"Execution, Execution, Execution, Execution, Execution...tough guy."This is when you beg the monarch, or whoever is in charge, to spare the life of someone set to be executed or given A Fate Worse Than Death. As shown in the picture, it's best done kneeling while grasping the ermine robes in a reverent manner (kissing them optional). Often it's done by insisting you know this leader is magnanimous enough to do this. But it's usually more successful if done in the form of ego stroking ("Surely such a great king as yourself is wise enough...", "How could he possibly pose a threat to someone so great...?") or noting the good PR it will bring ("Everyone would know what a kind sovereign you are...") than by trying to appeal to any good nature ("If you just listen to your heart..."). Even if they agree, the prisoner may just be tossed into The Alcatraz instead (Iron Mask optional). A character who begs this way will be Ain't Too Proud to Beg. Compare/Contrast If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him.
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Anime and Manga
- Pictured: In Rose of Versailles, when Louis XV wants to execute André for Marie Antoinette's accident. She recovers, and successfully persuades the king that André did nothing wrong.
- Sheeda does this for Oguma in the Fire Emblem OVA (this is not in the games because Oguma's backstory in the games doesn't work with this).
- Bleach: Rukia does this as a last request to the highest-ranking Soul Society captain right before she's about to be executed in the Soul Society arc, since she feels guilty that Ichigo and everyone are risking their lives to try and save her. Subverted when the captain says he'll let them go free, but really has no intention of doing so. He's only saying that so Rukia can die peacefully.
- Rowena/Margaret did this to save Erika from the wrath of Richter after he found out his sister was in love with Kazuya, the pilot of Daimos.
- Hermione did this in Romeo X Juliet to stop Laertes Montague from taking Romeo's Cool Horse Ciel away. Even more so, the reason why father and son are verbally fighting is because he didn't meet up with Hermione for the Rose Festival (and unbeknownst to the others, he was with Juliet); Hermione still defended Romeo and managed to calm Laertes down.
- Mittermeyer pleads for mercy on Reuental's behalf at least twice in Legend of Galactic Heroes.
- Kurumi attempts this in Haou Airen, on behalf of Reilan when Hakuron decides to shoot her dead for setting Kurumi up to be gang raped. To say it fails is, well, an Under Statement.
- The Vow: After Lord Shen's crime of panda genocide is exposed (in the middle of his wedding, no less), Gongmen City's entire council condemns him to be executed and Shen's devastated parents seem to have no choice but to go along with it. Lady Lianne, Shen's beloved, arrives to speak on Shen's behalf, kneels in her wedding dress and begs in a teary way for Shen to be exiled instead, hoping that he'd repent and be able to return. Unfortunately, Shen is unaware of what Lianne did for him and believes her to have simply forgotten him during his following thirty years in exile, resulting in him imprisoning her when he retakes Gongmen as per canon and desiring vengeance on her as well. When he's finally told of what Lianne did to save him, he feels remorseful for his treatment of her and fully rekindles his love for her (which saves him in the end).
- During the course of The Black Cauldron fic Hope for the Heartless, Avalina ends up several times begging the Horned King (her captor who's been resurrected) not to kill or hurt several other characters.
- When the Horned King intends to kill Creeper for hitting Avalina and seemingly defying the lich's order to stay out of the girl's sight, she points out that the goblin didn't technically defy the order because she didn't really see him. Deciding that a good argument deserves a reward, the Horned King lets Creeper live.
- When the Horned King intends to kill Taran and have his revenge for his downfall, Avalina comes between them and begs the lich to stop. After internal struggling, the Horned King acknowledges that he owes the pig-keeper for saving Avalina, for whom he has come to genuinely care; he repays the debt in his own way (by fixing Taran's shoulder, which the lich dislocated) and leaves with Avalina.
- After Avalina's been rescued from a group of kidnappers and child murderers (who are all former soldiers of the Horned King), she begs on their behalf. This time the Horned King doesn't consent and has them all killed (though he makes sure to keep this out of Avalina's sight).
