Once more, the Aboriginal Australian man talks about the British colonizers. Wondering who they are, he suggests that they are “ghosts” who have “spilled from [a] dream.” He doesn’t know why they’ve come, nor what they need, but he wants to “satisfy” them so that they’ll return to their own land. “How can we satisfy them?” he asks.
In this brief monologue, the Aboriginal man tries desperately to discern what, exactly, he and his people could possibly do to “satisfy” the colonizers and thus convince them to leave. The audience knows, however, that there’s nothing this man can do to ward off these newcomers.
After the Aboriginal Australian man leaves, Mary and Ralph rehearse in front of Dabby, Wisehammer, and Arscott. After a moment, they pause to discuss the script, wondering why Mary’s character wants Ralph’s character to make a will for her. Wisehammer chimes in, explaining that Mary’s character just wants proof of Ralph’s “willingness to marry her.” Now that she understands, Mary says that she would “trust” Ralph’s character if she were in the same circumstances. “When dealing with men, always have a contract,” Dabby says. “Love is a contract,” Mary replies, to which Dabby says, “Love is the barter of perishable goods. A man’s word for a woman’s body.”
When Mary says that she would “trust” Ralph’s character based simply on love, Wertenbaker hints at a possible sense of affection growing between Mary and Ralph in real life, though it’s difficult at this point to say whether or not she’s flirting with him by saying this. Dabby then distracts Mary by suggesting that men are untrustworthy. By saying that love is “the barter of perishable goods,” she again reveals her view of romance as a transaction of sorts—one in which a man promises to do something for a woman in exchange for her “body.”
Wisehammer tells Ralph that he has written a new prologue for the play, since the current one “won’t make any sense to the convicts.” As Ralph reads it over, Wisehammer tells Mary that he would marry her, suggesting that they should live together when they’re free. “Think about it, you would live with me, in a house,” he says. Referring to Ralph, he says, “he’ll have to put you in a hut at the bottom of his garden and call you his servant in public, that is, his whore. Don’t do it, Mary.” After a moment, Ralph dismissively says that Wisehammer’s prologue is “interesting” and promises to read the rest later. “Do you like the last two lines. Mary helped me with them,” Wisehammer says, to which Ralph only says, “Ah.”
This scene seemingly confirms that Mary and Ralph are beginning to develop feelings for one another. Wisehammer picks up on this when he advises her not to live with Ralph, pointing out that he’d have to treat her like a “servant” or “whore” in front of his colleagues. Ralph sees that Wisehammer is also becoming friendly with Mary, which is most likely why he largely disregards Wisehammer’s prologue. In an environment in which romantic relationships are chiefly sexual and transactional, it’s worth paying attention to this dynamic, as two men compete for Mary’s affections not because they simply want to have sex with her (or so it seems) but because they genuinely like her.
When the rehearsal resumes, Wisehammer approaches and kisses Mary. Seeing this, Ralph “angrily” interrupts, saying the script doesn’t indicate that they should kiss. He forbids it, saying that he is the director and therefore gets the final say, even as Wisehammer argues that “it’s right for the character.” Soon after this exchange, the cast discusses The Recruiting Officer, and Dabby complains about how little she identifies with her character. Arscott, on the other hand, is pleased with his role as a man named Kite. “When I say Kite’s lines I forget everything else,” he says. “I forget the judge said I’m going to have to spend the rest of my natural life in this place getting beaten and working like a slave.” He says that playing Kite helps him forget about his mistakes. “When I speak Kite’s lines I don’t hate anymore.”
The play solidifies Wisehammer and Ralph’s competition for Mary in this moment, as Ralph becomes unnecessarily angry when Wisehammer kisses her. Arscott’s positive remarks about what it’s like to perform underline the ways in which acting gives people a chance to escape their own lives. Unhappy with his existence in the penal colony, Arscott relishes the time he gets to spend pretending to be someone else, giving him a rather cathartic experience that is emotionally liberating.
Despite Arscott’s good attitude, Dabby is still upset, saying that she wants to do a play that more closely resembles her own life. However, Wisehammer points out that this is the beauty of the theater, which can help a person “understand something new.” Still, Dabby doesn’t hide that she’s unhappy with her role, eventually storming away as Ketch enters and begins to rehearse. However, Mary has a hard time doing a scene with him because she can’t stop thinking about the fact that he’s going to hang Liz the following day. “One has to transcend personal feelings in the theatre,” Ralph insists, but she runs away. Wisehammer follows her, at which point Ralph looks at Ketch and decides to end the rehearsal, admitting that they aren’t making good “progress.” When everyone is gone, Ketch stands on his own in a “bewildered” state.
Again, the audience sees the emotionally liberating effects of performance, at least insofar as Wisehammer discusses the power of theater to help people inhabit new worldviews and “understand something new.” However, the “transcend[ent]” mindset that Ralph encourages Mary to embody isn’t quite strong enough to help her forget that one of her fellow convicts is going to be executed. As for Ketch, he once more finds himself ostracized by his peers, unable to gain their acceptance or forgiveness despite his attempt to join them in the otherwise unifying context of the theater.