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Act IV, Scene 1
The scene opens with the Duke at the home of Mariana. Isabella arrives to inform the disguised Duke of her nighttime appointment with Angelo. Isabella then tells Mariana of Angelo's proposition to her and the plan to have Mariana take her place in Angelo's bed. The "friar" encourages Mariana to accept the proposal; since Angelo is her husband on a pre-contract, it is no sin on her part to sleep with him. Mariana, therefore, agrees to the plan.
In this scene, Mariana is introduced as a decent, noble girl, who has known disappointment. Mariana wants to be married to Angelo, but he has backed out of their engagement over the loss of her dowry. She, therefore, is an ideal pawn to be used by the Duke in his plan of saving Isabella's virtue and Claudio's life. The "friar" manages to convince Mariana that sleeping with Angelo is not a sin since she is already betrothed to him. The scheme seems outrageous, but the Elizabethan audience readily accepted it. It also seems strange that the Duke, who is otherwise portrayed as a noble soul, resorts to such a devious plan. It also seems out of character for Isabella to agreeing to this scheme; but in so doing, she believes she can save her brother and her soul.