- In All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird, after the events of Halamshiral, Empress Celene sentences her cousin Gaspard to death. Victoria intervenes on his behalf, successfully pleading with the Empress to banish him from Orlais instead.
Films — Animated
- The Prince of Egypt: Aaron sort of does one of these when Miriam tells Moses the truth about his origins and says he's "one of [them]," to which he initially objects quite strongly and threatens to have her arrested or killed. He comes around, though.
- Maid Marian, in the Disney animated version of Robin Hood, pleads with Prince John for Robin's life when he is captured after the archery contest.
Films — Live-Action
- History of the World Part I: Mademoiselle Rimbaud begs King Louis XVI to pardon her father. Her father is actually sentenced to prison, not execution. King Louis agrees in exchange for a "favor".
- The Other Boleyn Girl: Mary pleads with King Henry VIII to spare her sister Anne because, as her sister, Anne is one half of Mary. He doesn't want to hurt her, but you know how it ends.
- Downfall: Eva Braun begs Adolf Hitler to spare her brother-in-law Hermann Fegelein, who was ordered to be executed for treason.
- In The Ten Commandments, Lila begs Moses for mercy for Joshua after he struck an Egyptian overseer while trying to save Moses' mother (though he didn't know it yet) from being killed.
- Lampshaded in The Furies (1950) where proud Juan Herrera chooses death by hanging rather than see his friend Vance, daughter of cattle baron T.C., humiliate herself.
Vance: Do you want me to beg? Do you want me on my knees to you for his life?T.C.: I'd hang him anyway.Vance: That's what he said.T.C.: He did, eh? He always was smart.
- In The Man in the Iron Mask, D'artagnan pleads with King Louis to spare the life of his twin brother, Philippe, doing so in the name of his long years of devoted service, during which he never Louis asked for anything. It doesn't work, but Philippe escapes death via an inspired bit of Briar Patching, and is instead thrown in jail, where he is swiftly rescued by Aramais, Athos, Porthos, as well as D'artagnan, who has undergone a Face–Heel Turn.
- The first book of A Song of Ice and Fire has this toward the end, with Sansa (unsuccessfully) begging Joffrey to spare her father. She learns from her mistakes by the second book, and when Joffrey decides in a fit of rage to execute Ser Dontos for showing up drunk at a tournament, Sansa convinces Joffrey to spare him by suggesting that it would be crueler to turn him into a court jester.
- Her mother, Catelyn, did this many years before on behalf of Petyr Baelish, after he fought a duel and got curb-stomped by her betrothed, Brandon Stark, for her hand in marriage. Years later, this bit the entire kingdom in the ass as Petyr saw Catelyn's pleading for his life as demeaning and humiliating, and he sought revenge against the Starks and to become the most powerful lord in Westeros through trickery and manipulation to prove he's not a "boy" as Cate called him.
- In the book The Other Boleyn Girl, Mary wants to plead with King Henry VIII to spare her sister Anne, but her husband talks her out of it by pointing out that if she does, she'll likely share the fate of her siblings.
- In The King of Attolia of Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series, Teleus begs the Queen to reconsider executing him by reciting the invocation to the Great Goddess that Eugenides recited when in her dungeons earlier.
- A interesting variation in that the Queen knows perfectly well that it's Eugenides who told him to make the plea and what to say
- In "Hop-Frog" by Edgar Allan Poe, Trippetta begs the king to have mercy on fellow dwarf Hop-Frog. The king being the nasty piece of work that he is, it doesn't go well.
- In The Silmarillion: after the sister of Turgon, King of Gondolin, is wounded by her husband Eöl; she manages to convince Turgon to spare him. Since she dies in the night (the weapon was poisoned), Turgon is not so merciful in the end...
- When King Thingol finds out about his daughter Lúthien's tryst with the human Beren, Lúthien begs him not to kill him.
