Basil arrives at Dorian’s house, and expresses his sympathy for him, and for Sybil Vane and her family. He had come to visit Dorian as soon as he heard but had found him absent. When advised that Dorian had gone out to the opera, he didn’t believe it, but now as he asks Dorian his whereabouts, the boy says he has been at the opera, and ignoring the subject of Sybil, describes the glorious singing he heard. Basil is appalled. How can Dorian talk of opera singers when Sybil’s body is lying dead in the slums?
Like a drug, music and art and life represented on stage keeps drawing Dorian in and he can’t get enough. He mourns Sybil not as a woman but as a piece of art, and the fact that he has gone out looking for more inspiration from the theatre, shows that his addiction cannot be satisfied.
At the mention of what is in store for Sybil’s “little white body”, Dorian orders Basil to stop. He says that the incident is over, he has mastered the emotion of it, and they must no longer think about it. Basil can’t believe the change he sees in Dorian, from the innocent, lovely boy who once sat for him. He thinks Henry’s influence is to blame, but Dorian praises Henry’s influence. At least it hasn’t made him vain, as Basil’s influence has done.
Dorian continues to think of Sybil in artistic terms, dampening the sense of tragedy, but Basil’s description of the pale, pure color of her body brings Sybil out of the two-dimensional world of art for a moment. Though Henry’s influence taught Dorian to embrace all of life, it has actually had the opposite effect and made him shy away from the reality of life and death into a world of illusions and ideas.
Basil is sickened at the idea of Sybil killing herself but Dorian explains the beauty of it, saying that Sybil is now a piece of art herself, elevated to a heroine by her extreme action. He describes, with a Henry-like philosophy, how his mourning was brief. He then scolds Basil for wishing to comfort him and then being annoyed to find him already comforted. He admits that he has changed, he now lives for an artistic point of view, but says he still wants Basil’s goodness and friendship. Basil gives in and remembers his fondness for the boy. His concern now is whether the police will be after him, but Dorian assures him that he was only known to Sybil’s family as Prince Charming.
It's interesting to note that Basil's initial attraction to Dorian, his initial reason for wanting to capture Dorian in a painting was due to Dorian's artless, unselfconscious beauty. Basil wanted to turn Dorian into art because Dorian was natural—was not art. But by being transformed into art Dorian was made aware of himself, and in so doing began down a path of coming to see himself and all the world as art. Now Dorian sees everything as art and shows no human decency, and it horrifies Basil. But Basil can't tear himself away because he still remembers that young, natural boy who inspired him in the first place.
Dorian requests that Basil do a portrait of Sybil. Basil agrees but really wants Dorian to sit for him again himself. Dorian vehemently refuses. Basil sees the screen hiding the portrait and demands to know what the problem is. Dorian makes an excuse about the sun, but Basil goes towards the portrait anyway, forcing Dorian to rush before the object, defending it. He tells Basil that he will never speak to him again if he looks at it. A confused Basil agrees, but says that he will want to exhibit the painting in Paris soon, so he will have to see it then. Dorian tries to hide his terror and exclaims that Basil had said that he never wanted to exhibit it.
The image of Sybil to Dorian is now the artistic ideal that Basil once saw in the boy, which introduces a morbid similarity between the two relationships. The levels of image and representation that now fill their conversation blur the line between copy and original. Basil’s love of his painting is barely separable from his love for Dorian himself. As if there weren’t enough veils and masks, Dorian must pretend to be unmoved by everything Basil is asking.
Dorian asks Basil to trade secrets with him. He asks why Basil refused to exhibit the picture at first. Basil is afraid to expose the real reason, but Dorian does not let up. Basil begins by asking Dorian if he has noticed anything strange in the picture. Dorian’s reaction tells Basil that his question has struck a nerve. He goes on.
Truly imitative of his portrait, Dorian reflects the viewer’s secrets, exposing Basil and saving himself.
Basil explains that when he met Dorian, he was struck by a strange fascination. Dorian became the ideal to which Basil had always strived in his art and because of this, he had worshipped him. He had created portrait after portrait, comparing him to heroes of history, until the fateful day when he vowed to create the real likeness. But as he worked, his mistake became clear, his secret was being revealed on the canvas stroke by stroke, and when it was finished he realized there was so much of himself in the painting that he couldn’t allow others to see it.
The overlapping nature of art and life is persistent. Basil’s description of the painting, and its effect on him, confuses the romance he feels for Dorian. It is almost as if he is in love with the painting rather than the original. Remember, after all, when Basil had first finished the painting and called it “the real Dorian”. Though it is Dorian’s personal beauty that has fascinated Basil, it is the presence of the art work that haunts him.
As soon as Basil had removed the painting from his studio, the curse lifted, and he saw clearly the beauty of the painting and resolved to show it off in a Paris exhibition. Dorian is relieved and feels sorry for Basil. With the secret revealed, Basil expects to see behind the screen, but Dorian still refuses. Basil, having told his great confession, seems to feel eased and deflated. Dorian admits feeling disappointed at the confession, but denies that there is anything else to see in the portrait.
The power of the painting is a physical thing, almost brainwashing both artist and subject. The difference is that Basil is able to confess his passion, and feels its power over him diminish, whereas Dorian hides and hides and locks away the truth, which festers.
Basil, set to go home, reaffirms the importance of Dorian and the painting to him, and Dorian reassures him that he sees the confession merely as a compliment. He sees nothing shameful in it. He tells Basil that he has been a better friend than Henry, and his affection is unchanged, but again he refuses to sit for another portrait. He promises to visit for tea, but never for another portrait. As Basil leaves, Dorian reflects, with sympathy, on how Basil’s confession has illuminated their past encounters and how romance makes everything so tragic, but most of all, Dorian is filled with relief that his own secret remains hidden. He decides to hide the painting.
Basil’s insistence that Dorian come and sit for another portrait and Dorian’s absolute refusal shows that they are both under the same influence in different ways. Basil still wants to "capture" Dorian in art. Dorian knows that in one sense he has been as fully captured as possible by art, and that in another he has become art.