The Merry Wives of Windsor, by William Shakespeare

Act III

Scene I. A field near Frogmore.

Enter Sir Hugh Evans and Simple

Sir Hugh Evans

I pray you now, good master Slender’s serving-man, and friend Simple by your name, which way have you looked for Master Caius, that calls himself doctor of physic?

Simple

Marry, sir, the pittie-ward, the park-ward, every way; old Windsor way, and every way but the town way.

Sir Hugh Evans

I most fehemently desire you you will also look that way.

Simple

I will, sir.

Exit

Sir Hugh Evans

’Pless my soul, how full of chollors I am, and trempling of mind! I shall be glad if he have deceived me. How melancholies I am! I will knog his urinals about his knave’s costard when I have good opportunities for the ork. ’Pless my soul!

Sings

To shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sings madrigals;
There will we make our peds of roses,
And a thousand fragrant posies.
To shallow —
Mercy on me! I have a great dispositions to cry.

Sings

Melodious birds sing madrigals —
When as I sat in Pabylon —
And a thousand vagram posies.
To shallow & c.

Re-enter Simple

Simple

Yonder he is coming, this way, Sir Hugh.

Sir Hugh Evans

He’s welcome.

Sings

To shallow rivers, to whose falls-
Heaven prosper the right! What weapons is he?

Simple

No weapons, sir. There comes my master, Master Shallow, and another gentleman, from Frogmore, over the stile, this way.

Sir Hugh Evans

Pray you, give me my gown; or else keep it in your arms.

Enter Page, Shallow, and Slender

Shallow

How now, master Parson! Good morrow, good Sir Hugh. Keep a gamester from the dice, and a good student from his book, and it is wonderful.

Slender

[Aside] Ah, sweet Anne Page!

Page

’save you, good Sir Hugh!

Sir Hugh Evans

’Pless you from his mercy sake, all of you!

Shallow

What, the sword and the word! do you study them both, master parson?

Page

And youthful still! in your doublet and hose this raw rheumatic day!

Sir Hugh Evans

There is reasons and causes for it.

Page

We are come to you to do a good office, master parson.

Sir Hugh Evans

Fery well: what is it?

Page

Yonder is a most reverend gentleman, who, belike having received wrong by some person, is at most odds with his own gravity and patience that ever you saw.

Shallow

I have lived fourscore years and upward; I never heard a man of his place, gravity and learning, so wide of his own respect.

Sir Hugh Evans

What is he?

Page

I think you know him; Master Doctor Caius, the renowned French physician.

Sir Hugh Evans

Got’s will, and his passion of my heart! I had as lief you would tell me of a mess of porridge.

Page

Why?

Sir Hugh Evans

He has no more knowledge in Hibocrates and Galen, — and he is a knave besides; a cowardly knave as you would desires to be acquainted withal.

Page

I warrant you, he’s the man should fight with him.

Shallow

[Aside] O sweet Anne Page!

Shallow

It appears so by his weapons. Keep them asunder: here comes Doctor Caius.

Enter Host, Doctor Caius, and Rugby

Page

Nay, good master parson, keep in your weapon.

Shallow

So do you, good master doctor.

Host

Disarm them, and let them question: let them keep their limbs whole and hack our English.

Doctor Caius

I pray you, let-a me speak a word with your ear.
Vherefore vill you not meet-a me?

Sir Hugh Evans

[Aside to Doctor Caius] Pray you, use your patience: in good time.

Doctor Caius

By gar, you are de coward, de Jack dog, John ape.

Sir Hugh Evans

[Aside to Doctor Caius] Pray you let us not be laughing-stocks to other men’s humours; I desire you in friendship, and I will one way or other make you amends.

Aloud

I will knog your urinals about your knave’s cockscomb for missing your meetings and appointments.

Doctor Caius

Diable! Jack Rugby — mine host de Jarteer — have I not stay for him to kill him? have I not, at de place I did appoint?

