Sir Wilfull begs Mrs. Fainall through the door to let him out because he’s forgotten to wear his gloves. As Millamant paces and recites poetry, he tries to make small talk with her. She ignores him and continues to recite. Then, she begins to speak aloud in praise of Suckling’s poetry.
This scene is a humorous one contrasting the educated, cultured Millamant and the good-hearted but simple Willful. It also establishes a contrast for the following scene when Mirabell will enter the room.
Wilfull thinks that she is addressing him and is confused. He tells her that he can only answer in plain English. Suddenly, Millamant turns to address Wilfull and asks why he has come to see her. He responds that he came to see if she wanted to walk with him this evening.
Wilfull doesn’t even understand that Millamant is reading poetry—he lacks the wit or the culture to interact with Millamant. He is simply not in the same league with her. He does not speak her language.
Millamant tells him that she hates walking and anything related to the country. She also reveals that she hates the town, too. Wilfull, happy that she’s making conversation with him, laughs that she hates them both. She laughs too and asks if he has anything else to say to her. He doesn’t, but hints that he will likely propose to her soon. She asks him to leave her alone with her thoughts and helps him find another exit out of the room. He leaves. Millamant, alone again, goes back to reciting poetry.
Sir Wilfull doesn’t realize that Millamant is not laughing because she thinks he’s funny but because she finds his attempts to talk to her pathetic. She humors him for a bit but then curtly suggests that he leave. Wilfull is simple enough hat he doesn’t understand that she is patronizing him and thinks that he has fared quite well in his first conversation with Millamant.