Hippolito and Vindice enter, with the latter no longer in his Piato disguise. To Vindice’s surprise, Hippolito informs him that Lussurioso wants to meet him and offer him some “employment.” They agree Vindice should change his voice and demeanor so that the Duke’s son won’t suspect Vindice is one and the same as Piato. Vindice decides to adopt a “melancholy” persona.
Vindice’s identity has been so eroded that even when he plans to be himself it is under the veil of a different personality. This shows once more that revenge is the sole motive in his life, with everything else sacrificed to bring it about.
Lussurioso enters and meets Vindice. Lussurioso asks Vindice what has “made thee so melancholy?” Vindice improvises, explaining that it is his work in the legal profession that has made him depressed. Vindice says he has painted a picture based on his experiences and presents it to Lussurioso. It’s of “a usuring father, to be boiling in hell, and his son and heir with a whore dancing over him.” Lussurioso says the rich men of the court would never like it.
Vindice’s improvisation about the picture is another example of his relish in dangling the truth in front of his targets. The picture itself is a comment on court society, one which Lussurioso disproves of because of its unflinching accuracy. The picture is also a prediction of Lussurioso’s own death—he is the Duke’s “son and heir.” “Usuring” refers to usury, the practice of money lending at unreasonable rates for personal profit.
Lussurioso asks Vindice if he is short of money and gives him some gold; Vindice feigns excited gratitude. Lussurioso explains that Vindice can earn more if he will carry out a task for him.
Lussurioso attempts to manipulate Vindice using the only way he knows how—money. The general sense of corruption throughout the play is a big factor in why Vindice has to take revenge into his own hands.
Lussurioso wants Vindice to kill Piato. He dishonestly recounts how Piato tried to set him up with Castiza, offering “jewels to corrupt your virgin sister.” Lussurioso says he refused, knowing her to be “chaste” and that he’s never wished “any virgin harm.” Placing all the blame on Piato, Lussurioso continues that the pander then tried to bribe Gratiana too.
Lussurioso is completely dishonest about Piato, unaware that the pander was actually Vindice. The audience knows that he’s wished many virgins harm, contrary to his claim to be an honorable man. This adds further reason for Vindice to want to kill him.
Vindice and Hippolito praise Lussurioso’s honorability, as Lussurio explains how he beat Piato up in anger at his actions. Vindice, unable to believe the audacity of the Duke’s son, asks in an aside: “Has not heaven an ear? Is all the lightning wasted?” Vindice and Hippolito agree they had better kill this “Piato”, and Lussurioso says he is “about the palace.” Hippolito goes off to find the pander.
Lussurioso asks Vindice his name, which he then praises on account of it meaning “revenger.” Lussurioso says Vindice “shouldst be valiant / And kill thine enemies.” Hippolito returns, saying he spotted the drunken Piato. Lussurioso leaves, telling Vindice on his way out that if Vindice kills Piato he will “never fall” again.
Vindice’s true identity is right there in front of Lussurioso, but he fails to see it. Lussurioso’s advice is darkly ironic—he’s essentially imploring Vindice to kill him.
Vindice rails against Lussurioso, aghast at how anyone could be so “impudent and wicked.” He again appeals to the heavens: “Is there no thunder left, or is’t kept up / In stock for heavier vengeance?” At this point, thunder sounds.
The sounding of thunder does not herald divine intervention, but in a blackly comic way highlights the vacuum of religion in the play. It does, however, suggest the impending “storm” of the final scene.
Knowing Vindice would have to kill himself to kill Piato, Vindice and Hippolito hatch a plan: to dress up the Duke’s body in the Piato disguise, making it look like the Pander has killed the Duke and stolen his clothes to aid his escape. They agree that this is a cunning plan. They then decide to visit Gratiana—in order to “conjure that base devil out of our mother.”
Here is further use of disguise in the play, and another transgression across the border of the living and the dead. Just as Gloriana’s skull helped bring about the Duke’s death, the Duke’s body will aid the brothers in killing Lussurioso. But first they wish to restore their mother’s sense of morality.