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Act II, Scene 2
The scene opens with the Provost questioning Angelo about his decision to execute Claudio. Angelo has not wavered in his decision. The execution is still to take place the next day.
Lucio brings Isabella to Angelo's house to beg him to spare the life of Claudio. Before he departs, the Provost, realizing why she is present, wishes Isabella good luck with Angelo. Isabella is dramatic in her pleas before Angelo, making reference to Christian forgiveness. (Remember she is about to become a nun.). In spite of her noble efforts and lofty language-, she is not successful. Angelo professes to be a stickler for rules and refuses to oblige her requests. Angelo, however, deceitfully states that there is some sense in her arguments and asks her to visit him the next day. After Isabella and Lucio leave, Angelo indulges in a soliloquy. He reveals that he is tempted by Isabella's beauty and feels ill at ease to have a desire that he considers a sin in others.
Isabella, the pious sister of Claudio, has been persuaded by Lucio to plead for her brother's life. She is brought to Angelo by Lucio, but the Deputy refuses to free or forgive the prisoner. She accuses Angelo of being a tyrant and asks Angelo if he has ever been guilty of actions similar to Claudio. Angelo is unmoved by her pleas, but is tempted by her beauty. In his soliloquy at the end of the scene, he confesses his own lust, saying, "With saints does bait thy hook!" Isabella's purity makes her even more tempting.
The scene has three important purposes. It reinforces the theme of mercy introduced in the last scene. It also brings together Isabella and Angelo for the first time. Both will play an important part in the play as the drama unfolds. Finally, it foreshadows Angelo's later guilt in committing a crime of passion. He, however, will be treated mercifully.