Brant intends to confront Ezra upon his return. Christine warns that Ezra will only have him arrested and keep her out of spite. If Ezra were only dead, they could take their share of the estate, buy Brant's ship, the "Flying Trades," and travel the world. Christine proposes that they poison him and attribute his death to his heart trouble. She asks Brant to pick up the poison, culled from her father's medical books, in Boston. Brant dislikes such a cowardly plot but succumbs to Christine's goading and departs. "You'll never dare leave me now, Adam—for your ships or your sea or your naked Island girls—when I grow old and ugly!" Christine cries to his retreating figure.

Analysis

Act II introduces Ezra's study, a space characterized by symbols of the law. Note, for example, Ezra's law books, the portraits of the founding fathers, and the portrait of Ezra in judge's robes. Law here does not refer only to state authority but, more importantly, to the law of kinship, the law prohibiting incest and determining the appropriate relations of desire in the household through the institution of the family name.

Ezra's symbolic form, much more than Ezra's himself, especially symbolizes this law in this capacity. Ezra appears in symbolic form throughout the trilogy: as a portrait, voice, and name. As Orin notes later, Ezra is the "statue of an eminent dead man," cutting the living dead for the impropriety of their living. Throughout Mourning, the characters will address his symbolic form, defying, bringing others, or delivering themselves up to their judgment. Tellingly, the players compulsively return to the study when justice must be done. It also makes sense that Christine and Orin kill themselves here.

Ezra's portrait in particular also functions as his double, a double against his other alter egos, namely, Brant and Orin, who in turn face off. Recalling the original rivalry between Abe and David Mannon, these alter egos appear above all as rivals for the mother's desire. The resemblance between them underscores the repetition of an original sexual drama. As Brant tells Christine uneasily, it would be "damned queer" if she loved him for their resemblance.

Brant makes their rivalry especially clear in his reaction upon encountering Ezra's image. Brant instinctively bristles before the man who would have claim to his love object. Unconsciously then does Brant adopt Ezra's pose, making himself the portrait's mirror and installing himself in the husband's place. Note also Brant's proposal that he and Ezra's duel—that is, engage in a face-off.

Ezra, as one of the nation and town's great fathers, has recourse to the law; he locates himself above these sibling rivalries. As Christine shrewdly notes, Ezra would not duel with Brant but simply arrest him, as he can appeal to the law to authorize his claim to Christine. Ezra's authority forces his rival and Christine into underhanded dealings, and as a result, they will secretly poison him.