Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The setting of the play takes place in the city of Vienna, mainly at Duke Vincentio's palace. Later, the characters meet in the streets of the city to discuss Angelo's new rules. Once Claudio is imprisoned, Isabella and the Duke meet at the prison to discuss the further plans of action. The final scene takes place at the city gates, where Isabella, Angelo, Mariana, and the Duke meet. The Duke's disguise is revealed and Angelo is exposed as a shallow, treacherous hypocrite.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
The Duke - Duke Vincentio of Vienna wishes to overhaul the legal system of his city and, thus, leaves the city in the hands of Angelo. He later returns in disguise to oversee how Angelo is administering the new laws in the city.
Angelo - The gentleman to whom the Duke entrusts running of the city. In the beginning of the play, Angelo seems to be a symbol of righteousness. Later, he breaks the rules that he had formed for the townsfolk. He reveals, thereby, that he himself is a debauched hypocrite.
Isabella - The sister of Claudio, who is a stately woman. She is about to join the sisterhood at St. Clare. She is requested by Lucio to plead to Angelo for Claudio's release. On being asked to share Angelo's bed in return for her brother's release, she refuses the offer. She reveals that to her chastity is more important than her brother's life.
Claudio - The unfortunate victim of the rigor and severity of the new law laid down by Angelo. Claudio, who is in love with Juliet, impregnates her, and, thus, is imprisoned and sentenced to death for his crime.
Lucio - A happy-go-lucky man, who often violates social ethics and has no qualms about what he does. His language is prosaic, filled with innuendoes and bawdy witticisms; but he is a warm- hearted person, who agrees to persuade Isabella to plead for Claudio's cause.
Escalus - The Duke's old and trusted advisor. It is on his suggestion that Angelo is asked to be the Deputy in the Duke's absence. Escalus, however, does not contribute to the development of the play substantially.
Mariana - The girl who was earlier betrothed to Angelo. Her engagement is broken, as her dowry is lost in a shipwreck. Mariana emerges as a pathetic character that allows others, including the Duke, to control and direct her life.
Juliet - The fiancée of Claudio. She has sexual relations with Claudio before marriage and conceives a baby. This leads to Claudio's sentence. She, thus, comes across as a girl who loved and suffered a great deal.
The Provost - The officer in charge of the prison where Claudio was sentenced. Compared to other officers, he is amiable, good- natured, and humane. He is, therefore, reluctant to carry out the orders of Angelo. His sense of duty is much appreciated by the Duke in disguise.
Elbow - A police constable who creates confusion. He uses various malapropisms like 'malefactor' for 'benefactor' and generates humor. He is hopelessly inefficient, but very honest.
Barnardine - A reckless, dissolute, and perennially drunk prisoner. He has no terror of death and so the Duke has no qualms in substituting him in place of Claudio for the beheading. However, at the opportune moment, he refuses to die since he has been drinking all night and is not prepared for death. This character is not intended to arouse feelings among the audience.
Pompey - The pimp of Mistress Overdone, who is later arrested by Elbow.
Mistress Overdone - A keeper of a whorehouse who laments over the new administration, which causes her to lose her business.
Francisca - A nun.
Thomas and Peter - Friars.
Frost - One of the fools.
Abhorson - The state executioner, who is very appropriately named.
Ragozine - A pirate whose head is substituted for Claudio's.
Various Lords, Officers, Citizens, and Attendants.