Sir Hugh Evans

As I am a Christians soul now, look you, this is the place appointed: I’ll be judgement by mine host of the Garter.

Host

Peace, I say, Gallia and Gaul, French and Welsh, soul-curer and body-curer!

Doctor Caius

Ay, dat is very good; excellent.

Host

Peace, I say! hear mine host of the Garter. Am I politic? am I subtle? am I a Machiavel? Shall I lose my doctor? no; he gives me the potions and the motions. Shall I lose my parson, my priest, my Sir Hugh? no; he gives me the proverbs and the no-verbs. Give me thy hand, terrestrial; so. Give me thy hand, celestial; so. Boys of art, I have deceived you both; I have directed you to wrong places: your hearts are mighty, your skins are whole, and let burnt sack be the issue. Come, lay their swords to pawn. Follow me, lads of peace; follow, follow, follow.

Shallow

Trust me, a mad host. Follow, gentlemen, follow.

Slender

[Aside] O sweet Anne Page!

Exeunt Shallow, Slender, Page, and Host

Doctor Caius

Ha, do I perceive dat? have you make-a de sot of us, ha, ha?

Sir Hugh Evans

This is well; he has made us his vlouting-stog. I desire you that we may be friends; and let us knog our prains together to be revenge on this same scall, scurvy cogging companion, the host of the Garter.

Doctor Caius

By gar, with all my heart. He promise to bring me where is Anne Page; by gar, he deceive me too.

Sir Hugh Evans

Well, I will smite his noddles. Pray you, follow.

Exeunt

Scene II. A street.

Enter Mistress Page and Robin

Mistress Page

Nay, keep your way, little gallant; you were wont to be a follower, but now you are a leader. Whether had you rather lead mine eyes, or eye your master’s heels?

Robin

I had rather, forsooth, go before you like a man than follow him like a dwarf.

Mistress Page

O, you are a flattering boy: now I see you’ll be a courtier.

Enter Ford

Ford

Well met, Mistress Page. Whither go you?

Mistress Page

Truly, sir, to see your wife. Is she at home?

Ford

Ay; and as idle as she may hang together, for want of company. I think, if your husbands were dead, you two would marry.

Mistress Page

Be sure of that — two other husbands.

Ford

Where had you this pretty weather-cock?

Mistress Page

I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of. What do you call your knight’s name, sirrah?

Robin

Sir John Falstaff.

Ford

Sir John Falstaff!

Mistress Page

He, he; I can never hit on’s name. There is such a league between my good man and he! Is your wife at home indeed?

Ford

Indeed she is.

Mistress Page

By your leave, sir: I am sick till I see her.

Exeunt Mistress Page and Robin

Ford

Has Page any brains? hath he any eyes? hath he any thinking? Sure, they sleep; he hath no use of them. Why, this boy will carry a letter twenty mile, as easy as a cannon will shoot point-blank twelve score. He pieces out his wife’s inclination; he gives her folly motion and advantage: and now she’s going to my wife, and Falstaff’s boy with her. A man may hear this shower sing in the wind. And Falstaff’s boy with her! Good plots, they are laid; and our revolted wives share damnation together. Well; I will take him, then torture my wife, pluck the borrowed veil of modesty from the so seeming Mistress Page, divulge Page himself for a secure and wilful Actaeon; and to these violent proceedings all my neighbours shall cry aim.

Clock heard

The clock gives me my cue, and my assurance bids me search: there I shall find Falstaff: I shall be rather praised for this than mocked; for it is as positive as the earth is firm that Falstaff is there: I will go.

Enter Page, Shallow, Slender, Host, Sir Hugh Evans, Doctor Caius, and Rugby

Shallow, Page, amp;c

Well met, Master Ford.

Ford

Trust me, a good knot: I have good cheer at home; and I pray you all go with me.

Shallow

I must excuse myself, Master Ford.

Slender

And so must I, sir: we have appointed to dine with Mistress Anne, and I would not break with her for more money than I’ll speak of.

