At the concert, Captain Wentworth greets Anne and the two speak. To Anne’s gratification, Sir Walter and Elizabeth acknowledge their acquaintance. Captain Wentworth and Anne make small talk for a while, before discussing Louisa and Captain Benwick. He expresses his doubts as to the goodness of the match; though they have good principles and tempers, there is too great a disparity in manners and mind. Louisa is amiable, but not as intellectual as Benwick, and Captain Wentworth disapproves of Benwick’s quick recovery from his first love. Captain Wentworth and Anne are separated during the concert, but Anne is happy from their conversation. She glows over his indifference to Louisa, his wonder at Captain Benwick, and his feelings regarding “a first, strong attachment.”
Sir Walter and Elizabeth’s acknowledgement of Captain Wentworth is evidence of the change in his social importance; he has returned from the Navy with rank and fortune, which elevates his standing in the eyes of the proud baronet and his haughty daughter. Captain Wentworth’s discussion of Louisa as less intelligent also reveals lower regard for her, and his disapproval of Benwick’s inconstancy towards his first love hints at his own estimation of enduring love; his feeling that one should not and cannot get over true love so soon hints that he himself has also not gotten over his first love: Anne.
Mr. Elliot seats himself beside her and flirts with her, informing her that his admiration for her has been longstanding—he has known about her virtues from another source long before they met. He expresses the hope that her name may never change, hinting at his desire to marry her.
Mr. Elliot’s explicit admiration for Anne confirms her desirability, and it also tests Anne’s values: he is highly eligible in terms of wealth, rank, and relation to her, and everyone in her circle supports the match.
Anne experiences some dismay at these hints, but she is mainly preoccupied with Captain Wentworth and the desire to see him again. However, he remains distant for the rest of the concert. At one point, she manages to move towards Captain Wentworth and start up a conversation, but Mr. Elliot pursues her and entreats her to aid him with a translation of some Italian. She reluctantly accedes out of politeness, and a moment later Captain Wentworth bids her a hasty farewell. Startled, she realizes that he is jealous of Mr. Elliot. She is ecstatic, and then anxious, as she wonders how to tell him the truth.
The concert is an evening of tension and drama, heightened by the restraints of decorum that prevent Anne from communicating her real feelings to either Mr. Elliot or Captain Wentworth and dispelling the layers of misunderstanding. Mr. Elliot’s admiration also serves to catalyze Anne’s realization of Captain Wentworth’s continued interest in her, when she understands his feelings to be jealousy.