Act II opens in Hialmar's studio. Gina sits at a table sewing while Hedvig reads on the sofa, her hand shading her eyes and her thumbs stuffed in her ears. Gina glances at her daughter with secret anxiety and commands her to stop reading, since her father does not like it. Gina tabulates the day's expenses and remarks that they still have yet to rent their extra room.
Hedvig thinks fondly of her father at the Werle's banquet and his promise to bring back her a gift. Old Ekdal appears carrying two parcels, ostensibly his new copying work. He peeps behind a sliding door at the back of the room and sees that they are fast asleep. He passes to and from his room with a jug of steaming water, preparing to get drunk on the cognac Peterssen gave him. The women look on pityingly.
Hialmar enters and reports on the party. He tells his father he did not see him but decided to come home once informed that he had passed through. Hedvig and Ekdal buzz around Hialmar, who rehearses the chamberlains' banter as his own speech. In his account of the party, Hialmar puts those chamberlains in their place with his wit and impresses them with his knowledge of wines. Gina remarks with quiet irony that they become terribly genteel in Werle's house.
Hedvig compliments her father's dress-coat. He playfully removes his formal wear. Hegvig searches his jacket for her gift. Realizing he has forgotten her entirely, Hialmar lamely fishes out the banquet menu from his pocket. Hegvig fights back her tears; Hialmar complains of expectations enforced on fathers.
Hialmar asks his father if he has checked on the back room. They begin to discuss the "necessary improvements." Hedvig brings her father a beer and, in remorse for his surly mood, Hialmar declares his love for his family. He plays a plaintive Bohemian peasant dance on his flute with his family members at his side.
A knock is heard, and Gina goes to the door. To her surprise, Gregers appears. Hedvig runs to fetch beer. When Gregers asks about her, Hialmar reveals that she suffers from a hereditary eye disease and may lose her eyesight. Gregers' questions make Gina suspicious.