The Merry Wives of Windsor - Act 4


Scene I. A street .


Mrs Page. Is he at Master Ford's already, think'st thou?
Quick. Sure he is by this, or will be presently: but, truly, he is very courageous mad about his throwing into the water. Mistress Ford desires you to come suddenly.
Mrs Page. I 'll be with her by and by; I 'll but bring my young man here to school. Look, where his master comes; 'tis a playing-day, I see.


How now, Sir Hugh! no school to-day?
Evans. No; Master Slender is let the boys leave to play.
Quick. Blessing of his heart!
Mrs Page. Sir Hugh, my husband says my son profits nothing in the world at his book. I pray you, ask him some questions in his accidence.
Evans. Come hither, William; hold up your head; come.
Mrs Page. Come on, sirrah; hold up your head; answer your master, be not afraid.
Evans. William, how many numbers is in nouns?
Will. Two.
Quick. Truly, I thought there had been one number more, because they say, " 'Od's nouns."
Evans. Peace your tattlings! What is " fair," William?
Will. Pulcher.
Quick. Polecats! there are fairer things than polecats, sure.
Evans. You are a very simplicity 'oman; I pray you, peace. What is " lapis," William?
Will. A stone.
Evans. And what is " a stone," William?
Will. A pebble.
Evans. No, it is " lapis:" I pray you, remember in your prain.
Will. Lapis.
Evans. That is a good William. What is he, William, that does lend articles?
Will. Articles are borrowed of the pronoun, and be thus declined, Singulariter, nominativo, hic, baec, hoc.
Evans. Nominativo, hig, hag, hog; pray you, mark: genitivo, hujus. Well what is your accusative case?
Will. Accusativo, hinc.
Evans. I pray you, have your remembrance, child; accusativo, hung, hang, hog.
Quick. " Hang-hog" is Latin for bacon, I warrant you.
Evans. Leave your prabbles, 'oman. What is the focative case, William?
Will. O, — vocativo, O.
Evans. Remember, William; focative is caret.
Quick. And that's a good root.
Evans. 'Oman, forbear.
Mrs Page. Peace!
Evans. What is your genitive case plural, William?
Will. Genitive case!
Evans. Ay.
Will. Genitive, — horum, harum, horum.
Quick. Vengeance of Jenny's case! fie on her! never name her, child, if she be a whore.
Evans. For shame, 'oman.
Quick. You do ill to teach the child such words: he teaches him to hick and to hack, which they'll do fast enough of themselves, and to call " horum:" fie upon you!
Evans. 'Oman, art thou lunatics? hast thou no understandings for thy cases and the numbers of the genders? Thou art as foolish Christian creatures as I would desires.
Mrs Page. Prithee, hold thy peace.
Evans. Show me now, William, some declensions of your pronouns.
Will. Forsooth, I have forgot.
Evans. It is qui, quae, quod: if you forget your " quies," your " quaes," and your " quods," you must be preeches. Go your ways, and play; go.
Mrs Page. He is a better scholar than I thought he was.
Evans. He is a good sprag memory. Fare-well, Mistress Page.
Mrs Page. Adieu, good Sir Hugh.
Get you home, boy. Come, we stay too long.

Scene II. A room in FORD'S house .


Fal. Mistress Ford, your sorrow hath eaten up my sufferance. I see you are obsequious in your love, and I profess requital to a hair's breadth; not only, Mistress Ford, in the simple office of love, but in all the accoutrement, complement and ceremony of it. But are you sure of your husband now?
Mrs Ford . He's a-birding, sweet Sir John.
Mrs Page . [ Within ] What, ho, gossip Ford! what, ho!
Mrs Ford . Step into the chamber, Sir John.

Enter MISTRESS Page .

