Act II, Scene 3
The Duke, disguised as a friar, goes to the prison to speak to the condemned. First, he speaks with Juliet. She explains that she is in fact pregnant with Claudio’s child. She is sorry for her sin, but she loved him and will love the child. She’s upset to learn he is to be executed the next day.
Act II, Scene 4
Angelo is very worked up about the fact that he has the hots for Isabel. It goes against pretty much everything he stands for, and yet he wants her so bad.
Isabel comes in to learn of Angelo’s decision. He is determined that Claudio shall die, but he doesn’t necessarily have to die any time soon. Angelo is of the mindset that if he were to pardon her brother, he would be condoning that sin. Isabel disagrees, so Angelo asks her to give up her chastity for her brother’s life. She won’t do it. It would be condemning her soul to do so. Angelo argues that there would be a certain amount of virtue in sacrificing her body to save her brother. He goes further by arguing that even asking for his pardon is just as sinful. Isabel, obviously, disagrees.
Angelo is determined that Claudio shall die unless Isabel gives up her body. Isabel still refuses and asserts that she would rather die herself than give up her chastity. It would be better for her brother to be executed than for her to live with her shame the rest of her life. Angelo tries to tell her that she is just as cruel as his law then and she clearly didn’t mean everything she said against it before. She admits that she didn’t truly mean everything she said while pleading for Claudio’s life.
Angelo beats around the bush about women’s fragility and general nature before finally spitting out that he loves her. Isabel points out that Claudio loved Juliet and he is being sentenced to death. Angelo spells out his offer again: if she sleeps with him, Claudio will go free. Isabel still refuses and he promises that he loves her. She doesn’t believe him and threatens to tell the world what an awful man he is. Angelo explains that no one will believe her. He gives her until tomorrow morning to provide a final answer.
Isabel realizes she has no one to tell that will believe her and has the power to do anything. She decides to go to Claudio. She’s confident he won’t want her to do this.
Act III, Scene 1
Claudio speaks with the Friar/Duke about the hope he has for life, but he’s prepared for death. The Duke advises him to only prepare himself for death because there’s no real way to be disappointed there. He will either be thankful for his life, or go into death prepared. Claudio seems swayed by his argument.
Isabella comes in and the Duke conceals himself so he can hear their conversation. Isabel explains that Claudio is doomed to die. He asks if there is no way to save his life. She says there is a way, but it’s horrible. He has to repeatedly ask her what it is before she finally tells him what Angelo wants. At first he doesn’t want her to go through with it. But then, he starts thinking about death and suddenly the whole deal doesn’t seem that bad. Isabella gets very angry with her brother and the Friar/Duke steps in.
First, the Friar/Duke speaks with Claudio and tells him that he thinks Angelo just wanted to know that she would turn him down. Now that she did there’s hope that he can be swayed. Then, he speaks with Isabella. He has a whole different plan in store for her. He wants her to tell Angelo that she will sleep with him, but demand it be quick, silent, and in the dark. When the time comes, they will swap her out with Angelo’s jilted lover. It turns out Angelo was engaged to Mariana, but her brother died in a shipwreck that took her dowry too. No dowry meant no marriage for Angelo, so he left her.
The plan sounds good to Isabel and they set off to put it in motion.
Act III, Scene 2
As the Friar/Duke leaves the prison, he runs into Elbow escorting Pompey to prison. Elbow explains that Pompey runs a whore house and the Friar/Duke is taken aback. He wants Pompey in prison, but Angelo gave him a warning. Still, he’s apparently off to prison because he hopes that Lucio will bail him out.
Lucio won’t though. He thinks Pompey is exactly where he should be and Pompey goes off to prison. Lucio asks the Friar/Duke where he thinks the Duke is. There are a lot of rumors, but no one seems to know where he is or why. Lucio thinks it was a mistake to put Angelo in charge because he is too harsh in his sentencing. Lucio believes the Duke would have been more merciful because the Duke was not without his vices, such as using prostitutes, drinking, and being dumb. The Friar/Duke takes offense to that idea, but Lucio insists he knows the Duke well.
The Friar/Duke challenges Lucio to say all this to the Duke’s face if and when he returns. Lucio gladly accepts the challenge. Before departing, Lucio wishes there was a way to save Claudio.
Escalus and the Provost bring Mistress Overdone to prison. She tells them that Lucio got one of her girls pregnant and promised to marry her. His child is over a year old now and they are still not married. Escalus wants Lucio to answer this, but Mistress Overdone is definitely still going to prison.
Escalus also wishes that something could be done to save Claudio, but Angelo refuses to yield. Once alone, the Duke expresses his dismay at Angelo’s actions and rehashes his plan to have Angelo sleep with Mariana.
Act IV, Scene 1
The Friar/Duke approaches Mariana as she hears a song. She apologizes, but he tells her there is no need. He explains he may have a request for her later.
Isabella enters with information on how to get into Angelo’s chamber with a “servant”. The Friar/Duke asks Mariana to hear Isabella’s story and the plan. Mariana agrees if the Friar is okay with it. He explains that it is not a sin because she should be married to Angelo. He’s confident it will all work out.