- In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu intercedes for Zhang Liao's life when Cao Cao wishes to execute him. This works out in Cao Cao's favour: Zhang Liao becomes a frighteningly effective general for him.
- In Harry Potter Severus Snape tried to do this in regards to Lily Evans after she became Lord Voldemort's primary target (along with her husband and son). It didn't work, although it should be noted that Voldemort would have been willing to spare her for Snape if she had just let him murder her baby. This is his idea of an honest, good-faith attempt to keep his end of the bargain.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- In Barrayar, Count Vorhalas begs Aral Vorkosigan, then Regent, to pardon his son for the capital crime of dueling. Vorkosigan doesn't, and the dead boy's brother later tries to assassinate him for it, leading to Aral's son Miles being crippled in the womb.
- In The Warrior's Apprentice, twenty years later, the tables are turned when Aral Vorkosigan is forced to beg Vorhalas not to press treason charges against Miles that would lead to his execution (and Miles is technically guilty). Count Vorhalas tells Aral to get on his knees like he did when he pleaded for his son's life, and then looks like he will go on to stick the knife in, but Miles calls him out for it, warning that if he goes through with this he'll have to answer to Cordelia Vorkosigan for his revenge. The Count agrees not to lay the charges, but still votes an abstention in Miles's subsequent inquiry.
- Both Waverley and Talbot do this in Waverley to their respective lieges for each other. In Talbot's case it was downplayed as Waverley was asking that Talbot not be confined as a prisoner of war while his wife was sick and needed him.
- Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive): Variant. When Kaladin is thrown in prison for accusing a highlord of murdering his own men, King Elhokar wants him killed, or at the very least exiled. These are the standard penalties for such things, but Dalinar, the king's uncle (and also Kaladin's commanding officer) tells Elhokar that if he insists on doing so, Elhokar will make an enemy of Dalinar. Dalinar has spent the last six years fighting to keep the kingdom together and give Elhokar the power to be a worthy king—but he's willing to throw that all away for Kaladin. Elhokar ends up imprisoning Kaladin for a month. It later turns out that Elhokar knew what he was doing was wrong all along. He was just jealous of Kaladin's heroism, so he derailed his own plan in order to punish Kaladin for being better than him. Elhokar apologizes and even begs Kaladin for "the secret of leadership," though unfortunately Kaladin is too depressed at the time to help.
Live Action TV
- In first episode of Blackadder II, Blackadder becomes Lord High Executioner and kills one of the prisoners early so he can have the day off. After he's done that, the man's brother successfully convinces Queen Elizabeth to let him (the executed prisoner) off the hook. Hilarity Ensues. Baldrick killed the wrong guy by mistake.
- In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Iolaus tries the second form with Hercules's Evil Counterpart. It seems to work, because that made the evil Hercules laugh, but he executes the prisoner anyway.
- In Merlin King Uther is tricked into believing that his son Arthur has been placed under an enchantment by Guinevere, and orders her burnt at the stake as a witch. Arthur begs for her life, but the more hysterical he gets, the more Uther is convinced that he's truly under a spell.
- Twice, Arthur begs Uther to spare a man, once with Gawaine and once with Lancelot. The result is exile for both.
- Merlin also begs Arthur to change his mind about banishing Gwen. It doesn't work.
- In the episode of Firefly "Shindig," Mal sword fights a man and is about to lose, but Inara tells that man that she will accept his offer to stay with him if he spares Mal's life.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: in "Amok Time", Spock begs T'Pau to block Kirk from entering the Kal-i-fee.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has an example during the Dominion's occupation of the station. Dukat's (naive) daughter comes to him looking for a pardon for a friend caught trying to commit sabotage on a military base. Despite a full pardon for an enemy saboteur during a war being a relatively outlandish request (which she can't seem to grasp), Dukat's reaction (criminals are enemies of the state, they never deserve mercy) finally convinces her he really is one of the bad guys.
