At the courthouse, Angelo and Escalus have gathered to discuss Claudio's case. Angelo insists that they not "make a scarecrow out of the law." (Translation: Angelo wants Claudio to be punished so everyone knows there are consequences to breaking the law.)
Escalus agrees that Claudio should be punished, but he doesn't see any reason to put Claudio to death – that won't really solve anything. Plus, says Escalus, Claudio comes from a good family.
Escalus wonders if Angelo has ever committed the same crime for which he is now punishing Claudius. In other words, has Angelo ever had sex outside of marriage?
Angelo says "'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus, Another thing to fall." (Hmm. This isn't really isn't a "yes" or "no" answer to Escalus's question.)
Angelo also admits that there's probably a criminal or two on Claudius's jury, but that's not really a good enough reason to let Claudius get off scot-free.
Angelo also says "When I that censure him do so offend, / Let mine own judgment pattern out my death, / And nothing come in partial. Sir, he must die." Translation: The day I commit the same crime as the man I judge and punish (Claudius) is the day I should be punished in the exact same way." (Remember this because it's super-important.)
Escalus doesn't put up any more of a fight.
When the Provost (prison keeper) enters, Angelo gives him order to execute Claudius by 9 a.m. the following morning.
Escalus says, "well, heaven forgive him, and forgive us all!" (Question: Does "him" refer to Claudius the fornicator or Angelo the death sentencer? What do you think?)
Since things are getting a little heavy in this play, Shakespeare trots out Elbow (a constable) who has just arrested Froth and Pompey.
Angelo asks Pompey "what are you sir?" and Elbow tells him that Pompey is a bar-tender and part-time pimp at Mistress Overdone's brothel, which was recently torn down. Since then, Mistress Overdone has opened a new brothel but is calling it a day spa.
Escalus asks Elbow how he knows so much about this and Elbow says that his wife told him so. Apparently, Elbow's wife went there for a sauna and Pompey mistook her for a prostitute. Naturally, Elbow's wife spit in his face to prove otherwise.
Pompey denies everything and says it was all a big misunderstanding.
Pompey proceeds to tell a story (that never gets finished) about how Elbow's pregnant wife entered Mistress Overdone's establishment because she was craving some "stewed prunes." (This turns out to be a thinly veiled dirty joke, because "stewed prunes" is slang for testicles.)
Midway through the story, Angelo gets bored and leaves Escalus to deal with Elbow's complaint.
Elbow and Pompey bicker and Elbow slings a bunch of insults that don't carry much weight because he mixes up his words a lot. (He calls Pompey a "respected" fellow when what he really means to say is that Pompey is a "detested fellow," and so on.)
Froth fesses up that he works for Mistress Overdone and Escalus lets him off with a warning.
Then Escalus lays into Pompey for earning a living as a pimp, which is against the law in Vienna.
Pompey sarcastically asks if Escalus plans to "spay all the youth in the city."
Escalus says "no" and Pompey replies that there's no other way for Escalus to regulate sex in Vienna – he'll have to hang or behead just about every man in town.
Escalus sets Pompey free and warns that if he ever catches Pompey pimping again, he'll whoop up on him just like Julius Caesar throttled Pompey the Great in 48 BC.
Pompey mumbles that nobody can stop him.
Escalus and the Justice stand around talking about poor Claudio. Escalus is pretty upset that Claudio is going to be put to death – it just doesn't seem right and Angelo is being way too harsh.