Mrs Page . How now, sweetheart! who's at home besides yourself?
Mrs Ford . Why, none but mine own people.
Mrs Page . Indeed!
Mrs Ford . No, certainly. [ Aside to her ] Speak louder.
Mrs Page . Truly, I am so glad you have nobody here.
Mrs Ford . Why?
Mrs Page . Why, woman, your husband is in his old lunes again: he so takes on yonder with my husband; so rails against all married mankind; so curses all Eve's daughters, of what complexion soever; and so buffets himself on the forehead, crying, " Peer out, peer out!" that any madness I ever yet beheld seemed but tameness, civility and patience, to this his distemper he is in now: I am glad the far knight is not here.
Mrs Ford . Why, does he talk of him?
Mrs Page . Of none but him; and swears he was carried out, the last time he searched for him, in a basket; protests to my husband he is now here, and hath drawn him and the rest of their company from their sport to make another experiment of his suspicion: but I am glad the knight is not here; now he shall see his own foolery.
Mrs Ford . How near is he, Mistress Page?
Mrs Page . Hard by; at street end; he will be here anon.
Mrs Ford . I am undone! The knight is here.
Mrs Page . Why then you are utterly shamed, and he's but a dead man. What a woman are you! — Away with him, away with him! better shame than murder.
Mrs Ford . Which way should he go? how should I bestow him? Shall I put him into the basket again?

Re-enter FALSTAFF .

Fal. No, I 'll come no more i' the basket.
May I not go out ere he come?
Mrs Page . Alas, three of Master Ford's brothers watch the door with pistols, that none shall issue out; otherwise you might slip away ere he came. But what make you here?
Fal. What shall I do? I 'll creep up into the chimney.
Mrs Ford . There they always use to discharge their birding-pieces. Creep into the kiln-hole.
Fal. Where is it?
Mrs Ford . He will seek there, on my word. Neither press, coffer, chest, trunk, well, vault, but he hath an abstract for the remembrance of such places, and goes to them by his note: there is no hiding you in the house.
Fal. I 'll go out then.
Mrs Page . If you go out in your own semblance, you die, Sir John. Unless you go out disguised —
Mrs Ford . How might we disguise him?
Mrs Page . Alas the day, I know not! There is no woman's gown big enough for him; otherwise he might put on a hat, a muffler and a kerchief, and so escape.
Fal. Good hearts, devise something; any extremity rather than a mischief.
Mrs Ford . My maid's aunt, the fat woman of Brentford, has a gown above.
Mrs Page . On my word, it will serve him; she's as big as he is: and there's her thrummed hat and her muffler too. Run up, Sir John.
Mrs Ford . Go, go, sweet Sir John: Mistress Page and I will look some linen for your head.
Mrs Page . Quick, quick! we'll come dress you straight: put on the gown the while.
Mrs Ford . I would my husband would meet him in this shape: he cannot abide the old woman of Brentford; he swears she's a witch; forbade her my house and hath threatened to beat her.
Mrs Page . Heaven guide him to thy husband's cudgel, and the devil guide his cudgel afterwards!
Mrs Ford . But is my husband coming?
Mrs Page . Ay, in good sadness, is he: and talks of the basket too, howsoever he hath had intelligence.
Mrs Ford . We'll try that; for I 'll appoint my men to carry the basket again, to meet him at the door with it, as they did last time.
Mrs Page . Nay, but he'll be here presently: let's go dress him like the witch of Brentford.
Mrs Ford . I 'll first direct my men what they shall do with the basket. Go up; I 'll bring linen for him straight.
Mrs Page . Hang him, dishonest varlet! we cannot misuse him enough.
We'll leave a proof, by that which we will do,
Wives may be merry, and yet honest too:
We do not act that often jest and laugh;
'Tis old, but true, Still swine eats all the draff.

Re-enter MISTRESS FORD with two Servants.

Mrs Ford . Go, sirs, take the basket again on your shoulders: your master is hard at door; if he bid you set it down, obey him: quickly, dispatch.
First Serv. Come, come, take it up.
Sec. Serv. Pray heaven it be not full of knight again.
First Serv. I hope not; I had as lief bear so much lead.


