In Angelo’s house, Angelo and Escalus review the letter from the Duke. The Duke’s erratic correspondences make Angelo worry that the Duke may have lost his mind. Angelo seems particularly dismayed by the Duke’s request to meet at the gates to the city, and the stipulation that Angelo make a public announcement beforehand that anyone who wants redress for injustice can attend this meeting as well.
The audience now has an idea of the full extent of the Duke’s plan. A just resolution to the play’s events seems attainable. Crucially, righting Angelo’s wrongs hinges on the public nature of the scheduled meeting: when social conventions encourage, rather than hinder, citizens to speak out against Angelo’s institutional abuses, it seems likely that his misdeeds will finally be brought to justice.
Escalus leaves, and Angelo speaks to himself with concern about what might happen at the meeting. He hopes that Isabella will be too ashamed of having given up her virginity to reveal his misdeeds publicly. Angelo reflects that he should have let Claudio live, but had him executed in the fear that he would later seek vengeance. Still, he concludes that he wishes he had let Claudio live.
Interestingly, Angelo’s strategy for self-preservation requires that Isabella submit to social restrictions on propriety. If Isabella feels bound by limits on womanly propriety and unable to speak publicly about sex, Angelo may get away with his plan to violate her.