Inside her house, Angelica demands to know why Wilmore pulled down her picture; he responds by questioning why she dared to leave it outside, asking if she meant to cause him despair by showing him what he could not buy.
In this world, a beautiful woman is dangerous because of the lust and violence she provokes in men. Angelica knows her power, while Willmore is attracted to it.
Angelica replies that she brought him in to beg her pardon, but Willmore counters, saying that he has come into her house to chide her for the sin of pride, and for bartering for love. Angelica refuses to be ashamed, and commands Moretta to bring in a mirror so that Willmore can observe his own charms.
Despite his poverty, Willmore is proud and fearless, using his wit to scold Angelica for her high price even as he compliments her beauty. Angelica, who is intelligent as well as beautiful, meets the challenge of his banter.
Moretta mocks Willmore for his poverty, but Angelica tells her to stop. Moretta, however, continues, attempting to force him to leave the house. Willmore jibes at her in turn, calling her stale and cheap. Moretta responds that by once again insulting his lack of funds.
Already Angelica begins to feel positively towards Willmore, despite his poverty and insolence. Moretta, meanwhile, cares nothing for Willmore’s wit, believing him worthless because he cannot pay Angelica’s price. Moretta is a constant reminder that Angelica’s power and independence is based entirely on her complete disavowal of love and instead her focus on beauty and sex as items of trade.
Willmore asks if he may buy just a few moments of time with Angelica, but Moretta refuses, saying that he must purchase the whole time, or nothing. Willmore suggests that perhaps he and his countrymen can band together to buy Angelica, and then sell the time they do not want at the marketplace.
By asking Angelica to reduce her price, Willmore is essentially insulting her (since as a prostitute, she is defined by her monetary value). It is this willingness to offend her that Angelica finds intriguing.
Aside, Angelica remarks that Willmore cannot enrage her and that, indeed, she is falling in love with him. Out loud, however, she tells him that she despises his angry speech, and calls him poor. Willmore says that although he is poor, he is a gentleman. He relates that he feels conflicted about Angelica—he hates her for putting a price on love, but would sacrifice all he owns to have her. He says that the knowledge that she can be bought will help him heal the wounds that her eyes have made in her heart. Last, he holds her and stares at her in order to prove his strength, once more marveling at her beauty.
Angelica deals in lust, and believes love to be poisonous; she is dismayed, therefore, by the feelings that she has for Willmore. The cavalier, too, feels conflicted: he believes that he is entitled to sexual favors and should not have to pay for them, yet is deeply attracted to Angelica. The two continue to banter wittily even as they struggle with their emotions. Note that Willmore seems to have forgotten Hellena completely.
Speaking aside again, Angelica exclaims that his words have reached her soul. Willmore goes on to say that he feels only lust for her, not love, for he refuses to pine at her feet, instead standing strong in the face of her denial.
The two characters, each of whom believes in lust but not love, continue to grapple with their fast-growing feelings for each other, their pride at odds with their deep emotions.
Moretta notices her mistress’s emotions, and once again tries to force Willmore out. Angelica, shaken out of her daze, snaps at Moretta, ordering her to leave. Turning to Willmore, she accuses him of being “mercenary” as well, asserting that he will not marry unless his wife is wealthy. Willmore denies this, saying that he will not marry for wealth.
Angelica is hostile to the object of her affections, disturbed by her own emotions. She reminds him that he needs money as badly as she does, and implies that he will become a kind of male prostitute if he marries a wealthy woman.
Angelica asks if Willmore could ever forget that her love and favor are for sale. She says that even if it is not true, he should tell her that it is, because he will please her in doing so. Aside, Willmore curses Angelica’s charms, saying that she has found her way to his heart even though she is false. Enraged, he turns away from her.
As Angelica continues to speak, her cool and witty attitude begins to fail her. She is essentially asking if Willmore loves her enough to forget that she is a prostitute. Willmore, too, begins to lose his façade of detachment and skepticism.
Despairing, Angelica asks if Willmore will scorn the first vows of love that she has ever made. Willmore, not believing her, tells her that he has been cheated and fooled by many women, and that he no long has faith in any women, especially prostitutes.
Angelica replies that Willmore has hurt her pride, and makes to leave. The cavalier physically restrains her, however, begging her to stay with him and vowing that he is her slave. Angelica tells him to stop talking, since his speech has the power to steal her heart from her. She goes on to urge him not to be soft, but to continue berating her, adding that if she does so, her love, too, will be “free.” Willmore, too, laments how she has pierced his soul, even as he promises to “pay” with happiness for the rest of his life.
The two passionate characters misunderstand and hurt each other, but ultimately cannot keep their deep feelings for and attraction to each other hidden. Like Hellena, Angelica is attracted to Willmore’s witty (and even insulting) banter. Willmore, meanwhile, appears to sincerely believe that he is in love with Angelica.
When Angelica still insists on payment, Willmore calls her a fiend, before promising to pay her in “vows” and kissing her hand. Angelica tells him that she only meant payment in the form of love. Willmore enthusiastically agrees, and suggests that they withdraw so that he can prove to her the strength of his affection—they do so immediately, presumably to consummate their passion.
Angelica once again uses the language of money to discuss love, because the two are so closely connected in her life. Unlike Hellena, she succumbs to Willmore’s advances—rather than demanding to be married before having sex—and the two leave the stage in order to sleep together.
Moretta, who has remained silent until now, curses Angelica for falling pray to love. She abuses Willmore’s name, but acknowledges that most prostitutes face a similar fate: they win riches from foolish men, only to foolishly give them back to men whom they love.
Moretta is a voice of greed, but also of reason. She mistrusts men, but with good reason, understanding that Willmore will ultimately betray Angelica, using and deceiving her only to move on to a new woman. Moretta believes women can only gain independent power and through independent wealth, and failing in love as the opposite of independence.