Ford . Ay, but if it prove true, Master Page, have you any way then to unfool me again? Set down the basket, villain! Somebody call my wife. Youth in a basket! O you pandarly rascals! there's a knot, a ging, a pack, a conspiracy against me: now shall the devil be shamed. What, wife, I say! Come, come forth! Behold what honest clothes you send forth to bleaching!
Page . Why, this passes, Master Ford; you are not to go loose any longer; you must be pinioned.
Evans. Why, this is lunatics! this is mad as a mad dog.
Shal. Indeed, Master Ford, this is not well, indeed.
Ford . So say I too, sir.

Re-enter MISTRESS FORD . Come hither, Mistress Ford; Mistress Ford, the honest woman, the modest wife, the virtuous creature, that hath the jealous fool to her husband! I suspect without cause, mistress, do I?

Mrs Ford . Heaven be my witness you do, if you suspect me in any dishonesty.
Ford . Well said, brazen-face! hold it out. Come forth, sirrah!
Page . This passes!
Mrs Ford . Are you not ashamed? let the clothes alone.
Ford . I shall find you anon.
Evans. 'Tis unreasonable! Will you take up your wife's clothes? Come away.
Ford . Empty the basket, I say!
Mrs Ford . Why, man, why?
Ford . Master Page, as I am a man, there was one conveyed out of my house yesterday in this basket: why may not he be there again? In my house I am sure he is: my intelligence is true; my jealousy is reasonable. Pluck me out all the linen.
Mrs Ford . If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death.
Page . Here's no man.
Shal. By my fidelity, this is not well, Master Ford; this wrongs you.
Evans. Master Ford, you must pray, and not follow the imaginations of your own heart: this is jealousies.
Page . No, nor nowhere else but in your brain.
Ford . Help to search my house this one time. If I find not what I seek show no colour for my extremity; let me for ever be your table-sport; let them say of me, " As jealous as Ford, that searched a hollow walnut for his wife's leman." Satisfy me once more; once more search with me.
Mrs Ford . What, ho, Mistress Page! come you and the old woman down: my husband will come into the chamber.
Ford . Old woman! what old woman's that?
Mrs Ford . Why, it is my maid's aunt of Brentford.
Ford . A witch, a quean, an old cozening quean! Have I not forbid her my house? She comes of errands, does she? We are simple men; we do not know what's brought to pass under the profession of fortune-telling. She works by charms, by spells, by the figure, and such daubery as this is, beyond our element: we know nothing. " Come down, you witch, you hag, you; come down, I say!"
Mrs Ford . Nay, good, sweet husband! Good gentlemen, let him not strike the old woman.

Re-enter FALSTAFF in woman's clothes, and MISTRESS Page .

Mrs. Page . Come, Mother Prat; come, give me your hand.
Ford . I 'll prat her. [ Beating him ] Out of my door, you witch, you hag, you baggage, you polecat, you ronyon! out, out! I 'll conjure you, I 'll fortune-tell you.
Mrs Page . Are you not ashamed? I think you have killed the poor woman.
Mrs Ford . Nay, he will do it. 'Tis a goodly credit for you.
Ford . Hang her, witch!
Evans. By yea and no, I think the 'oman is a witch indeed: I like not when a 'oman has a great peard; I spy a great peard under his muffler.
Ford . Will you follow, gentlemen? I beseech you, follow; see but the issue of my jealousy: if I cry out thus upon no trail, never trust me when I open again.
Page . Let's obey his humour a little further: come, gentlemen.
Mrs Page . Trust me, he beat him most pitifully.
Mrs Ford. Nay, by the mass, that he did not; he beat him most unpitifully, methought.
Mrs Page. I 'll have the cudgel hallowed and hung o'er the altar; it hath done meritorious service.
Mrs Ford . What think you? may we, with the warrant of womanhood and the witness of a good conscience, pursue him with any further revenge?
Mrs Page . The spirit of wantonness is, sure, scared out of him: if the devil have him not in fee-simple, with fine and recovery, he will never, I think, in the way of waste, attempt us again.
Mrs Ford . Shall we tell our husbands how we have served him?
Mrs Page . Yes, by all means; if it be but to scrape the figures out of your husband's brains. If they can find in their hearts the poor unvirtuous fat knight shall be any further afflicted, we two will still be the ministers.
Mrs Ford . I 'll warrant they'll have him publicly shamed: and methinks there would be no period to the jest, should he not be publicly shamed.
Mrs Page . Come, to the forge with it then; shape it: I would not have things cool.

