Wilfull, now sober, greets his aunt and apologizes for his unbecoming behavior. He promises to marry his cousin to please her and make amends. Wishfort is surprised by the apparent change in Millamant’s attitude toward Willful and asks her if she’s indeed willing to marry her cousin to save her from Fainall’s treachery.
Millamant’s decision to marry Willful, who himself seems somewhat less ridiculous here, is surprising. Wishfort is delighted that she is finally being obeyed. But the audience might have a feeling that some other plot is at play here…
Millamant promises that she will marry Wilful and furthermore, that she has had no role in plotting against her aunt. She tells her aunt that she has commanded Mirabell to come witness the ceremony after he formally releases her from the engagement in front of Wishfort. Though pleased with the obedience of her niece and nephew, she is appalled that Mirabell is waiting to be received in her house and does not want him to come in.
Millamant and Wilfull continue to act dutifully to Wishfort, and this dutifulness convinces Wishfort of their honesty. Of course, Wishfort is herself compelled to this course of action by Fainall, but in her foolishness she is pleased with their obedience to her.
Millamant warns her that if she refuses him entry that he might be inclined to insist on his engagement to her to spite Wishfort. Wishfort reluctantly agrees to let him in, as long as it’s the last time she sees him in her house. Millamant, addressing Wilfull, asks him if it’s true that Mirabell is to be his travel companion when he leaves for the continent. He admits that this is the case and adds that Mirabell is a good man and that they are great friends. He goes to the door and calls Mirabell in.
Everyone continues to act as if Fainall’s plot has won out, and that they must accord with his demands.
Marwood observes all of this quietly and says to herself that Mirabell is up to something. She starts to leave but Wishfort, alarmed, asks her to stay. Marwood promises not to go far and to come back quickly. She exits.
Unlike Wishfort, Marwood recognizes that Mirabell must have some kind of plot afoot. And the audience, who may or may not have had this sense before Marwood’s comment, now certainly is primed for Mirabell’s counter-scheme.