The Merry Wives of Windsor, by William Shakespeare

Act V

Scene I. A room in the Garter Inn.

Enter Falstaff and Mistress Quickly

Falstaff Prithee, no more prattling; go. I’ll hold. This is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers. Away I go. They say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance, or death. Away!

Mistress Quickly I’ll provide you a chain; and I’ll do what I can to get you a pair of horns.

Falstaff Away, I say; time wears: hold up your head, and mince.

Exit Mistress Quickly

Enter Ford

How now, Master Brook! Master Brook, the matter will be known to-night, or never. Be you in the Park about midnight, at Herne’s oak, and you shall see wonders.

Ford Went you not to her yesterday, sir, as you told me you had appointed?

Falstaff I went to her, Master Brook, as you see, like a poor old man: but I came from her, Master Brook, like a poor old woman. That same knave Ford, her husband, hath the finest mad devil of jealousy in him, Master Brook, that ever governed frenzy. I will tell you: he beat me grievously, in the shape of a woman; for in the shape of man, Master Brook, I fear not Goliath with a weaver’s beam; because I know also life is a shuttle. I am in haste; go along with me: I’ll tell you all, Master Brook. Since I plucked geese, played truant and whipped top, I knew not what ’twas to be beaten till lately. Follow me: I’ll tell you strange things of this knave Ford, on whom to-night I will be revenged, and I will deliver his wife into your hand. Follow. Strange things in hand, Master Brook! Follow.


Scene II. Windsor Park.

Enter Page, Shallow, and Slender

Page Come, come; we’ll couch i’ the castle-ditch till we see the light of our fairies. Remember, son Slender, my daughter.

Slender Ay, forsooth; I have spoke with her and we have a nay-word how to know one another: I come to her in white, and cry ‘mum;’ she cries ‘budget;’ and by that we know one another.

Shallow That’s good too: but what needs either your ’mum’ or her ‘budget?’ the white will decipher her well enough. It hath struck ten o’clock.

Page The night is dark; light and spirits will become it well. Heaven prosper our sport! No man means evil but the devil, and we shall know him by his horns. Let’s away; follow me.


Scene III. A street leading to the Park.

Enter Mistress Page, Mistress Ford, and Doctor Caius

Mistress Page Master doctor, my daughter is in green: when you see your time, take her by the band, away with her to the deanery, and dispatch it quickly. Go before into the Park: we two must go together.

Doctor Caius I know vat I have to do. Adieu.

Mistress Page Fare you well, sir.

Exit Doctor Caius

My husband will not rejoice so much at the abuse of Falstaff as he will chafe at the doctor’s marrying my daughter: but ’tis no matter; better a little chiding than a great deal of heart-break.

Mistress Ford Where is Nan now and her troop of fairies, and the
Welsh devil Hugh?

Mistress Page They are all couched in a pit hard by Herne’s oak, with obscured lights; which, at the very instant of Falstaff’s and our meeting, they will at once display to the night.

Mistress Ford That cannot choose but amaze him.

Mistress Page If he be not amazed, he will be mocked; if he be amazed, he will every way be mocked.

Mistress Ford We’ll betray him finely.

Mistress Page Against such lewdsters and their lechery
Those that betray them do no treachery.

Mistress Ford The hour draws on. To the oak, to the oak!


Scene IV. Windsor Park.

Enter Sir Hugh Evans, disguised, with others as Fairies

Sir Hugh Evans Trib, trib, fairies; come; and remember your parts: be pold, I pray you; follow me into the pit; and when I give the watch-’ords, do as I pid you: come, come; trib, trib.


Scene V. Another part of the Park.

Enter Falstaff disguised as Herne

Falstaff The Windsor bell hath struck twelve; the minute draws on. Now, the hot-blooded gods assist me! Remember, Jove, thou wast a bull for thy Europa; love set on thy horns. O powerful love! that, in some respects, makes a beast a man, in some other, a man a beast. You were also, Jupiter, a swan for the love of Leda. O omnipotent Love! how near the god drew to the complexion of a goose! A fault done first in the form of a beast. O Jove, a beastly fault! And then another fault in the semblance of a fowl; think on ’t, Jove; a foul fault! When gods have hot backs, what shall poor men do? For me, I am here a Windsor stag; and the fattest, I think, i’ the forest. Send me a cool rut-time, Jove, or who can blame me to piss my tallow? Who comes here? my doe?

Enter Mistress Ford and Mistress Page

Mistress Ford Sir John! art thou there, my deer? my male deer?

Falstaff My doe with the black scut! Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Green Sleeves, hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here.

Mistress Ford Mistress Page is come with me, sweetheart.

Falstaff Divide me like a bribe buck, each a haunch: I will keep my sides to myself, my shoulders for the fellow of this walk, and my horns I bequeath your husbands. Am I a woodman, ha? Speak I like Herne the hunter? Why, now is Cupid a child of conscience; he makes restitution. As I am a true spirit, welcome!

Noise within

Mistress Page Alas, what noise?

Mistress Ford Heaven forgive our sins

Falstaff What should this be?

Mistress Ford, Mistress Page Away, away!

They run off

Falstaff I think the devil will not have me damned, lest the oil that’s in me should set hell on fire; he would never else cross me thus.

Enter Sir Hugh Evans, disguised as before; Pistol, as Hobgoblin; Mistress Quickly, Anne Page, and others, as Fairies, with tapers

Mistress Quickly Fairies, black, grey, green, and white,
You moonshine revellers and shades of night,
You orphan heirs of fixed destiny,
Attend your office and your quality.
Crier Hobgoblin, make the fairy oyes.

