It is dusk, and the sky is slightly overcast. Moritz is wandering around outside, talking to himself. He tells himself that he never promised to live, and acknowledges that he can't stand this anymore. He doesn't blame his parents for his misery, but it is they who are responsible for bringing him into the world. He doesn't understand why he should go on suffering just because that is what one is "supposed" to do. He tries to reason out the issue, telling himself that if someone gave you a present of a mad dog, you'd give it back.
Moritz then changes tack for a moment, commenting that the weather is cooperating with his plan, because the grey skies that have hovered overhead all day have not developed into rain. He becomes almost poetic: he remembers the last time he danced, and he thinks about his partner, recalling how low her dress was and wondering what was underneath the fabric. Moritz then begins to regret that he has not had sexual intercourse. He admits to himself that he would like to feel that kind of passion, and that he is probably missing a fundamental life experience. He decides that when he is dead he will pretend that he has done it, for there is something shameful about having failed to experience lovemaking. He grows melancholy and tells himself not to cry, not to think of his funeral, but then he cannot help it. He thinks about what his friends and teachers will do, and wonders whether he will have a gravestone. He looks back on the happy parts of his life, and decides that Melchior and the other people he's met are, for the most part, incredibly decent. He decides that when he dies he will think of whipped cream.
He begins to speak metaphorically, comparing his walk to an archaic Greek story of sacrifice. He speaks of how "grave faces beckon" and dismisses the idea that suicide is a sin. Just as Moritz seems to be building to a climax, he is surprised by Ilse, who appears out of the fog, asking him what he has lost. Ilse tells him she's come from town and is going home after having been away for four days. She asks Moritz to walk with her. Moritz asks her where she's been, to which she responds, "Where Priapus reigns." Moritz doesn't understand the reference, so she clarifies her answer, explaining that she's been at the houses of a series of artists who are painting her. She tells Moritz about her escapades with the different painters, telling him that she spent the last four nights with four different men. She asks Moritz whether he's still in school, and he tells her that he's leaving that term. She congratulates him, then starts reminiscing about how she, Moritz and Wendla used to play robbers. She asks about Wendla and Melchior, and Moritz tells her that Melchior "philosophizes."
Ilse mentions that Wendla brought her mother some jam while she was sitting for an extremely ugly artist - she was portraying Mary, mother of God. She asks Moritz whether he has a hangover, and he says that he has. He tells her that the landlord at the inn where they drank left Arabella, the beer-maid, alone with them all night. Ilse laughs at him and tells him she's never had a hangover, even at the last Carnival, when she didn't sleep for three days or nights. She then tells him about how she met Heinrich when he stumbled over her passed out in the snow, and moved in with him for two weeks. She tells Moritz that she had to dress up and pose for him, and that all the while he told her he was going to kill her and discussed the different ways he could do it. In the mornings, Heinrich would bring a pistol to bed and threaten to shoot her. Moritz asks whether he's still alive, and she replies that she doesn't know. Instead, she tells him about the mirror over the bed that gave her terrible dreams. She ran away one day, dressed in men's clothes, and the police picked her up. They took her to the station and all of her artist friends came to rescue her, so now she's faithful to them.
Moritz begins to leave Ilse, but she asks him to come to the house to drink warm goat's milk. She starts to tease him as if he were still a little boy, but Moritz insists he must go home to do some work. As he leaves, Ilse calls out another memory of their past before going inside. Moritz declares aloud that he could probably have had her at a word. But he wasn't in the mood, he insists - though it was a pity to miss the chance. He starts thinking about what he'll say after he's dead, and decides that he'll say he had a mirror over his bed, and that he made a girl walk across the carpet dressed up in different clothes, just like Heinrich did to Ilse. He also decides that he'll say he killed her. Moritz begins to scream about Ilse, about how he wishes he was her, how she is a "child of fortune, child of sunshine." He calms down for a moment, and begins to wonder how he's gotten to the place where he now finds himself. He notices how tall the reeds are, and takes out Melchior's mother's letter and burns it. He notices that the sun has gone down, and decides that he won't go home again.
As Moritz talks himself into suicide, his speech communicates several things to his audience. First of all, it is immediately clear that when he spoke of suicide to his friends and Mrs. Gabor, he was not showing off or attempting blackmail. There is no sense that Moritz feels that he must go through with his plan simply because he has mentioned suicide. Wedekind seems to have a very modern understanding of the idea of suicide, recognizing that speaking of suicide is quite often a serious warning sign, and that it never helps to take it as a joke or a sign of weakness.
This scene, perhaps more than any other, reveals why Melchior and Moritz are such good friends. Moritz philosophizes about death in the same ironic, detached tone that Melchior uses when speaking about sex. Melchior doesn't understand why the world is so obsessed with sex; Moritz doesn't understand why it is so obsessed with life. Even now his greatest regret is that he has no personal experience of sex, but this longing is no tawdry desire for pleasure. Rather, Moritz seems to recognize what Melchior does not: that sex can be the most meaningful of human experiences.
Moritz works through all of the standard arguments about suicide - he doesn't believe that life is a gift one has to accept merely because it has been given. He is not under the illusion that his life has been particularly hard, or that he has had no happiness. One the one hand, Moritz's speech must arouse the audience's sympathy, but on the other hand, Moritz fails to give any reasonable explanation for his suicide. He does not in any way explain why life is a "mad dog."
Ilse's appearance onstage initially seems to suggest that Moritz is saved. Surely this conversation, so full of life and struggle and happiness in spite of suffering will prevent Moritz from going through with his plan. As Ilse describes her experiences with Heinrich to Moritz, however, Moritz becomes obsessed with one question: is Heinrich alive? When Ilse cannot answer, Moritz seems to withdraw. Despite Ilse's attempts to connect to Moritz both through past memories and her willingness to be honest with him, Moritz will not return her gestures. Rather than saving him, his encounter with Ilse only turns Moritz more firmly towards suicide.
Moritz's obsession with Heinrich makes sense, for Heinrich shared Moritz's suicidal tendencies and obsession with sex, but unlike Moritz, Heinrich experienced "everything" in life. Moritz wants to know whether Ilse saved Heinrich, whether passion saved him. However, not only does Ilse not know, she dismisses Heinrich as if he were nothing. Moritz tells himself that if anyone "afterwards" asks him about his sexual experience, he will tell Heinrich's story as if it were his own.
Moritz's reaction to Ilse also gives the reader a small clue as to the fundamental reasoning behind Moritz's suicide. Moritz screams that Ilse is a "child of fortune, child of sunshine." Moritz doesn't believe that events have conspired against him; he simply believes that he is doomed. Whatever happens to Ilse, she will survive and flourish, for she is a "child of fortune." Moritz sees nothing for himself but further despair.
Just before he shoots himself, he burns Mrs. Gabor's letter, but his reasons for doing so are unclear. Perhaps he is angry at Mrs. Gabor for failing to save him, or perhaps he is angry with himself for having approached her for help. Moritz's closing words are "I won't go home again now." Wedekind does not include the actual suicide, but merely leaves his audience with the knowledge that Moritz is committed to his final action.