Shallow

We have lingered about a match between Anne Page and my cousin Slender, and this day we shall have our answer.

Slender

I hope I have your good will, father Page.

Page

You have, Master Slender; I stand wholly for you: but my wife, master doctor, is for you altogether.

Doctor Caius

Ay, be-gar; and de maid is love-a me: my nursh-a
Quickly tell me so mush.

Host

What say you to young Master Fenton? he capers, he dances, he has eyes of youth, he writes verses, he speaks holiday, he smells April and May: he will carry’t, he will carry’t; ’tis in his buttons; he will carry’t.

Page

Not by my consent, I promise you. The gentleman is of no having: he kept company with the wild prince and Poins; he is of too high a region; he knows too much. No, he shall not knit a knot in his fortunes with the finger of my substance: if he take her, let him take her simply; the wealth I have waits on my consent, and my consent goes not that way.

Ford

I beseech you heartily, some of you go home with me to dinner: besides your cheer, you shall have sport; I will show you a monster. Master doctor, you shall go; so shall you, Master Page; and you, Sir Hugh.

Shallow

Well, fare you well: we shall have the freer wooing at Master Page’s.

Exeunt Shallow, and Slender

Doctor Caius

Go home, John Rugby; I come anon.

Exit Rugby

Host

Farewell, my hearts: I will to my honest knight
Falstaff, and drink canary with him.

Exit

Ford

[Aside] I think I shall drink in pipe wine first with him; I’ll make him dance. Will you go, gentles?

All

Have with you to see this monster.

Exeunt

Scene III. A room in Ford’s house.

Enter Mistress Ford and Mistress Page

Mistress Ford

What, John! What, Robert!

Mistress Page

Quickly, quickly! is the buck-basket —

Mistress Ford

I warrant. What, Robin, I say!

Enter Servants with a basket

Mistress Page

Come, come, come.

Mistress Ford

Here, set it down.

Mistress Page

Give your men the charge; we must be brief.

Mistress Ford

Marry, as I told you before, John and Robert, be ready here hard by in the brew-house: and when I suddenly call you, come forth, and without any pause or staggering take this basket on your shoulders: that done, trudge with it in all haste, and carry it among the whitsters in Datchet-mead, and there empty it in the muddy ditch close by the Thames side.

Mistress Page

You will do it?

Mistress Ford

I ha’ told them over and over; they lack no direction. Be gone, and come when you are called.

Exeunt Servants

Mistress Page

Here comes little Robin.

Enter Robin

Mistress Ford

How now, my eyas-musket! what news with you?

Robin

My master, Sir John, is come in at your back-door,
Mistress Ford, and requests your company.

Mistress Page

You little Jack-a-Lent, have you been true to us?

Robin

Ay, I’ll be sworn. My master knows not of your being here and hath threatened to put me into everlasting liberty if I tell you of it; for he swears he’ll turn me away.

Mistress Page

Thou’rt a good boy: this secrecy of thine shall be a tailor to thee and shall make thee a new doublet and hose. I’ll go hide me.

Mistress Ford

Do so. Go tell thy master I am alone.

Exit Robin

Mistress Page, remember you your cue.

Mistress Page

I warrant thee; if I do not act it, hiss me.

Exit

Mistress Ford

Go to, then: we’ll use this unwholesome humidity, this gross watery pumpion; we’ll teach him to know turtles from jays.

Enter Falstaff

Falstaff

Have I caught thee, my heavenly jewel? Why, now let me die, for I have lived long enough: this is the period of my ambition: O this blessed hour!

Mistress Ford

O sweet Sir John!

Falstaff

Mistress Ford, I cannot cog, I cannot prate, Mistress Ford. Now shall I sin in my wish: I would thy husband were dead: I’ll speak it before the best lord; I would make thee my lady.

Mistress Ford

I your lady, Sir John! alas, I should be a pitiful lady!

Falstaff

Let the court of France show me such another. I see how thine eye would emulate the diamond: thou hast the right arched beauty of the brow that becomes the ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance.

