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Dr. Stockmann is scheduled to make a speech on the present condition of the baths at Captain Horster's house. Citizens are arriving to hear him in large numbers, some of them carrying whistles and horns. Most of the citizens are somewhat confused. According to the People's Messenger, the doctor is wrong about the baths. They are eager to hear what the doctor has to say. Mrs. Stockmann urges her husband not to lose his temper.
Dr. Stockmann rises to address the gathering. Aslaksen insists that a chairman of the meeting must be elected first. The Burgomaster seconds the proposal, which is approved. The Doctor yields to the general demand. The Burgomaster declines to chair the meeting for obvious reasons; instead, he proposes the name of Mr. Aslaksen, who is elected. Aslaksen describes himself as a quiet, peace-loving person who always supports moderation.
When the Burgomaster is invited by Aslaksen to address the citizens, he cautions the people against false statements as to the sanitary conditions of the baths and makes a motion that will not allow the doctor to give his lecture. He points out that Dr. Stockmann's proposal amounts to a vote of censure upon the leading persons of the town; furthermore, the doctor's suggestions for improving the baths would involve an unnecessary expenditure of a hundred thousand crowns. Aslaksen urges the citizens to support the Burgomaster's motion and accuses Dr. Stockmann of desiring a revolution. Hovstad next speaks and explains how he was misled by Dr. Stockmann's false statements and now rejects his suggestions about the baths.
Dr. Stockmann next turns his criticism against the compact majority. Aslaksen requests the speaker to be moderate, and Hovstad points out that the majority always has right on its side. Dr. Stockmann vehemently disagrees and says that fools make up the majority all over the world; he states that it is the masses that are poisoning the sources of spiritual life as they adhere to truths that are "old and marrowless." He begs the citizens that even if they do not agree with him, they should not suppress the voice of truth. Aslaksen tries to stop Dr. Stockmann and claims he is leveling gross insults against the whole community. Hovstad thinks that Dr. Stockmann is bent on ruining the town and declares him an enemy of the people. The whole assembly begins to shout, "He's an enemy of the people!"