It is evening, and Moritz and Melchior are sitting on the sofa in Melchior's study. Moritz is telling Melchior why he has been upset all day. He fell asleep in his Greek class, and was surprised he did not get punished by their teacher, especially because he was almost late. He had been working extremely hard: he conjugated verbs all morning and stayed up until 3AM the night before. He keeps falling into melancholy moods, but he's able to shake himself out of them because he knows that he has "won a victory over" himself.
Melchior offers to roll him a cigarette, but Moritz says that he does not smoke. He goes on about how hard he means to keep working, for Ernst Robel has failed six times since the vacation and he's only failed five times. He does not feel bad wishing for Robel to fail, because he does not think Robel or his parents will care very much. There are lots of other things Robel can do, but Moritz's parents will be devastated if Moritz fails out of school. Moritz feels the possibility of failure hanging over his head all the time, so he is constantly reminded of how hard he needs to work. He is aware that the smallest mistake could have terrible consequences for him. Melchior agrees that life is so hard that even he sometimes feels quite like hanging himself. He then wonders aloud where his mother is with their tea. Moritz comments that the tea will do him good, because he's feeling rather woozy and peculiar. He almost seems to be falling into a trance.
Moritz begins repeating to Melchior a story his grandmother often tells him about a beautiful queen with no head, who was one day conquered by a king with two heads. The king's two heads quarreled all the time, so the chief court magician took off one of the king's heads and gave it to the queen. It suited her admirably, and the two got married. Moritz realizes he's been speaking nonsense, but admits that lately he cannot get the headless queen out of his head. Every time he sees a beautiful girl, he can't help but picture her without her head.
Melchior's mother brings in the tea and asks Moritz how he's doing. He says that he's fine, but she states that she doesn't think he looks well. She tells him that his health is much more important than how he does in school - he should relax and take long walks. Moritz replies that he can work while he walks, but then remembers that he would still have written work to do. Melchior says that they will do all their written work together from now on.
Melchior then tells his mother that one of their classmates, Max von Trenk, has died of a brain fever. When Hanschen, another classmate, reported to their teacher that Max had died in his presence, Professor Hart-Payne commented only that Hanschen still owed two hours of detention, and that he could serve it now. Mrs. Gabor notices that Melchior is reading Faust, and expresses concern that he's too young to read such a thing. Melchior is surprised, because he says it's the most beautiful book he's ever read. Mrs. Gabor says he's old enough to decide for himself, but that he should be careful all the same. She leaves, telling Melchior to call her if they need anything else.
Moritz comments that Mrs. Gabor was speaking about the "business with Gretchen," and Melchior says they barely talked about that in class. Melchior says he doesn't think that the tragedy has anything to do with sex. If Faust had just promised to marry Gretchen and then abandoned her it would have been just as bad. He seems almost disgusted by the fact that everyone around him seems obsessed with sex. Moritz admits that since reading the essay Melchior left him, he too feels that the world revolves around sex. He read it with the door bolted, and felt as if he were recollecting something he already knew, like a song or a memory. He was most affected by what Melchior said about girls. He feels that to suffer wrong is much "sweeter than to do wrong," and he wishes that he could be made to suffer. Melchior comments that he wants to fight for any bliss that he gets, or else he won't feel that he deserves it. Moritz comments that that doesn't seem like bliss to him. Girls don't have to fight for bliss; they just get to enjoy it, like gods. They don't even notice it until it's already upon them, and then they simply let it lap over them. A girl's pleasure seems better to him. Melchior tells Moritz that he doesn't want to think about it.
The next scene begins with Wendla's mother coming home, calling for Wendla. She tells her that she must go to her sister's house and take her a basket, because the stork has brought Ina a little boy. Wendla is very happy, and comments that this explains her sister's never-ending "influenza." Wendla is excited that she is now an aunt for the third time. Mrs. Bergmann comments that having such fine boys is a byproduct of living near the church; Ina only got married two years ago, and already she has three children. Wendla questions her mother about the stork and whether her mother has seen it, but her mother is evasive, suggesting that Wendla pin a rose on her dress. Mrs. Bergmann tells Wendla that Ina will give her all the details, and even tell her whether the stork flew in the window or came down the chimney. Wendla suggests that they ask the chimney-sweep, and Mrs. Bergmann is horrified at the thought. Wendla keeps teasing her mother until Mrs. Bergmann finally tells her that she's just being childish.
Wendla replies that she is indeed extremely childish - after all, she's an aunt three times over, and still doesn't know exactly where children come from. Her mother, she says, can't expect her to believe in the stork when she's fourteen years old. Mrs. Bergmann is completely overcome by Wendla's forthrightness and refuses to tell her the truth, trying to hurry her into her coat and shoes and get her out of the house. Wendla - less teasingly this time - threatens to ask the chimney-sweep, and Mrs. Bergmann seems to give in, but says that they will talk another day. Wendla continues to beg, and suggests that she hide her face in her mother's lap so that her mother can talk as if she were alone. Mrs. Bergmann tries to think of something to say, then finally tells Wendla that in order to have a child a woman must love her husband "as [Wendla] at [her] age [is] incapable of loving." Wendla is confused and frustrated, but her mother refuses to elaborate. She sends Wendla off, noting that Wendla's skirt is definitely too short for her now, and resolves to add a strip of "flouncing" to the bottom when she has a chance.
In some ways, Act II, scene i is just a continuation of Act I, scene v. Moritz continues to struggle in school. He clings to his "superiority" over Ernst Robel - Ernst has failed six times, Moritz only five - unaware of how meaningless such a small difference really is. Moritz's refusal to take a cigarette from Melchior suggests that Moritz is in the process of losing the ability to think for himself. Rather than relieving his feelings with small acts of rebellion, Moritz feels that he can only succeed by gaining control over every aspect of his behavior. Moritz's attempts, however, are both futile and dangerous. In attempting to transform himself into the perfect member of the system, Moritz only makes himself more vulnerable to eventual failure. It is wholly clear to the audience that Moritz cannot succeed, for how long can he go on without sleep, exercise, or sustenance? Moritz's obsession with the headless queen both foreshadows his own end and underscores the connection between sex and violence that is present throughout the play.
Melchior's mother seems to position herself as the voice of reason and support when she tells Moritz that his health is more important than his schoolwork. However, Mrs. Gabor's tendency to always allow Melchior to make his own decisions seems a little dangerous. Moritz seems more aware than Melchior does of the dangers that Mrs. Gabor is speaking of, for he is honest about the intoxicating effect that reading and thinking about sex has on him. Melchior's refusal to admit that the sexual aspects of Faust interest him is a little troubling.
Mrs. Bergmann's actions in scene ii speak to her total inability to confront the realities of sex. She demonstrates an almost laughable naiveté about the fact that her daughter has born three children in two years (and thus must have been pregnant when she got married), and sees no hypocrisy in continuing to talk to a fourteen-year-old girl about the stork.
Wendla's total lack of agency in this situation is underscored by the fact that she must literally beg her mother for the information she lacks - although her directness during this conversation is truly striking. She very nearly mocks her own mother for her silence on the topic of sex. Wendla's mother is the consummate hypocrite: she dresses up her daughter and pins roses to her dress, literally doing her best to make her enticing, but sends her out into the world with no understanding of the effect she may have on men. Likewise, she recognizes that she must add a strip to Wendla's dress to make her daughter look less provocative, but is unwilling to admit to herself - or to Wendla - why such a thing is necessary.