Florinda, Hellena, and Valeria are on the street in different costumes, all attended by Callis. Hellena has not been able to stop thinking about Willmore, and is particularly uneasy with the thought of him being with any other woman but her. Belvile, Fredrick, and Blunt appear, and the women step aside to listen in on their conversation. Belvile and Blunt knock at the residence of Angellica in search of Willmore; Hellena watches on, aware that it is her man for whom they are searching at the house of the reputed courtesan. Willmore emerges, boasting of his success with Angellica; he suggests they all go out to celebrate. Sancho enters and pulls Blunt aside to tell him that Lucetta is expecting him; the two men leave together.
Hellena approaches Willmore as he is telling Belvile that Angellica has nearly allowed him to forget all about Hellena. However, as soon as she makes her presence known, Willmore begins once again to court Hellena. As Willmore and Hellena flirt, Angellica enters in costume with Moretta and some other servants. She observes as Willmore interacts with Hellena, and is surprised to see him so clearly fond of her. Hellena removes her mask and Willmore flatters her excessively, until Angellica can endure no more and withdraws. Before she leaves, however, she instructs Sebastian—one of her bravos—to follow Hellena and learn more about her.
Meanwhile, Florinda approaches Belvile in disguise, and attempts to woo him with a jewel. Although tempted to accept, he tells the disguised Florinda that he has made a vow to another lady (i.e., Florinda), and therefore cannot accept. At the same time, Hellena continues to question Willmore; she asks him what he was doing at Angellica’s house. Willmore lies to her, and tells her that he was visiting a male friend there. At this point, Hellena reveals to Willmore that she overheard him speaking moments earlier about his conquest to Belvile. Hellena tells Willmore that he can only see her again if he promises to never again see Angellica. Willmore kneels and swears, and the two agree to meet the next day. Before the women leave, Florinda gives Belvile a jewel with her picture on it, which clues him in to the fact that she is Florinda.
The distinction between female characters Hellena, Angellica, and Florinda is established and emphasized in this scene. As Hellena and Angellica take turns observing Willmore while he interacts with other characters, they are both initially shocked and unsettled by his dishonest and deceitful ways. However, they both ultimately find themselves drawn to his “inconstancy,” and are prompted to pursue him at great lengths. Both women fall for the roving cavalier, a womanizer who is averse to commitment. Florinda, on the contrary, is in love with the chivalrous and honorable Colonel Belvile. Unlike Hellena and Angellica, she is drawn not to inconstancy, but rather to the constancy that Belvile embodies; he is a committed and honest man, and she adores him for the sense of duty and courage that he displays.
Thus we are presented with female characters at opposite ends of the spectrum: Angellica and Hellena are both women drawn to the excitement and risk of the roving, deceitful character, and Florinda is a woman attracted to a calm and constant, honorable and respectable man. Is one better than the other? If we consider the ultimate fate of each character, at the end of the play, then it would appear that both approaches to life and love—one spent chasing after inconstancy and the other investing in a reliable mate—can lead to positive outcomes. Both Hellena and Florinda get the man that they are pursuing, in the end, and we are left with the impression that they will go on to lead happy lives together. But is either relationship realistic? And can the sisters’ respective plights be understood as “successful conquests”—that is to say, do they effectively achieve what they are after in the end. If they are merely after their respective men, then it would appear that they have been successful. But if they want more than the men—if their goal were to gain control and freedom the grip of men, they had failed—for all they have arguably done is transfer that control from patriarchal and fraternal to matrimonial.