- The Duke Vincentio has decided to give up his role and place it temporarily in the hands of his Deputy, Angelo.
- Angelo brings back laws into force: tackling prostitution and sex outside of marriage.
- Instead of leaving Vienna like he claimed, the Duke remains disguised as a Friar to observe.
- On the new regime, Claudio is arrested and condemned to death for impregnating his girlfriend, Juliette.
- Claudio’s defence was that the two had a marital contract and were only waiting on practicalities to have an official ceremony.
- Claudio asks friend Lucio to inform his sister, Isabella, who is about to enter a convent.
- Isabella goes to Angelo to plead for Claudio’s life, Angelo finds himself attracted to her.
- At their second meeting, he offers to free Claudio is she has sex with him. Isabella is horrified, refuses, and goes to tell Claudio.
- Claudio attempts to persuade her to accept the proposal, as he fears for his life. Isabella refuses.
- The disguised Duke tells Claudio to prepare himself for death, and tells Isabella of a way to resolve the situation.
- Angelo’s jilted sweetheart, Mariana, will go in place of Isabella so that when having consummated their relationship, Angelo will be forced to marry her.
- The ‘friar’ and Isabella go to Mariana and she accepts the plan. She then meets Angelo in the darkness.
- The next day Angelo orders Claudio’s execution. The Duke arranges another prisoner to be executed instead of Claudio, but Barnadine refuses to be hanged, so the head of Ragozine (a prisoner who’s died) is substituted.
- Isabella is told by the Duke that Claudio is dead.
- The Duke makes preperations for his return to office, and arranges a public meeting with his deputy.
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