Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Angelo is the man chosen by the Duke to represent him in his absence from Vienna. At the beginning of the play, Angelo comes across as an upright, trustworthy man who is capable of disciplining the city and bringing it back to order. But Angelo himself foreshadows that his task will not be easy, for he admits he is young, inexperienced, and untested. As the play proceeds, the true nature of Angelo is revealed, and he comes across as an evil hypocrite, who dictates rules to others about morality, but refuses to observe them himself. He also believes in imposing the law strictly, measure for measure, with no mercy or consideration of circumstance.
Angelo, to immediately prove his mettle after the Duke's departure, arrests a young gentleman, Claudio, for having debauched a young girl, Juliet. To set an example and to prove he means business, Angelo sentences Claudio to death. He also closes down all the whorehouses around in Vienna. But when it comes to his own morality, he is quite willing to bend the rules to satisfy his own pleasures. He tries to persuade Isabella to sleep with him in order to save her brother; in fact, he believes he does sleep with her, not knowing Mariana has been substituted in her place. After his pleasures are satisfied, he goes back on his promise to Isabella and orders that the execution of Claudio will still take place. Thus, he proves himself to be an immoral person, a liar, and a hypocrite.
In the final scene, when the truth is unmasked about Angelo, he shows earnest repentance, pleads for forgiveness, and accepts whatever punishment is forthcoming. He knows that he deserves to die for his immoral actions, just like he sentenced Claudio to death for the same behavior. The Duke, however, in complete contrast to Angelo, is tempered with mercy; thus, he forgives Angelo and bids him to be a good husband to Mariana. Most critics feel than Angelo is totally undeserving of such mercy.
Lucio is perfect example of the typical man in Vienna, enjoying life through sexual vices and corruption. In spite of his low morals, he is not a strong enough character to excite hatred or disgust. In the beginning of the play, he is portrayed as a happy-go-lucky man, full of wit and merriment. He talks vulgarly and jokes about sex. He is obviously from the lower strata of society and associates with characters such as Mistress Overdone, the keeper of the whorehouse. In fact, it is later revealed that he has gotten one of Mistress Overdone's girls pregnant.
In spite of his weaknesses, Lucio has virtue. He is a warm, sympathetic person, who empathizes with Claudio's predicament. In fact, he volunteers to go and meet Isabella to inform her of her brother's plight. He also convinces Isabella to come to her brother's aid. He is also has insight into human character. He sees through Angelo and condemns the Duke for leaving the city in his hands. He cannot understand why the Duke had deserted the citizens, and openly criticizes the leader, often unknowingly to his face. As a result, Lucio often gives comic relief to the play.
Although Lucio is not considered a main character, he plays a vital role in the drama. Like Angelo, Lucio is the recipient of the Duke's mercy. Although the Duke knows that Lucio should be whipped or hanged in the strict interpretation of the law, he is only sentenced to marrying the girl whom he has gotten pregnant. Perhaps this will serve to settle down this somewhat wild and happy-go-lucky gentleman.