Everyone continues to prepare for the play, with no shortage of mishaps. They are frustrated with each other and complain often. Fanny enjoys the goings-on, and likes to slip into the theatre to watch their rehearsals. She aids Mr. Rushworth in memorizing his lines, as he is having a great deal of difficulty. Meanwhile, Mr. Rushworth grows progressively more jealous of Henry.
Mr. Rushworth’s bragging about how many lines he has in the play becomes deeply ironic when he cannot remember any of them. At the same time, Mr. Rushworth’s failure to address the flirtation between Maria and Henry despite his increasing jealousy further shows his ineffectiveness.
Fanny helps Mrs. Norris with the needlework as well, and Mrs. Norris, as usual, criticizes her constantly. Fanny nervously awaits the three-act rehearsal, nervous about watching Edmund and Mary do their love scenes. She wonders if they have rehearsed it together yet.
For Fanny, who loves Edmund and by now admits so in her inner monologue, imagining the love scenes between Edmund and Mary is deeply painful, although they are, of course, only acted.
The next day, the day of the three-act rehearsal, Fanny is sitting in the East Room when there is a knock at her door and Mary enters. Mary asks Fanny if she will practice the love scenes with Edmund’s character with her before she reads them with Edmund himself. Fanny agrees, and they practice until, unexpectedly, there is another knock at the door, and Edmund enters. Edmund had been looking for Fanny for the exact same purpose.
Fanny finds herself caught in the middle of Mary and Edmund’s courtship, and forced to be audience to it. This position is extremely difficult for her, since she loves Edmund. Watching him act out loving Mary’s character while actually falling for Mary is very painful.
No longer having an excuse to use Fanny instead of each other, Edmund and Mary practice together while Fanny prompts them if they forget their lines. Watching them perform the love scene is miserable for Fanny, whose unrequited love for Edmund makes her heart ache.
The blurry lines between the love Mary and Edmund are acting out and their love in reality is one of many instances in the book when the difference between what’s fake and what’s real is unclear.
Before the three-act rehearsal, the cast gets news that Mrs. Grant cannot attend because her husband is sick. They are all disappointed, as this means they cannot rehearse. Several people, including Edmund, suggest that Fanny should read the part instead. Fanny hesitates, but finally agrees—when suddenly Julia announces that Sir Thomas is home.
Although Fanny has maintained her moral position thus far, Edmund’s request that she read the part shows how, just as Edmund cannot resist Mary’s request to act, Fanny cannot resisted being asked by the person she loves.