Sarastro tells the priests that Tamino will undergo initiation rites. Papageno and Tamino are sworn to silence. The three ladies appear and have no trouble derailing Papageno from his course of virtue, but Tamino remains firm.
Monostatos tries to kiss the sleeping Pamina but is chased away by the arrival of the Queen of the Night. She gives her daughter a dagger and orders her to murder Sarastro. Pamina is left alone in tears and consoled by Sarastro who explains that he does not seek vengeance against the Queen.
Papageno is quick to break a new oath of fasting and jokes with a flirtatious old lady, who vanishes when he asks for her name. Tamino remains steadfast, breaking Pamina’s heart: she cannot understand his silence.
The priests inform Tamino that he has only two more trials to complete his initiation. Papageno, who has broken his oath, is eliminated from the trials. Pleading for a wife he eventually settles for the old lady. When he promises to be faithful to her she turns into a young Papagena but immediately disappears.
Despairing over Tamino’s apparent indifference, Pamina is about to commit suicide but is saved by the three spirits. She finds Tamino and walks with him through the ordeals of water and fire, protected by the magic flute. Papageno also is saved from a halfhearted attempt at suicide by the spirits, who remind him that if he uses his magic bells he will find true happiness. When he plays the bells, Papagena appears and the two are united.
The Queen of the Night, her three ladies, and Monostatos attack the temple but are defeated and banished. Sarastro joins Pamina and Tamino as everybody praises the gods Isis and Osiris and the triumph of courage, virtue, and wisdom.