Scene III. A room in the Garter Inn .

Enter Host and BARDOLPH .

Bard. Sir, the Germans desire to have three of your horses: the duke himself will be tomorrow at court, and they are going to meet him.
Host . What duke should that be comes so secretly? I hear not of him in the court. Let me speak with the gentlemen: they speak English?
Bard. Ay, sir; I 'll call them to you.
Host . They shall have my horses; but I 'll make them pay; I 'll sauce them: they have had my house a week at command; I have turned away my other guests: they must come off; I 'll sauce them. Come.

Scene IV. A room in FORD'S house .


Evans. 'Tis one of the best discretions of a 'oman as ever I did look upon.
Page . And did he send you both these letters at an instant?
Mrs Page. Within a quarter of an hour.
Ford . Pardon me, wife. Henceforth do what thou wilt;
I rather will suspect the sun with cold
Than thee with wantonness: now doth thy honour stand,
In him that was of late an heretic,
As firm as faith.
Page . 'Tis well, 'tis well; no more:
Be not as extreme in submission
As in offence.
But let our plot go forward: let our wives
Yet once again, to make us public sport,
Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow,
Where we may take him and disgrace him for it.
Ford . There is no better way than that they spoke of.
Page . How? to send him word they'll meet him in the park at midnight? Fie, fie! he'll never come.
Evans . You say he has been thrown in the rivers and has been grievously peaten as an old 'oman: methinks there should be terrors in him that he should not come; methinks his flesh is punished, he shall have no desires.
Page . So think I too.
Mrs Ford . Devise but how you'll use him when he comes,
And let us two devise to bring him thither.
Mrs Page. There is an old tale goes that Herne the hunter,
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns;
And there he blasts the tree and takes the cattle
And makes milch-kine yield blood and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner:
You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Received and did deliver to our age
This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.
Page . Why, yet there want not many that do fear
In deep of night to walk by this Herne's oak:
But what of this?
Mrs Ford . Marry, this is our device;
That Falstaff at that oak shall meet with us.
Page . Well, let it not be doubted but he'll come:
And in this shape when you have brought him thither,
What shall be done with him? what is your plot?
Mrs Page . That likewise have we thought upon, and thus:
Nan Page my daughter and my little son
And three or four more of their growth we'll dress
Like urchins, ouphes and fairies, green and white,
With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads,
And rattles in their hands: upon a sudden,
As Falstaff, she and I, are newly met,
Let them from forth a sawpit rush at once
With some diffused song: upon their sight,
We two in great amazedness will fly:
Then let them all encircle him about
And, fairy-like, to pinch the unclean knight,
And ask him why, that hour of fairy revel,
In their so sacred paths he dares to tread
In shape profane.
Mrs Ford . And till he tell the truth,
Let the supposed fairies pinch him sound
And burn him with their tapers.
Mrs Page . The truth being known,
We'll all present ourselves, dis-horn the spirit,
And mock him home to Windsor.
Ford . The children must
Be practised well to this, or they'll ne'er do't.
Evans . I will teach the children their behaviours; and I will be like a jack-an-apes also, to burn the knight with my taber.
Ford . That will be excellent. I 'll go buy them vizards.
Mrs Page . My Nan shall be the queen of all the fairies,
Finely attired in a robe of white.
Page . That silk will I go buy. [ Aside ] And in that time
Shall Master Slender steal my Nan away
And marry her at Eton. Go send to Falstaff straight.
Ford . Nay, I 'll to him again in name of Brook:
He 'll tell me all his purpose: sure, he 'll come.
Mrs Page . Fear not you that. Go get us properties
And tricking for our fairies.
Evans . Let us about it: it is admirable pleasures and fery honest knaveries.
Mrs Page . Go, Mistress Ford,
Send quickly to Sir John, to know his mind.
I 'll to the doctor: he hath my good will.
And none but he, to marry with Nan Page.
That Slender, though well landed, is an idiot;
And he my husband best of all affects.
The doctor is well money'd and his friends
Potent at court: he, none but he, shall have her,
Though twenty thousand worthier come to crave her.

