Having escaped from Don Pedro’s house, Florinda and Valeria walk down the street in a different pair of disguises. Florinda is afraid, but Valeria tells her that lovers never fear. She reveals that she is half in love (with Frederick), and wishes that Hellena were there as well. Florinda recalls that she left the house by pretending to go to the convent, while Valeria reveals that she has locked Callis in a wardrobe in order to keep her from sounding the alarm. Florinda warns that Valeria may never return home, and her cousin replies that her fate will depend upon her mysterious beloved.
In Hellena’s absence, Valeria has taken on the role of Florinda’s bold companion, throwing caution to the wind not only to help Florinda, but also because of her new affection for Frederick. The previously cautious Valeria’s rash actions demonstrates how dramatically love can affect women as well as men.
Valeria reveals to Florinda that she has delivered a note to Belvile, who is desperate with anguish over the loss of his lover. He now knows that Florinda means to escape that very day, and that she would rather die than marry Don Antonio. Valeria has also told him that Florinda is currently confined to her chamber by Don Pedro, but that her brother is at church. Upon hearing this, Belvile has resolved to search every church in Naples until he can find Antonio and delay his return home (to give Florinda time to escape).
As the play reaches its comic climax, the plot becomes more and more tangled and confused. Although Valeria is trying to help Florinda, her attempts have only served to drive the lovers farther apart, since Belvile does not know that Florinda has left her house and is in search of him. Despite the characters’ best efforts, the world of the play always moves towards chaos.
Seeing both Belvile and Don Pedro on the street, the women put on their masks. The men enter, along with Willmore, and notice Florinda looking at them. Mistaking her glance as an invitation, Willmore follows her offstage.
Once again, Florinda must conceal herself from her lover, this time because he is accompanied by her brother. Her disguise, however, once again puts her at the mercy of Willmore’s lust.
Frederick enters with news of Blunt’s misfortune. Don Pedro and Belvile are amused, and the Englishman offers to take Pedro to Blunt, in order to give Florinda more time to escape. He speculates about how enjoyable it will be to see the usually wealthy Blunt impoverished.
Just as Blunt’s subplot has amused the audience, here it serves as a distraction for Don Pedro. The cavaliers, meanwhile, are delighted that their rich, stupid friend has been humbled.
Florinda reenters, chased by Willmore but still fearful of meeting her brother. She exits, only to be followed by both Willmore and Valeria. The Englishman, ever lustful, continues to misinterpret her backward glances as flirtation. Both characters exit. Next Hellena enters, accompanied by a page. Seeing that Willmore is pursuing a woman, she asks her page to follow Willmore and report on his activities. She then realizes that she is close to Don Pedro, and hastily exits. As she does so, Belvile, Willmore, and Don Pedro cross the stage together.
The play has now devolved into an actual chase scene, making the chaos and confusion physical. Willmore’s lust, as always, is the cause of most of the problems, as he once again believes Florinda to be low class and thus rapable without any moral issue whatsoever. Hellena’s entrance further adds to the confusion, as does that of the other men; the more characters come onstage, the more chaotic the action becomes.
On a different street, Florinda, believing that her brother is now chasing her, resolves to hide in a house with an open door rather than fall into his hands. As she exits, Valeria and Hellena’s page enters; Valeria reveals that Florinda has just entered Belvile’s lodgings, and wonders if she intended to do so. At this point, however, Willmore enters, and Valeria is too afraid of him to follow her cousin inside, instead hiding. Willmore believes that he has lost his prey, and exits to find her.
Alone and disguised, Florinda is once again vulnerable to Willmore’s advances. Despite having attempted to assault Florinda once before, and his recent difficulties with Angelica and Hellena, he seems to have learned nothing—he is as immoral and lustful as ever.
The scene changes to the inside of Belvile’s lodgings, where Blunt, in only his shirt and underthings, sits and reads a book about the dangers of traveling. Bitter and angry, he resolves revenge. He straps on a rusty sword, believing that doing so will keep the cavaliers from laughing at him. He then continues to rant against all women, saying that he will threaten any woman whom he comes across.
Blunt has become a full-blown misogynist, wishing to harm women everywhere in return for the hurt and humiliation that Lucetta has caused him. His rusty sword, meanwhile (since Lucetta has stolen his real sword) symbolizes that she has stolen his masculinity as well as his money.
In a massive stroke of bad luck, Florinda enters and begs Blunt to protect her from Willmore. Blunt is scornful and violent, telling Florinda that he would be more merciful to her if she were an animal or a devil. When she tells him that she is a “harmless Virgin,” he begins to assault her, groping and kissing her as she begs him to stop, and ranting at her about Lucetta’s crimes, believing that he will “be revenged on one Whore for the Sins of another.”
Although Blunt has been a comic figure up until now, he now becomes genuinely menacing and dangerous, and clearly intends to rape Florinda. Having been deceived by one courtesan, he now believes that all women are deceitful prostitutes, worthy only of cruelty and violence.
Frederick enters, and rather than helping Florinda, he reacts with amusement, mocking Blunt for his nakedness. Florinda’s pleas for help have the opposite effect; Blunt proposes that he and Frederick both rape her, and that he alone beat her. Frederick agrees, saying that he is always willing to help “in matters of Revenge” when there is added pleasure for him.
Although Frederick has been rational and kind up until now, he too sees no problem about raping Florinda since he believes her to be lower class and therefore worthless.
As the two men attempt to drag her into the bedroom, Florinda desperately mentions Belvile’s name, saying that she knows they are his companions and asking them to treat her kindly for his sake. Blunt responds disgustingly, saying that they will feast on her and then leave Belvile the leftovers. Frederick, however, urges him to pause, and Florinda gives them a ring in order to prove her wealth and nobility (unbeknownst to them, it is a ring given to her by Belvile). Blunt covets the diamond, while Frederick worries that they have attempted to rape a noblewoman rather than a common harlot. Blunt still maintains that Florinda is a liar, but the two decide to wait for Belvile.
Blunt, enjoying Florinda’s terror, becomes increasingly menacing and terrifying as she struggles. Only the mention of Belvile’s name makes the men think that she may have some value, while her ring helps to confirm it. In the minds of both men, women are only valuable if they are noble and wealthy, or if they are loved by a man. This is worldview is totally disturbing, and yet it was incredibly common within the genre of Restoration comedy.
A servant enters, announcing Belvile’s arrival along with that of Don Pedro. Blunt refuses to see either of them, while Frederick goes down to meet them—but not before locking Florinda away in his chamber.
Still unconvinced that Florinda is truly noble, the men lock her up, literally taking possession of her.