Mistress Ford

A plain kerchief, Sir John: my brows become nothing else; nor that well neither.

Falstaff

By the Lord, thou art a traitor to say so: thou wouldst make an absolute courtier; and the firm fixture of thy foot would give an excellent motion to thy gait in a semi-circled farthingale. I see what thou wert, if Fortune thy foe were not, Nature thy friend. Come, thou canst not hide it.

Mistress Ford

Believe me, there is no such thing in me.

Falstaff

What made me love thee? let that persuade thee there’s something extraordinary in thee. Come, I cannot cog and say thou art this and that, like a many of these lisping hawthorn-buds, that come like women in men’s apparel, and smell like Bucklersbury in simple time; I cannot: but I love thee; none but thee; and thou deservest it.

Mistress Ford

Do not betray me, sir. I fear you love Mistress Page.

Falstaff

Thou mightst as well say I love to walk by the Counter-gate, which is as hateful to me as the reek of a lime-kiln.

Mistress Ford

Well, heaven knows how I love you; and you shall one day find it.

Falstaff

Keep in that mind; I’ll deserve it.

Mistress Ford

Nay, I must tell you, so you do; or else I could not be in that mind.

Robin

[Within] Mistress Ford, Mistress Ford! here’s Mistress Page at the door, sweating and blowing and looking wildly, and would needs speak with you presently.

Falstaff

She shall not see me: I will ensconce me behind the arras.

Mistress Ford

Pray you, do so: she’s a very tattling woman.

Falstaff hides himself

Re-enter Mistress Page and Robin

What’s the matter? how now!

Mistress Page

O Mistress Ford, what have you done? You’re shamed, you’re overthrown, you’re undone for ever!

Mistress Ford

What’s the matter, good Mistress Page?

Mistress Page

O well-a-day, Mistress Ford! having an honest man to your husband, to give him such cause of suspicion!

Mistress Ford

What cause of suspicion?

Mistress Page

What cause of suspicion! Out pon you! how am I mistook in you!

Mistress Ford

Why, alas, what’s the matter?

Mistress Page

Your husband’s coming hither, woman, with all the officers in Windsor, to search for a gentleman that he says is here now in the house by your consent, to take an ill advantage of his assence: you are undone.

Mistress Ford

’Tis not so, I hope.

Mistress Page

Pray heaven it be not so, that you have such a man here! but ’tis most certain your husband’s coming, with half Windsor at his heels, to search for such a one. I come before to tell you. If you know yourself clear, why, I am glad of it; but if you have a friend here convey, convey him out. Be not amazed; call all your senses to you; defend your reputation, or bid farewell to your good life for ever.

Mistress Ford

What shall I do? There is a gentleman my dear friend; and I fear not mine own shame so much as his peril: I had rather than a thousand pound he were out of the house.

Mistress Page

For shame! never stand ‘you had rather’ and ‘you had rather:’ your husband’s here at hand, bethink you of some conveyance: in the house you cannot hide him. O, how have you deceived me! Look, here is a basket: if he be of any reasonable stature, he may creep in here; and throw foul linen upon him, as if it were going to bucking: or — it is whiting-time — send him by your two men to Datchet-mead.

Mistress Ford

He’s too big to go in there. What shall I do?

Falstaff

[Coming forward] Let me see’t, let me see’t, O, let me see’t! I’ll in, I’ll in. Follow your friend’s counsel. I’ll in.

Mistress Page

What, Sir John Falstaff! Are these your letters, knight?

Falstaff

I love thee. Help me away. Let me creep in here.
I’ll never —

Gets into the basket; they cover him with foul linen

Mistress Page

Help to cover your master, boy. Call your men,
Mistress Ford. You dissembling knight!

Mistress Ford

What, John! Robert! John!

Exit Robin

Re-enter Servants

Go take up these clothes here quickly. Where’s the cowl-staff? look, how you drumble! Carry them to the laundress in Datchet-meat; quickly, come.

