claim that being a bawd is equally a mystery – because ‘painting is a mystery' and prostitutes ‘paint' (i.e., use make-up: Pompey is punning on the idea of painting as done by a real artist, and painting as applying make-up) – reveals the essentially depraved nature of Abhorson's work.

Abhorson expresses no moral response to his role; he regards it simply as a ‘trade'. For the audience, who see that the well-meaning and effectively innocent Claudio is to receive the same treatment as the debauched murderer Barnardine, this is patently unjust, and Abhorson's role is, therefore, as his name suggests, abhorrent.

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