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Act IV, Scene 3
Barnardine, in a drunken stupor, refuses to pray before his execution; he clearly does not want to die. The Duke, still in disguise, enters and talks to the prisoner, but cannot change Barnardine's state of mind. As a result, the Duke is uneasy about the execution. The Provost then informs the Duke of the death of a pirate, named Ragozine, who has a close resemblance to Claudio. The Duke asks the Provost to take the head of Ragozine and present it to Angelo as the head of Claudio. The Provost agrees.
Isabella is very sad to learn from the Friar (Duke) that Claudio has been killed. He, as the Friar, asks her to meet the real Duke the very next day, upon his arrival; she should be prepared to acquaint him with the treachery of his deputy. He also sends a letter through her to Friar Peter. Lucio laments the death of Claudio and re- iterates to the disguised Duke that the real Duke would not have killed Claudio because he is known as a womanizer.
Pompey has taken over his new job as assistant executioner, but he has not changed. He is still a clown, as seen when he humorously urges Barnardine to prepare for his execution. Barnardine, however, refuses to cooperate, saying that he is too drunk to die. Though a rogue and a drunk, Barnardine still holds himself with dignity and speaks to the executioners as if they were below his status. He also tries to treat the execution lightly, saying that he is not in a fitting position to be executed.
The Duke doesn't reveal the entire truth of his plot to anyone, including Isabella. She is led to believe that her brother is dead, which seems cruel to some critics. But it is essential for the Duke to hide everything in order to carry on his deceit until the final scene, when Angelo's deceit and treachery can be exposed. For the present, he will write to Angelo, stating that he has returned and requesting a public meeting with him.
When Lucio enters the scene, he is not jesting for the first time in the play; instead, he appears sad and serious. He starts casting aspersions at the Duke, including the repeated reference to the Duke's behavior with women. He also refers to the Duke's `dark corners', which is fairly accurate since the Duke has been disguising himself, keeping everyone in the dark.