Enter Ford, Page, Doctor Caius, and Sir Hugh Evans

Ford

Pray you, come near: if I suspect without cause, why then make sport at me; then let me be your jest; I deserve it. How now! whither bear you this?

Servant

To the laundress, forsooth.

Mistress Ford

Why, what have you to do whither they bear it? You were best meddle with buck-washing.

Ford

Buck! I would I could wash myself of the buck! Buck, buck, buck! Ay, buck; I warrant you, buck; and of the season too, it shall appear.

Exeunt Servants with the basket

Gentlemen, I have dreamed to-night; I’ll tell you my dream. Here, here, here be my keys: ascend my chambers; search, seek, find out: I’ll warrant we’ll unkennel the fox. Let me stop this way first.

Locking the door

So, now uncape.

Page

Good Master Ford, be contented: you wrong yourself too much.

Ford

True, Master Page. Up, gentlemen: you shall see sport anon: follow me, gentlemen.

Exit

Sir Hugh Evans

This is fery fantastical humours and jealousies.

Doctor Caius

By gar, ’tis no the fashion of France; it is not jealous in France.

Page

Nay, follow him, gentlemen; see the issue of his search.

Exeunt Page, Doctor Caius, and Sir Hugh Evans

Mistress Page

Is there not a double excellency in this?

Mistress Ford

I know not which pleases me better, that my husband is deceived, or Sir John.

Mistress Page

What a taking was he in when your husband asked who was in the basket!

Mistress Ford

I am half afraid he will have need of washing; so throwing him into the water will do him a benefit.

Mistress Page

Hang him, dishonest rascal! I would all of the same strain were in the same distress.

Mistress Ford

I think my husband hath some special suspicion of Falstaff’s being here; for I never saw him so gross in his jealousy till now.

Mistress Page

I will lay a plot to try that; and we will yet have more tricks with Falstaff: his dissolute disease will scarce obey this medicine.

Mistress Ford

Shall we send that foolish carrion, Mistress Quickly, to him, and excuse his throwing into the water; and give him another hope, to betray him to another punishment?

Mistress Page

We will do it: let him be sent for to-morrow, eight o’clock, to have amends.

Re-enter Ford, Page, Doctor Caius, and Sir Hugh Evans

Ford

I cannot find him: may be the knave bragged of that he could not compass.

Mistress Page

[Aside to Mistress Ford] Heard you that?

Mistress Ford

You use me well, Master Ford, do you?

Ford

Ay, I do so.

Mistress Ford

Heaven make you better than your thoughts!

Ford

Amen!

Mistress Page

You do yourself mighty wrong, Master Ford.

Ford

Ay, ay; I must bear it.

Sir Hugh Evans

If there be any pody in the house, and in the chambers, and in the coffers, and in the presses, heaven forgive my sins at the day of judgment!

Doctor Caius

By gar, nor I too: there is no bodies.

Page

Fie, fie, Master Ford! are you not ashamed? What spirit, what devil suggests this imagination? I would not ha’ your distemper in this kind for the wealth of Windsor Castle.

Ford

’Tis my fault, Master Page: I suffer for it.

Sir Hugh Evans

You suffer for a pad conscience: your wife is as honest a ’omans as I will desires among five thousand, and five hundred too.

Doctor Caius

By gar, I see ’tis an honest woman.

Ford

Well, I promised you a dinner. Come, come, walk in the Park: I pray you, pardon me; I will hereafter make known to you why I have done this. Come, wife; come, Mistress Page. I pray you, pardon me; pray heartily, pardon me.

Page

Let’s go in, gentlemen; but, trust me, we’ll mock him. I do invite you to-morrow morning to my house to breakfast: after, we’ll a-birding together; I have a fine hawk for the bush. Shall it be so?

Ford

Any thing.

Sir Hugh Evans

If there is one, I shall make two in the company.

Doctor Caius

If dere be one or two, I shall make-a the turd.

Ford

Pray you, go, Master Page.