Scene V. A room in the Garter Inn .

Enter Host and SIMPLE .

Host . What wouldst thou have, boor? what, thick-skin? speak breathe, discuss; brief, short, quick, snap.
Sim. Marry, sir, I come to speak with Sir John Falstaff from Master Slender.
Host . There's his chamber, his house, his castle, his standing-bed and truckle-bed; 'tis painted about with the story of the Prodigal, fresh and new. Go knock and call; he'll speak like an Anthropophaginian unto thee: knock, I say.
Sim. There's an old woman, a fat woman, gone up into his chamber. I 'll be so bold as stay, sir, till she come down; I come to speak with her, indeed.
Host . Ha! a fat woman! the knight may be robbed; I 'll call. Bully knight! bully Sir John! speak from thy lungs military: art thou there? it is thine host, thine Ephesian, calls.
Fal. [ Above ] How now, mine host!
Host . Here's a Bohemian-Tartar tarries the coming down of thy fat woman. Let her descend, bully, let her descend; my chambers are honourable: fie! privacy? fie!


Fal. There was, mine host, an old fat woman even now with me! but she's gone.
Sim. Pray you, sir, was't not the wise woman of Brentford?
Fal. Ay, marry, was it, mussel-shell: what would you with her?
Sim. My master, sir, Master Slender, sent to her, seeing her go thorough the streets, to know, sir, whether one Nym, sir, that beguiled him of a chain, had the chain or no.
Fal. I spake with the old woman about it.
Sim. And what says she, I pray, sir?
Fal. Marry, she says that the very same man that beguiled Master Slender of his chain cozened him of it.
Sim. I would I could have spoken with the woman herself; I had other things to have spoken with her too from him.
Fal. What are they? let us know.
Host . Ay, come; quick.
Sim. I may not conceal them, sir.
Host . Conceal them, or thou diest.
Sim. Why, sir, they were nothing but about Mistress Anne Page; to know if it were my master's fortune to have her or no.
Fal. 'Tis, 'tis his fortune.
Sim. What, sir?
Fal. To have her, or no. Go; say the woman told me so.
Sim. May I be bold to say so, sir?
Fal. Ay, sir; like who more bold.
Sim. I thank your worship: I shall make my master glad with these tidings.
Host. Thou art clerkly, thou art clerkly, Sir John. Was there a wise woman with thee?
Fal. Ay, that there was, mine host; one that hath taught me more wit than ever I learned before in my life; and I paid nothing for it neither, but was paid for my learning.


Bard. Out, alas, sir! cozenage, mere cozenage!
Host. Where be my horses? speak well of them, varletto.
Bard. Run away with the cozeners; for so soon as I came beyond Eton, they threw me off from behind one of them, in a slough of mire; and set spurs and away, like three German devils, three Doctor Faustuses.
Host. They are gone but to meet the duke, villain: do not say they be fled; Germans are honest men.


Evans. Where is mine host?
Host. What is the matter, sir?
Evans. Have a care of your entertainments: there is a friend of mine come to town, tells me there is three cozen-germans that has cozened all the hosts of Readins, of Maidenhead, of Colebrook, of horses and money. I tell you for good will, look you: you are wise and full of gibes and vlouting-stocks, and 'tis not convenient you should be cozened. Fare you well.


