Summary: On the courthouse lawn, two workers are building the platform for the prayer meeting (which the Judge announced near the end of the previous scene). Brady, followed by a group of reporters, passes by, loudly conducting an "informal press conference." In response to one reporter's question, Brady states that he has no "personal animosity" toward Henry Drummond, but "that if my own brother challenged the faith of millions, as Mr. Drummond is doing, I would oppose him still!" As the reporters disperse, Brady personally invites Hornbeck to stay for the prayer meeting, which Hornbeck agrees to do, not wanting to "miss any part of the show."
As worshipers gather for the prayer meeting, Mrs. Brady tries to get her husband to remove his coat. Brady mounts the stage, basking in the attention from the crowd-which, at the last minute, includes Drummond at its edges. The Rev. Brown begins the meeting, reciting from the first chapter of Genesis in a chanting way that whips the crowd into a virtual religious frenzy-the stage directions call for "an orgy of hosannahs and waving arms." Brown calls down curses on Bert, "the man who denies the Word." Rachel interrupts his prayer, in response to which her father calls down curses even on her. Brady then interrupts the preacher, warning him against being "overzealous." He quotes Proverbs 11:29 to the Rev. Brown: "He that troubleth his own house. shall inherit the wind." He then dismisses the prayer meeting. Afterward, he approaches Drummond, with whom he used to be good friends, and asked why they now find themselves opposing each other: "Why is it. that you have moved so far away from me?" Drummond replies, "Perhaps it is you who have moved away-by standing still."
Analysis: Considering Drummond's last line, this scene serves to illustrate the "backward" religion that stands in sharp contrast to "progressive" thinking such as Darwin's. Readers, whether they are personally religious or not, may rightly remember that Lawrence and Lee are dealing in stereotype and caricature at this point. The interaction between the Rev. Brown and Rachel is no doubt intended to add a realistic, human element of emotion to the scene, but in the face of the "orgy of hosannahs"-which surely must be an impressive sight when staged well-the moment cannot help but pale. Critical readers and viewers of the play could well ask whether Lawrence and Lee have not established a caricature of religion rather than pitting their hero, Drummond, against the genuine article. The Rev. Brown remains a flat, undeveloped, and unsympathetic character, ready to consign his own daughter to damnation because of her feelings for Cates and his pleading on his behalf.
This scene also marks the first of two times in the play in which Proverbs 11:29 appears. In this context, Brady warns the Rev. Brown against becoming the "fool" of whom the Bible warns. When the verse next appears, in Act III, Brady himself will have revealed himself to be foolish.
Another plot element that appears in this scene is the past, personal respect and perhaps even friendship with which Brady and Drummond once regarded each other. Brady tells the London reporter at the scene's outset that he "bear[s] no personal animosity toward Henry Drummond," and that Drummond even supported him in a past presidential campaign. And, at the scene's close, Drummond seems to lament the loss of what Brady calls the "mutuality of understanding and admiration" that once existed between them by suggesting that Brady has moved by "standing still." This past friendship must be established so that Drummond's reaction to Brady's death in Act III carries emotional weight with the audience. Whether it "rings true," however, each reader or viewer must decide, because the playwrights devote more space to the spirited argument between the two characters than to any common ground they once might have shared. For the most part, the characters serve as mouthpieces for the arguments they put forth, rather than fully-realized, three-dimensional characters. (Of course, actors in stage productions are able to breathe life into characters in ways that make them the co-creators, with the playwrights, of those characters; readers experiencing the play only on the page must therefore keep the limitations of a printed script in mind.)