The Duke, disguised in his friar costume, goes to the jail. There, he asks the Provost for permission to meet with the condemned and help them atone for their sins. Juliet arrives, and the Duke asks her about her wrongdoing. She tells him that her unlawful sex act was mutually consensual, and expresses deep repentance. Juliet explains that she loves Claudio as much as she loves herself. The Duke then tells her that her sin is greater than Claudio’s, presumably because she consented to the sex. The Duke informs Juliet that Claudio is scheduled to be executed the following day, and she is distraught. The Duke then leaves to attend to Claudio.
It is difficult to tell whether the Duke adopts different views on morality to suit his friar costume, or simply voices his sincere opinions. Certainly, the moral counsel he gives to Juliet seems fairly strict, in contrast to his reputation as having ruled quite leniently. Moreover, there seems to be little reason for Juliet’s sin to be more severe than Claudio’s, except that she as a woman may be subject to stricter moral expectations. This double standard provides a small but useful indication of the various restrictions that the women of Measure for Measure must face.