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Act II, Scene 4
The scene opens with Angelo's soliloquy about his lust for Isabella. His temptations have prevented him from being able to pray. As he thinks about her beauty, Isabella arrives. The lustful Angelo hints and then states that he is prepared to pardon Claudio if Isabella agrees to share his bed. Isabella says that she would rather die than yield her body to such a villain. She also threatens to reveal Angelo's offer, but he states he will deny her charge. Isabella decides to tell her brother of this new development and prepare him for his death.
This scene is very important, for it shows the hypocrisy of Angelo. He has tried to tempt Isabella into his bed to commit the same crime for which Claudio is charged. By trying to barter Isabella's body for Claudio's life, Angelo shows he is a degenerate man, who thinks he is above the law.
Isabella shines in her purity, for she bluntly refuses Angelo's offer. She is prepared to accept her brother's death rather than sleep with Angelo. In training to be a nun, Isabella knows that Claudio is not eternally damned by his crime; therefore, she can accept his death in order to save her own soul. Some critics feel that Isabella gives too much importance to her own virtue without weighing its implications. But the fact that she wants to become a nun makes her decision credible. She leaves Angelo to go and tell Claudio what has transpired and to prepare him for his execution. She believes her brother will understand and agree with her decision. The audience must respect her for her truth, honesty, and sincerity. She loves her brother dearly; she loves her God more.