Sir Hugh Evans

I pray you now, remembrance tomorrow on the lousy knave, mine host.

Doctor Caius

Dat is good; by gar, with all my heart!

Sir Hugh Evans

A lousy knave, to have his gibes and his mockeries!

Exeunt

Scene IV. A room in Page’s house.

Enter Fenton and Anne Page

Fenton

I see I cannot get thy father’s love;
Therefore no more turn me to him, sweet Nan.

Anne Page

Alas, how then?

Fenton

  Why, thou must be thyself.
He doth object I am too great of birth —
And that, my state being gall’d with my expense,
I seek to heal it only by his wealth:
Besides these, other bars he lays before me,
My riots past, my wild societies;
And tells me ’tis a thing impossible
I should love thee but as a property.

Anne Page

May be he tells you true.

Fenton

No, heaven so speed me in my time to come!
Albeit I will confess thy father’s wealth
Was the first motive that I woo’d thee, Anne:
Yet, wooing thee, I found thee of more value
Than stamps in gold or sums in sealed bags;
And ’tis the very riches of thyself
That now I aim at.

Anne Page

  Gentle Master Fenton,
Yet seek my father’s love; still seek it, sir:
If opportunity and humblest suit
Cannot attain it, why, then — hark you hither!

They converse apart

Enter Shallow, Slender, and Mistress Quickly

Shallow

Break their talk, Mistress Quickly: my kinsman shall speak for himself.

Slender

I’ll make a shaft or a bolt on’t: ’slid, ’tis but venturing.

Shallow

Be not dismayed.

Slender

No, she shall not dismay me: I care not for that, but that I am afeard.

Mistress Quickly

Hark ye; Master Slender would speak a word with you.

Anne Page

I come to him.

Aside

This is my father’s choice.
O, what a world of vile ill-favor’d faults
Looks handsome in three hundred pounds a-year!

Mistress Quickly

And how does good Master Fenton? Pray you, a word with you.

Shallow

She’s coming; to her, coz. O boy, thou hadst a father!

Slender

I had a father, Mistress Anne; my uncle can tell you good jests of him. Pray you, uncle, tell Mistress Anne the jest, how my father stole two geese out of a pen, good uncle.

Shallow

Mistress Anne, my cousin loves you.

Slender

Ay, that I do; as well as I love any woman in
Gloucestershire.

Shallow

He will maintain you like a gentlewoman.

Slender

Ay, that I will, come cut and long-tail, under the degree of a squire.

Shallow

He will make you a hundred and fifty pounds jointure.

Anne Page

Good Master Shallow, let him woo for himself.

Shallow

Marry, I thank you for it; I thank you for that good comfort. She calls you, coz: I’ll leave you.

Anne Page

Now, Master Slender —

Slender

Now, good Mistress Anne —

Anne Page

What is your will?

Slender

My will! ’od’s heartlings, that’s a pretty jest indeed! I ne’er made my will yet, I thank heaven; I am not such a sickly creature, I give heaven praise.

Anne Page

I mean, Master Slender, what would you with me?

Slender

Truly, for mine own part, I would little or nothing with you. Your father and my uncle hath made motions: if it be my luck, so; if not, happy man be his dole! They can tell you how things go better than I can: you may ask your father; here he comes.

Enter Page and Mistress Page

Page

Now, Master Slender: love him, daughter Anne.
Why, how now! what does Master Fenton here?
You wrong me, sir, thus still to haunt my house:
I told you, sir, my daughter is disposed of.

Fenton

Nay, Master Page, be not impatient.

Mistress Page

Good Master Fenton, come not to my child.

Page

She is no match for you.

Fenton

Sir, will you hear me?

Page

No, good Master Fenton.
Come, Master Shallow; come, son Slender, in.
Knowing my mind, you wrong me, Master Fenton.

Exeunt Page, Shallow, and Slender

Mistress Quickly

Speak to Mistress Page.

