Fainall has joined the women in the parlor to make his demands known to Wishfort. Marwood acts as the go-between and tries to make each concession seem more appealing to Wishfort by proclaiming the benefits of following Fainall’s demands. Fainall states that his terms are the following: Wishfort will never marry unless he allows it, he has the authority to choose her husband, should he decide she needs one for health reasons. He will also gain his wife’s entire fortune and the entirety of Millamant’s, too, because Millamant has broken the terms set by Sir Jonathan Wishfort, Wishfort’s late husband, by getting engaged without consent and refusing the match with Wilfull that Wishfort offered to her.
Fainall’s terms express his desire for total control. On the one hand, he wants to make sure that Wishfort can do nothing to threaten the money he is now extorting from her. On the other, he seems to relish the idea of humiliating Wishfort and having power. And he expresses this power by asserting his dominance over women: Wishfort, Mrs. Fainall, and Millamant.
Wishfort tries to object to this last stipulation by pointing out a loophole. She says that Wilfull was indisposed and did not properly propose to her niece. Fainall, however, tells her that he isn’t there to debate but only make demands. She asks for time to consider his terms and he allows her only as much time as it takes to draw up the contract. He exits the room to arrange the document, leaving Wishfort in Marwood’s company.
Wishfort tries to find loopholes in Fainall’s plot, but is unable. Earlier Congreve set things up so that it seemed as if Mirabell’s plot was going to sail smoothly along. Now Fainall’s plot seems unstoppable.