- Game of Thrones:
- Sansa pleads with Joffrey to exercise mercy in his treatment of Ned. It fails. Though Joffrey says before Sansa pleaded for Ned's life, he was going to have Ned hung, drawn, and quartered before he beheaded him.
- King Joffrey is annoyed when Ser Dontos Holland turns up drunk for his birthday tourney, so orders him drowned in a cast of wine. Aware of what happened last time she begged Joffrey for mercy, Sansa Stark convinces him it will be more humiliating to make Dontos his fool.
- Jaime Lannister asks his father and Dragon-in-Chief Lord Tywin Lannister to spare Tyrion's life when he looks certain of being convicted by the Kangaroo Court in which Tywin is acting as chief judge. Tywin claims his hands are tied until Jaime (the sole male heir if Tyrion dies) agrees to leave the Kingsguard (who are sworn not to take a wife or hold titles) and carry on the Lannister dynasty. Tywin agrees so quickly, it implies he was aiming for this result all along.
- Catelyn had to persuade Brandon to not kill Littlefinger.
- In Arrow, one of the mooks of Villain of the Week, "The Mayor", pleads to his boss to spare another underling due for execution. He says that the other mook is his cousin and that he should take the blame for his cousin's failure, since he recommended him to the gang. The "Mayor" agrees to spare his cousin, and then kills him to set an example.
- On The 100, Clarke begs Lexa, the Commander of the Grounders, to spare Finn's life. Lexa refuses.
Mythology and Religion
- The Book of Esther ends with Esther pleading on behalf of all Jews.
- It also features an interesting subversion; after being set up by Esther to admit to Xerxes his plan to kill the Jews, Haman throws himself at Esther's mercy. Cue Xerxes suddenly entering and seeing Haman apparently attempting to rape his wife. Naturally, this does not end well for Haman...
- A depressing percentage of the books of Numbers and Leviticus consists of the Israelites (God's "chosen people," by the way) doing something to piss Him off, God threatening to wipe them all out, Moses pleading with Him, and then God agreeing to destroy only a few thousand of them instead.
- Honestly, after a few times, you'd think they'd learn that God is not someone to piss off.
- Although this same God agreed to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if 50 righteous people were found living in it. Abraham (who was pleading for the life of the city) was able to negotiate God down to 10 righteous people. Unfortunately, the only halfway decent people living in the city were Lot and his family (and even Lot offered his virgin daughters as rape-toys to his violent neighbors in order to save the lives of a couple of houseguests). Needless to say, Sodom and Gomorrah didn't stand a chance.
- In William Shakespeare's Richard II (yes, the play of the second named king, not the third king), the Duchess of York begs the newly crowned King Henry to spare her son (who's been accused of treason).
- Though the convention is also parodied in the same scene, with the Duke of York going on his knees to plead for his son's execution.
- William Shakespeare was quite fond of this trope.
- In Measure for Measure, aspiring nun Isabella goes to Angelo - the temporary ruler of Vienna - to beg for her brother Claudio to be spared a death sentence for violating an old blue law decreeing death for any man who impregnates a woman out of wedlock. Angelo's offer to spare Claudio in exchange for Isabella's virginity fuels the main plot of the play.
- In Julius Caesar, the conspirators plead for their friend to be pardoned just before they assassinate Caesar. (And Caesar gives a ridiculously arrogant speech claiming that he is so god-like as to be above pity... presumably to remove whatever sympathy the audience have for him and prepare them for his violent death.)
- In Henry V it's inverted: the conspirators against Henry argue against mercy for an enemy of the king, so that when he reveals their guilt, Henry takes immense delight in telling them that they have convinced him that mercy is a bad idea.
- Also in Henry V, Pistol pleads for the life of Bardolph, who has been sentenced to death for looting a church. Both Fluellen and Henry refuse to pardon him.
- Leonora in Verdi's Il Trovatore, for her beloved Manrico's life. Count di Luna refuses to spare his rival until she agrees to be his. (She never says she'll be alive for it, though.)