Fenton

Good Mistress Page, for that I love your daughter
In such a righteous fashion as I do,
Perforce, against all cheques, rebukes and manners,
I must advance the colours of my love
And not retire: let me have your good will.

Anne Page

Good mother, do not marry me to yond fool.

Mistress Page

I mean it not; I seek you a better husband.

Mistress Quickly

That’s my master, master doctor.

Anne Page

Alas, I had rather be set quick i’ the earth
And bowl’d to death with turnips!

Mistress Page

Come, trouble not yourself. Good Master Fenton,
I will not be your friend nor enemy:
My daughter will I question how she loves you,
And as I find her, so am I affected.
Till then farewell, sir: she must needs go in;
Her father will be angry.

Fenton

Farewell, gentle mistress: farewell, Nan.

Exeunt Mistress Page and Anne Page

Mistress Quickly

This is my doing, now: ‘Nay,’ said I, ‘will you cast away your child on a fool, and a physician? Look on Master Fenton:’ this is my doing.

Fenton

I thank thee; and I pray thee, once to-night
Give my sweet Nan this ring: there’s for thy pains.

Mistress Quickly

Now heaven send thee good fortune!

Exit Fenton

A kind heart he hath: a woman would run through fire and water for such a kind heart. But yet I would my master had Mistress Anne; or I would Master Slender had her; or, in sooth, I would Master Fenton had her; I will do what I can for them all three; for so I have promised, and I’ll be as good as my word; but speciously for Master Fenton. Well, I must of another errand to Sir John Falstaff from my two mistresses: what a beast am I to slack it!

Exit

Scene V. A room in the Garter Inn.

Enter Falstaff and Bardolph

Falstaff

Bardolph, I say —

Bardolph

Here, sir.

Falstaff

Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in’t.

Exit Bardolph

Have I lived to be carried in a basket, like a barrow of butcher’s offal, and to be thrown in the Thames? Well, if I be served such another trick, I’ll have my brains ta’en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a new-year’s gift. The rogues slighted me into the river with as little remorse as they would have drowned a blind bitch’s puppies, fifteen i’ the litter: and you may know by my size that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking; if the bottom were as deep as hell, I should down. I had been drowned, but that the shore was shelvy and shallow — a death that I abhor; for the water swells a man; and what a thing should I have been when I had been swelled! I should have been a mountain of mummy.

Re-enter Bardolph with sack

Bardolph

Here’s Mistress Quickly, sir, to speak with you.

Falstaff

Let me pour in some sack to the Thames water; for my belly’s as cold as if I had swallowed snowballs for pills to cool the reins. Call her in.

Bardolph

Come in, woman!

Enter Mistress Quickly

Mistress Quickly

By your leave; I cry you mercy: give your worship good morrow.

Falstaff

Take away these chalices. Go brew me a pottle of sack finely.

Bardolph

With eggs, sir?

Falstaff

Simple of itself; I’ll no pullet-sperm in my brewage.

Exit Bardolph

How now!

Mistress Quickly

Marry, sir, I come to your worship from Mistress Ford.

Falstaff

Mistress Ford! I have had ford enough; I was thrown into the ford; I have my belly full of ford.

Mistress Quickly

Alas the day! good heart, that was not her fault: she does so take on with her men; they mistook their erection.

Falstaff

So did I mine, to build upon a foolish woman’s promise.

Mistress Quickly

Well, she laments, sir, for it, that it would yearn your heart to see it. Her husband goes this morning a-birding; she desires you once more to come to her between eight and nine: I must carry her word quickly: she’ll make you amends, I warrant you.

Falstaff

Well, I will visit her: tell her so; and bid her think what a man is: let her consider his frailty, and then judge of my merit.

Mistress Quickly

I will tell her.

Falstaff

Do so. Between nine and ten, sayest thou?

Mistress Quickly

Eight and nine, sir.

Falstaff

Well, be gone: I will not miss her.

Mistress Quickly

Peace be with you, sir.

