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Act III opens in the editor's room of the People's Messenger. Billing is excited, for he has just read Dr. Stockmann's article and hears the "revolution thundering afar." He knows that the publication of the article will put the Burgomaster in a real fix. If he agrees to the doctor's demands to repair the baths and eliminate the contamination, the shareholders in the baths surely not support him. If he does not agree to the repairs, the Burgomaster will surely alienate the middle-class majority. Hovstad hopes that conflict over the doctor's article will cause the current town bureaucrats to be replaced with more liberal-minded individuals.
Dr. Stockmann comes to the press to find out when his first article will be printed and urges Aslaksen to take personal charge of its publication. The doctor also informs the newsmen that his next four or five articles will soon be completed. He tells them how he was humiliated in his own house by his brother. He now wants revenge on the Burgomaster and his followers; he wants to "smite them to the earth." As expected, Aslaksen advises him to be moderate. Dr. Stockmann, however, wants to purge the town of all the old bunglers. Billing calls Dr. Stockmann "a friend of the people," and Aslaksen joins in by saying he is "a true friend of the town."
Petra calls on Hovstad to return the book that she has translated for publication in the Messenger. Hovstad agrees to publish it even though the book is not in keeping with his liberal outlook; it talks about a supernatural power that looks after good people and punishes bad people. He states that he will publish the book in order to humor the readers' fancies. Petra does not like his hypocrisy. She is also perturbed to learn that Hovstad has not been honest in his dealings with her father. Although he pretended to be on the side of truth and the good of the community, he really only wants to publish the doctor's articles to bring attention to the newspaper. She senses that Hovstad and his newsmen will have no scruples about withdrawing their support of Dr. Stockmann if his views become unpopular.