Caius. Vere is mine host de Jarteer?
Host. Here, master doctor, in perplexity and doubtful dilemma.
Caius. I cannot tell vat is dat: but it is tell-a me dat you make grand preparation for a duke de Jamany: by my trot, dere is no duke dat the court is know to come. I tell you for good vill: adieu.
Host. Hue and cry, villain, go! Assist me, knight, I am undone! Fly, run, hue and cry, villain! I am undone!
Fal. I would all the world might be cozened; for I have been cozened and beaten too. If it should come to the ear of the court, how I have been transformed and how my transformation hath been washed and cudgelled, they would melt me out of my fat drop by drop and liquor fishermen's boots with me: I warrant they would whip me with their fine wits till I were as crestfallen as a dried pear. I never prospered since I forswore myself at primero. Well, if my wind were but long enough to say my prayers, I would repent.


Now, whence come you?
Quick. From the two parties, forsooth.
Fal. The devil take one party and his dam the other! and so they shall be both bestowed. I have suffered more for their sakes, more than the villanous inconstancy of man's disposition is able to bear.
Quick. And have not they suffered? Yes, I warrant; speciously one of them: Mistress Ford, good heart, is beaten black and blue, that you cannot see a white spot about her.
Fal. What tellest thou me of black and blue? I was beaten myself into all the colours of the rainbow; and I was like to be apprehended for the witch of Brentford: but that my admirable dexterity of wit, my counterfeiting the action of an old woman, delivered me, the knave constable had set me i' the stocks, i' the common stocks, for a witch.
Quick. Sir, let me speak with you in your chamber: you shall hear how things go; and, I warrant, to your content. Here is a letter will say somewhat. Good hearts, what ado here is to bring you together! Sure, one of you does not serve heaven well, that you are so crossed.
Fal. Come up into my chamber.

Scene VI. Another room in the Garter Inn .

Enter FENTON and Host .

Host. Master Fenton, talk not to me; my mind is heavy: I will give over all.
Fent. Yet hear me speak. Assist me in my purpose,
And, as I am a gentleman, I 'll give thee
A hundred pound in gold more than your loss.
Host. I will hear you, Master Fenton; and I will at the least keep your counsel.
Fent. From time to time I have acquainted you
With the dear love I bear to fair Anne Page;
Who mutually hath answer'd my affection,
So far forth as herself might be her chooser,
Even to my wish: I have a letter from her
Of such contents as you will wonder at;
The mirth whereof so larded with my matter,
That neither singly can be manifested,
Without the show of both; fat Falstaff
Hath a great scene: the image of the jest
I 'll show you here at large. Hark, good mine host.
To-night at Herne's oak, just 'twixt twelve and one,
Must my sweet Nan present the Fairy Queen;
The purpose why, is here: in which disguise,
While other jests are something rank on foot,
Her father hath commanded her to slip
Away with Slender and with him at Eton
Immediately to marry: she hath consented:
Now, sir,
Her mother, ever strong against that match
And firm for Doctor Caius, hath appointed
That he shall likewise shuffle her away,
While other sports are tasking of their minds,
And at the deanery, where a priest attends,
Straight marry her: to this her mother's plot
She seemingly obedient likewise hath
Made promise to the doctor. Now, thus it rests:
Her father means she shall be all in white,
And in that habit, when Slender sees his time
To take her by the hand and bid her go,
She shall go with him: her mother hath intended,
The better to denote her to the doctor,
For they must all be mask'd and vizarded,
That quaint in green she shall be loose enrobed,
With ribands pendent, flaring 'bout her head:
And when the doctor spies his vantage ripe,
To pinch her by the hand, and, on that token,
The maid hath given consent to go with him.
Host. Which means she to deceive, father or mother?
Fent. Both, my good host, to go along with me:
And here it rests, that you'll procure the vicar
To stay for me at church 'twixt twelve and one,
And, in the lawful name of marrying,
To give our hearts united ceremony.
Host. Well, husband your device; I 'll to the vicar:
Bring you the maid, you shall not lack a priest,
Fent. So shall I evermore be bound to thee;
Besides, I 'll make a present recompense.
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