Exit

Falstaff

I marvel I hear not of Master Brook; he sent me word to stay within: I like his money well. O, here he comes.

Enter Ford

Ford

Bless you, sir!

Falstaff

Now, master Brook, you come to know what hath passed between me and Ford’s wife?

Ford

That, indeed, Sir John, is my business.

Falstaff

Master Brook, I will not lie to you: I was at her house the hour she appointed me.

Ford

And sped you, sir?

Falstaff

Very ill-favoredly, Master Brook.

Ford

How so, sir? Did she change her determination?

Falstaff

No, Master Brook; but the peaking Cornuto her husband, Master Brook, dwelling in a continual ’larum of jealousy, comes me in the instant of our encounter, after we had embraced, kissed, protested, and, as it were, spoke the prologue of our comedy; and at his heels a rabble of his companions, thither provoked and instigated by his distemper, and, forsooth, to search his house for his wife’s love.

Ford

What, while you were there?

Falstaff

While I was there.

Ford

And did he search for you, and could not find you?

Falstaff

You shall hear. As good luck would have it, comes in one Mistress Page; gives intelligence of Ford’s approach; and, in her invention and Ford’s wife’s distraction, they conveyed me into a buck-basket.

Ford

A buck-basket!

Falstaff

By the Lord, a buck-basket! rammed me in with foul shirts and smocks, socks, foul stockings, greasy napkins; that, Master Brook, there was the rankest compound of villanous smell that ever offended nostril.

Ford

And how long lay you there?

Falstaff

Nay, you shall hear, Master Brook, what I have suffered to bring this woman to evil for your good. Being thus crammed in the basket, a couple of Ford’s knaves, his hinds, were called forth by their mistress to carry me in the name of foul clothes to Datchet-lane: they took me on their shoulders; met the jealous knave their master in the door, who asked them once or twice what they had in their basket: I quaked for fear, lest the lunatic knave would have searched it; but fate, ordaining he should be a cuckold, held his hand. Well: on went he for a search, and away went I for foul clothes. But mark the sequel, Master Brook: I suffered the pangs of three several deaths; first, an intolerable fright, to be detected with a jealous rotten bell-wether; next, to be compassed, like a good bilbo, in the circumference of a peck, hilt to point, heel to head; and then, to be stopped in, like a strong distillation, with stinking clothes that fretted in their own grease: think of that — a man of my kidney — think of that — that am as subject to heat as butter; a man of continual dissolution and thaw: it was a miracle to scape suffocation. And in the height of this bath, when I was more than half stewed in grease, like a Dutch dish, to be thrown into the Thames, and cooled, glowing hot, in that surge, like a horse-shoe; think of that — hissing hot — think of that, Master Brook.

Ford

In good sadness, I am sorry that for my sake you have sufferd all this. My suit then is desperate; you’ll undertake her no more?

Falstaff

Master Brook, I will be thrown into Etna, as I have been into Thames, ere I will leave her thus. Her husband is this morning gone a-birding: I have received from her another embassy of meeting; ’twixt eight and nine is the hour, Master Brook.

Ford

’Tis past eight already, sir.

Falstaff

Is it? I will then address me to my appointment. Come to me at your convenient leisure, and you shall know how I speed; and the conclusion shall be crowned with your enjoying her. Adieu. You shall have her, Master Brook; Master Brook, you shall cuckold Ford.

Exit

Ford

Hum! ha! is this a vision? is this a dream? do I sleep? Master Ford awake! awake, Master Ford! there’s a hole made in your best coat, Master Ford. This ’tis to be married! this ’tis to have linen and buck-baskets! Well, I will proclaim myself what I am: I will now take the lecher; he is at my house; he cannot ’scape me; ’tis impossible he should; he cannot creep into a halfpenny purse, nor into a pepper-box: but, lest the devil that guides him should aid him, I will search impossible places. Though what I am I cannot avoid, yet to be what I would not shall not make me tame: if I have horns to make one mad, let the proverb go with me: I’ll be horn-mad.

Exit

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30