- In Final Fantasy XII, Judge Zargabaath attempts this with Vayne Carudas Solidor to save Drace, his colleague Judge Magister, which is effectively a mix between a Four-Star Badass and a Judge, Jury, and Executioner, after Drace's failed attempt to violently refute Vayne's claim to autocratic powers with the death of his father, the Emperor Gramis Solidor. Zargabaath's considerations were likely to have stemmed from pragmatic considerations - Drace was a very talented Judge Magister, one Judge Magister had gone missing in action for a few years now, and another had perished in an accident, so they were running out of qualified men and women for the post - but given Zargabaath's portrayal as a reasonable and level-headed gentleman, sympathy probably wasn't out of the question. Unfortunately, Vayne has Drace executed anyways.
- In Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, the Hot-Blooded Honor Before Reason-afflicted Adell is escorting the Defrosting Ice Queen, Rozalin, back to her father, The Overlord, whom he plans to defeat for the good of all. Rozalin is quite sure he'll have no chance whatsoever against her father, being a Puny Human in a world of demons, and while she initially relishes the thought of him being squashed, her gradual defrosting - and his clear dedication to protecting her and keeping his promise of returning her to her father - begins to change her mind. Eventually, she resolves to follow this trope and beg the Overlord to spare Adell once they reach him. And, when you first encounter him and find him unbeatable, she actually follows through. This, however, only makes him more determined to kill you, since he fears what The Power of Love could do to Rozalin...
- In the AGD King's Quest II, this is the correct answer to one of the Cloud Spirit's tests.
- Also implied in King's Quest IV on Edgar's part when Rosella is brought before Lolotte.
- Possible on the Light Side path of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Queen Talia wants to execute her traitorous cousin Vaklu, but the Exile has the option (being a Jedi and all) to convince her to let him stand trial instead. Note that this is optional. You suffer no alignment penalty if you let him die.
- This is a possible outcome at the Winter Palace ball in Dragon Age: Inquisition, depending on what evidence has been found and presented, and also depending on whether Grand Duchess Florianne succeeds in killing Empress Celene. The Empress may sentence Grand Duke Gaspard to be executed for treason. The Inquisitor may be given the option to intervene and plead for mercy, resulting in him being exiled instead.
- Girl Genius have feudal relationships as one of background themes, so this situation appeared too. Agatha begs the Baron to spare Dr. Beetle.Zola begs Agatha to spare Gil (her only really nice moment). Not that either attempt was really necessary; the Baron considered Beetle too useful to execute even if he had committed treason (and was rather annoyed when Gil ended up semi-accidentally killing Beetle in self-defense) and Gil is Agatha's Love Interest.
- The Burghers of Calais are a particularly well noted Real Life example. (Read about it here.)
- Pocahontas famously begged her father, the chief of the Powhatan, to spare the life of colonist John Smith in 1607 Virginia. Of course, depending on who you ask, the whole thing might have been a sort of initiation ritual, or Smith might have made the whole thing up in order to give Pocahontas a hero's welcome on her trip to England.
- Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, pleaded for the lives of the perpetrators of the Evil May Day massacre, when she saw how devastated their families were by the death sentence. In spite of the fact that the victims were mostly Spanish aliens, and she was a Spanish princess, she succeeded.
- A couple decades later, the same king received a similar plea from his third queen, Jane Seymour, for the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Unfortunately, Henry had changed considerably since the "Evil May Day" incident, and this time, the plea was not as well received...
- Roman dictator Sulla once ordered a number of political enemies killed, among them young Julius Caesar. When his followers reacted with this trope (Caesar was very young then), he stated that they had to be unintelligent if they failed to see any danger in the boy. Caesar still survived, and the rest is history.
- In the last days of World War II, Eva Braun tried to plead with Adolf Hitler to spare her brother-in-law Hermann Fegelein from being executed.