Faulkland awaits Julia in her dressing room and reflects that when he first saw her after she had arrived in Bath, she had seemed very happy to see him, but because he had heard how happy she had been in his absence, he had acted like he was not excited to see her. Julia enters. She asks Faulkland why his greeting had been cold and why he now seems upset. He says that he was bothered to have heard that she had been merry during their separation. She chides him for always finding something to be unhappy about, but explains that she only pretended to be so happy so that no one would think he had made her unhappy and rebuke him.
Faulkland means for his cold reception of Julia to level the playing field between them, as he assumes she has been happy in his absence because she loves him less than he loves her. But she is too earnest about her feelings for him and sure in his love for her to be manipulated. Meanwhile, Julia’s use of artifice has not been to pursue her own ends and charm those around her, but to protect Faulkland’s reputation. In fact, Julia sees protecting Faulkland’s reputation as one of her own priorities, again acting as an ideal example of Sheridan’s view of feminine virtue.
Faulkland feels better, but when Julia tells him that her heart is pledged to him he gripes at her choice of words. He says that perhaps she is only grateful to him, and does not actually love him. He wishes that he were deformed, so that he could be sure that she loved him for his true essence and not for any superficial reason. She says there are men who are more handsome than he is, but she never looks at them because she loves him. Now he is offended that she does not think him the handsomest man alive, and worries that she is only attached to him because her father arranged for their engagement. Julia responds that they can break off their engagement and she would still have eyes for no other, but now Faulkland gets angry that she would think of letting him go. Finally Julia rushes out crying, saying that she will spare him having to feel guilty for any further insults, because it’s clear all he can say to her is insulting. Faulkland calls to her and thinks she will return, but she does not.
Julia and Faulkland’s fight reflects their different conceptions of themselves. While Julia feels it is her duty as a future wife to support Faulkland, while also being reasonable and frank with him, Faulkland believes that, if their love is real, they ought to be consumed by passion and indifferent to rational arguments. Julia’s view represents a more traditional view of the role of women, while Faulkland’s expectations are drawn from the sentimental ideas popularized at that time in some literature.