How does Shakespeare show the theme of hypocrisy up to Act 4, Scene 3?

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Sarah Ord

How does Shakespeare show the theme of hypocrisy up to Act 4, Scene 3?

        Three of the main characters in this play; Angelo, Isabella and the Duke, are seen as being hypocritical. This hypocrisy centres on the theme of pre-marital sex. This theme is started by Claudio having sex with his bride-to-be, Juliet. This was usually seen as acceptable behaviour, but as Angelo, who is strict, moralistic and unwavering in his decision-making, has been put in charge by the Duke, he is starting to run things his way. He is going to punish Claudio with death for having sex with, and impregnating, Juliet. The only way that Claudio can be saved from death is if Isabella, his sister, has sex with Angelo. By attempting to bribe Isabella into fornication, Angelo is committing the same ‘crime’, if not a worse one, than Claudio.

Which had you rather…

As she that he hath stained? (Angelo, II.4, 51–55)

Isabella argues to Angelo that many have committed the same offence, but have not been punished for it, to which Angelo replies;

These many had not dared to do that evil…

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Had answered for his deed (Angelo, 11.2, 91-93)

With this quote Angelo is contradicting himself, as he claims to believe that if the first one who had committed this offence had been punished, and then no others would have done the same. But Angelo is hoping to have sex with Isabella, out of wed-lock and only as a bribe to forsake the death of Claudio, therefore he is committing the same offence that he is punishing Claudio with a death sentence for.  

It is evident that Angelo recognises this and comments on it, either as justification to himself, or to ...

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