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Measure for Measure Act 2, Scene 2 Summary

  • The Provost arrives at a room at the Court and asks Angelo if he's absolutely certain that Claudio should be put to death.
  • Angelo tells him to scram.
  • The Provost wants to know what he should do with Juliet, who's about to give birth to her illegitimate child.
  • Angelo orders the Provost to make the "fornicatress" disappear to some "more fitter place." (We're not exactly sure what that means but we're just glad to see that Angelo doesn't make her wear a scarlet letter ["F" for "fornicatress"] on her chest.)
  • Isabella shows up and says she's sorry about her brother being a sexual criminal and all but could Angelo please revoke his death sentence?
  • Isabella admits she thinks the law is "just" (Claudio deserves to be punished for his fornicating ways), but it's also too "severe."
  • Isabella proceeds to try persuading Angelo to be merciful. As she does, Lucio stands in the background providing commentary and whispering words of advice like Isabella should stop being so "cold" and should use her feminine wiles to change Angelo's mind.
  • Angelo insists that it's "the law" and not him that condemns Claudius to die.
  • Isabella wants to know why her brother is being singled out. Plenty of others have committed the same crime and nobody else has been punished.
  • Angelo reasons that the law has been taking a brief cat nap but, now that it's "awake," all those other fornicators better watch out.
  • Isabella begs Angelo to be merciful and he replies that he's showing his mercy by implementing the law.
  • Isabella declares that men who go around playing God are as ridiculous as apes who go around imitating man's behavior.
  • Angelo says he'll think about sparing Claudio's life and that Isabella should come back tomorrow.
  • Isabella says she wants to offer Angelo a bribe and Angelo is all "Really, what kind of bribe do you have in mind?" (Cue the eyebrow waggling.)
  • Isabella explains that her bribe is a heavenly gift. She's going to… pray for Angelo. There's nothing better than a virgin's prayers, insists Isabella. Not even gold.
  • Angelo, who is clearly disappointed that Isabella didn't offer him some other kind of "heavenly" gift (if you know what we mean), tells Isabella to return the next day so they can talk about it some more.
  • When Isabella leaves, Angelo reveals to the audience that he's in lust with Isabella and that his desire makes him a lot like a piece of smelly road kill rotting in the sun. (Gross. Maybe Angelo should get together with Hamlet, who similarly compares a woman's pregnant body to a dead dog that's full of maggots from lying in the sun [Hamlet, 2.2.5].)
  • Angelo realizes that Isabella's virtue is what turns him on. If she wasn't so chaste, he probably wouldn't be so hot for her. A "strumpet" (promiscuous woman) would never get him this worked up. In fact, Angelo never understood until now why people are so interested in sex.

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