Act IV, Scene 2
The provost proposes a deal to Pompey. If he serves as an assistant to the executioner, he will get a shorter sentence and avoid a whipping. Pompey refuses to give a straight answer because that’s the function of his character. In the end, of course, he agrees and the executioner is called out. Abhorson, the executioner, is not too keen on having a bawd as his assistant. He claims Pompey will discredit the profession. The Provost thinks he’s being a little judgy and tells him he can employ Pompey for the one day if he wants. Abhorson and Pompey discuss the trade and agree to work together.
The Provost calls forth Claudio and Bernadine, another prisoner that is to be executed. Claudio comes quickly, but Bernadine is sound asleep. Both Claudio and the Provost are sad to learn that Claudio is still doomed to be executed in the morning.
The Friar/Duke shows up to see if the pardon for Claudio has come yet and is quite dismayed to learn that none has arrived. He’s still confident that his plan will work.
He’s not confident for long though because a note comes from Angelo to execute Claudio at 4 and send his head to Angelo by 5. The Provost goes on to explain that Bernadine is much more deserving of death. He doesn’t even seem to be to bothered by the fact that he is about to be executed.
The Friar/Duke comes up with another crazy scheme. The Provost should shave Bernadine’s head and beard and send his head in Claudio’s place. The Provost is still hesitant, but the Friar/Duke pulls the “I speak for the Duke” card and gets his way.
Act IV, Scene 3
Pompey is quite at home in the prison. All his friends and patrons of the whorehouse are there. Abhorson tells him to go and get Bernadine to be executed. Bernadine, however, is hungover and not interested in being executed.
The Friar/Duke goes to prepare his soul for death. Bernadine tells him plainly that he won’t be executed today because he won’t leave his cell. The Friar/Duke is taken aback by Bernadine’s attitude.
He’s briefly concerned that his plan won’t work, but the Provost has a solution. A pirate who looks a lot like Claudio died from a fever in the night. They decide to send his head instead and hide away Claudio and Bernadine for a couple days.
Isabella shows up and is told that Claudio was executed. She’s upset, but the Friar/Duke comforts her with the news that the Duke is coming back and plans to expose Angelo. Lucio shows up to express his sympathies and annoy the Friar/Duke. He’s still insisting he knows the Duke well, even though he obviously doesn’t. He also admits to getting a girl pregnant and not marrying her. That will definitely not come back to haunt him.
Act IV, Scene 4
Escalus and Angelo seem confused by the Duke’s most recent letters. Apparently the Duke has been sending some contradictory letters, but his wishes in this one are clear. He wants them to surrender their power at the city gates and he will hear complaints against them in the street that very day. They are confused by these demands, but obviously have to go through with it.
Angelo wishes he hadn’t executed Claudio.
Act IV, Scene 5
The Duke prepares to enter the city and have Friar Peter deliver letters to him.
Act IV, Scene 6
Isabella and Mariana figure out what they are going to say. Friar Peter makes sure they are in a good spot to speak with the Duke.
Act V, Scene 1
The Duke enters the city and praises Angelo and Escalus for their good work. Isabella steps forward and makes her accusation. The Duke doesn’t believe her and gets angry at her slanderous accusations. She attempts to call forth witnesses, but he doesn’t believe them either. Partly because Lucio says the Friar/Duke was a liar who spoke against the Duke. The Duke tells him to be quiet until it is his time to speak. The Duke has Isabella arrested.
At that point, Mariana comes forward and explains that she is now married to Angelo because she slept with him in Isabella’s place. Angelo denies this and says he didn’t marry her because her virtue was in question. She gets arrested too. Friar Peter also get arrested because he tries to defend them.
The Duke sends for the Friar/Duke and then leaves to have Escalus and Angelo deal with the matter. Escalus intends to question Isabella privately when the Friar/Duke comes in. He speaks on the women’s behalf and against Lucio. Escalus puts him under arrest, but he refuses to go. In the scuffle, his hood is pulled off and everyone realizes he is, in fact, the Duke.
Angelo immediately confesses to his crimes. The Duke makes him marry Mariana and then sentences him to death. Mariana pleads for Angelo’s life and pulls Isabella in to plead with her. The Duke is unswayed, but calls for the Provost to bring forth the prisoners he saved. The Duke pardons Bernadine and reveals Claudio. Since Claudio isn’t actually dead, he lets Angelo live. Claudio marries Juliet. Lucio is forced to marry the whore he got pregnant before getting whipped and hanged. The Duke asks Isabella to marry him. She seems to agree, but never speaks a word.