The Duke is fully conscious of the laxity of which he had been guilty in governing his country. He had allowed the strict statutes and the rigorous laws to become a dead letter, with the result that people had been taking more and more liberties, and been committing all kinds of offences and crimes. The Duke has a picturesque manner of speaking. He compares himself to an over-grown lion living in a cave, and not moving out to hunt his prey but inviting animals to visit him in his den so that he might feed upon them without having to take the trouble of going out. Then he compares himself to those foolish fathers who spare the rod and thus spoil the children. The Duke frankly admits that the conditions in the country have become so bad that his laws and decrees are now dead:
“And Liberty plucks Justice by the nose,
The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
Goes all decorum.”
The Duke’s smiles and his sententious manner of speaking lend special interest to his speeches. The Duke assures Friar Thomas that he has not come to lead a scheduled life because of any disappointment in love which he may have suffered. He says that “the dribbling dart of love” cannot pierce a strong heart like his. However, as subsequent events will slow, the Duke is certainly not proof against the arrows of Cupid.