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Protagonist: Duke Vincentio of Vienna is the protagonist. He controls the action of the play from start to finish. He is almost like a spiritual power, representing divine justice. At the beginning of the play, the Duke hands over the charges of the Kingdom to Angelo and departs from Vienna; but he returns, disguised as a friar, to watch how Angelo conducts himself as his deputy. He then remains in the play, in almost every scene, in his disguised state, trying to dispense justice and catering to the various problems of his people. In the final scene, the Duke's true identity is revealed. Thus, Angelo is put to shame and the strife-torn city is set right.
Antagonist: Though Angelo seems self-righteous and principled at the beginning of the play, he is, in fact, the villain. He causes the maximum amount of grief and sorrow to the rest of the characters. Claudio, who really loves Juliet and wishes to marry her, becomes the offender in Angelo's eyes and is sentenced to death. Isabella, who is to become a nun, is given the unfair choice of sleeping with Angelo to cancel her brother's sentence. Angelo claims he is reforming the city of Vienna by closing down all whorehouses and legalizing the entire system; in truth, he is himself a hypocrite who does not abide by his own rules. Isabella tries in vain to make him aware of his vanity. In the end, the Duke exposes Angelo. His punishment is to marry Mariana and reform himself, which he humbly does.
Outcome: The play ends in comedy. The Duke succeeds in discovering the truth about Angelo and putting him to shame. When the Duke proceeds to sentence Angelo, Mariana pleads for his life and requests Isabella to join her. Isabella agrees to help, thus, showing her final metamorphosis. Angelo is forgiven and the Duke himself asks for Isabella's hand, which she readily gives. Angelo also marries Mariana, and Claudio marries Juliet.