When Foible enters, Wishfort rushes to question her about what kept her away so long and whether she’s told Mirabell anything. Foible lies, saying that she’s given Wishfort’s picture to Sir Rowland, who fell immediately in love with her. Foible promises Wishfort that she hasn’t betrayed her to Mirabell, but does add that Mirabell insulted Wishfort by saying that she’s hatching a plot to marry a rich man to improve her finances.
Foible is easily a match for Wishfort’s questioning. The “insult” Foible makes up for Mirabell is funny for a few reasons: 1) Mirabell’s pretend anger is about a plot he himself made up, which Wishfort doesn’t know 2) Wishfort doesn’t want to marry Sir Rowland in order to get rich, she wants to do it in order to get revenge on Mirabell by making him poor!
Wishfort vows to murder Mirabell by poisoning his wine. Foible proposes that Wishfort instead “starve him” by marrying Sir Rowland, which will disinherit Mirabell. Foible adds that Mirabell still thinks that Wishfort’s plan is to marry Millamant to Sir Rowland and doesn’t suspect Wishfort’s interest. Wishfort is so angry that Mirabell thinks he can interfere with her plans that she vows to marry Sir Rowland tomorrow and be engaged to him by tonight.
Foible has to talk Wishfort down from taking irreversible and criminal action. She highlights the long-lasting and painful consequences of her alternative plan of starving Mirabell in a way most likely to appeal to Wishfort’s vindictive nature. Wishfort complies immediately, and now it looks like Mirabell’s plan will come off without a hitch.
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Foible also informs Wishfort that Rowland longs to see her, but Wishfort can’t stop talking about her revenge against Mirabell. Her excitement spoils her makeup, and she blames this on Mirabell too. She gets Foible to “repair” her makeup to make her look like her picture.
Wishfort’s excitement about her revenge reveals that her “love” for Rowland is in fact a warped displacement of her unrequited love for Mirabell. Her focus on looking like her picture recalls Mirabell’s comment that beauty should come from love rather than be thought of as a tool to entice love (though of course many women might argue that that’s easy for a man like Mirabell to say).
Wishfort wonders how Rowland will try to court her. Will he be obvious about his love or play it coy, expecting her to pursue him? She hopes that he won’t expect her to make the first move because she’s old-fashioned. She tells Foible that she will act slightly disdainful and a little scornful to excite his interest. Foible agrees that this is a good plan.
Wishfort wonders about the (somewhat clichéd)“games” of love Rowland will play, all while planning to play her own games to seem more innocent and proper than she is. Foible, meanwhile, humors Wishfort, as her mistress giddily plans out how she will woo a man who is, in reality, Foible’s husband.
Wishfort is not done talking, however. She goes on to say that acting tenderly, with “a sort of dyingness” is a special skill she has to intrigue men, one that her niece, Millamant, only “affects.” She begs Foible to tell her more about Rowland, particularly whether he is handsome. She is happy to hear that he is a “brisk” man and bets that he will make all the moves. Wishfort leaves Foible to clean the dressing table.10000
“Dyingness” likely means a lazy, relaxed, indifferent demeanor around men to entice their interest. That Wishfort thinks her own use of this “technique” exceeds Millamant’s only makes her seem more foolish. Wishfort is all obvious show, all overdramatic faints and swoons.