Pistol Elves, list your names; silence, you airy toys.
Cricket, to Windsor chimneys shalt thou leap:
Where fires thou find’st unraked and hearths unswept,
There pinch the maids as blue as bilberry:
Our radiant queen hates sluts and sluttery.

Falstaff They are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die:
I’ll wink and couch: no man their works must eye.

Lies down upon his face

Sir Hugh Evans Where’s Bede? Go you, and where you find a maid
That, ere she sleep, has thrice her prayers said,
Raise up the organs of her fantasy;
Sleep she as sound as careless infancy:
But those as sleep and think not on their sins,
Pinch them, arms, legs, backs, shoulders, sides and shins.

Mistress Quickly About, about;
Search Windsor Castle, elves, within and out:
Strew good luck, ouphes, on every sacred room:
That it may stand till the perpetual doom,
In state as wholesome as in state ’tis fit,
Worthy the owner, and the owner it.
The several chairs of order look you scour
With juice of balm and every precious flower:
Each fair instalment, coat, and several crest,
With loyal blazon, evermore be blest!
And nightly, meadow-fairies, look you sing,
Like to the Garter’s compass, in a ring:
The expressure that it bears, green let it be,
More fertile-fresh than all the field to see;
And ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ write
In emerald tufts, flowers purple, blue and white;
Let sapphire, pearl and rich embroidery,
Buckled below fair knighthood’s bending knee:
Fairies use flowers for their charactery.
Away; disperse: but till ’tis one o’clock,
Our dance of custom round about the oak
Of Herne the hunter, let us not forget.

Sir Hugh Evans Pray you, lock hand in hand; yourselves in order set
And twenty glow-worms shall our lanterns be,
To guide our measure round about the tree.
But, stay; I smell a man of middle-earth.

Falstaff Heavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he transform me to a piece of cheese!

Pistol Vile worm, thou wast o’erlook’d even in thy birth.

Mistress Quickly With trial-fire touch me his finger-end:
If he be chaste, the flame will back descend
And turn him to no pain; but if he start,
It is the flesh of a corrupted heart.

Pistol A trial, come.

Sir Hugh Evans Come, will this wood take fire?

They burn him with their tapers

Falstaff Oh, Oh, Oh!

Mistress Quickly Corrupt, corrupt, and tainted in desire!
About him, fairies; sing a scornful rhyme;
And, as you trip, still pinch him to your time.
Fie on sinful fantasy!
Fie on lust and luxury!
Lust is but a bloody fire,
Kindled with unchaste desire,
Fed in heart, whose flames aspire
As thoughts do blow them, higher and higher.
Pinch him, fairies, mutually;
Pinch him for his villany;
Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about,
Till candles and starlight and moonshine be out.

During this song they pinch Falstaff. Doctor Caius comes one way, and steals away a boy in green; Slender another way, and takes off a boy in white; and Fenton comes and steals away Ann Page. A noise of hunting is heard within. All the Fairies run away. Falstaff pulls off his buck’s head, and rises

Enter Page, Ford, Mistress Page, and Mistress Ford

Page Nay, do not fly; I think we have watch’d you now
Will none but Herne the hunter serve your turn?

Mistress Page I pray you, come, hold up the jest no higher
Now, good Sir John, how like you Windsor wives?
See you these, husband? do not these fair yokes
Become the forest better than the town?

Ford Now, sir, who’s a cuckold now? Master Brook, Falstaff’s a knave, a cuckoldly knave; here are his horns, Master Brook: and, Master Brook, he hath enjoyed nothing of Ford’s but his buck-basket, his cudgel, and twenty pounds of money, which must be paid to Master Brook; his horses are arrested for it, Master Brook.

Mistress Ford Sir John, we have had ill luck; we could never meet. I will never take you for my love again; but I will always count you my deer.

Falstaff I do begin to perceive that I am made an ass.

Ford Ay, and an ox too: both the proofs are extant.

Falstaff And these are not fairies? I was three or four times in the thought they were not fairies: and yet the guiltiness of my mind, the sudden surprise of my powers, drove the grossness of the foppery into a received belief, in despite of the teeth of all rhyme and reason, that they were fairies. See now how wit may be made a Jack-a-Lent, when ’tis upon ill employment!

Sir Hugh Evans Sir John Falstaff, serve Got, and leave your desires, and fairies will not pinse you.

Ford Well said, fairy Hugh.

Sir Hugh Evans And leave your jealousies too, I pray you.

Ford I will never mistrust my wife again till thou art able to woo her in good English.

Falstaff Have I laid my brain in the sun and dried it, that it wants matter to prevent so gross o’erreaching as this? Am I ridden with a Welsh goat too? shall I have a coxcomb of frize? ’Tis time I were choked with a piece of toasted cheese.

Sir Hugh Evans Seese is not good to give putter; your belly is all putter.

Falstaff ‘seese’ and ‘putter’! have I lived to stand at the taunt of one that makes fritters of English? This is enough to be the decay of lust and late-walking through the realm.

Mistress Page Why Sir John, do you think, though we would have the virtue out of our hearts by the head and shoulders and have given ourselves without scruple to hell, that ever the devil could have made you our delight?

Ford What, a hodge-pudding? a bag of flax?

Mistress Page A puffed man?

Page Old, cold, withered and of intolerable entrails?

Ford And one that is as slanderous as Satan?

Page And as poor as Job?

Ford And as wicked as his wife?

Sir Hugh Evans And given to fornications, and to taverns and sack and wine and metheglins, and to drinkings and swearings and starings, pribbles and prabbles?

Falstaff Well, I am your theme: you have the start of me; I am dejected; I am not able to answer the Welsh flannel; ignorance itself is a plummet o’er me: use me as you will.

Ford Marry, sir, we’ll bring you to Windsor, to one Master Brook, that you have cozened of money, to whom you should have been a pander: over and above that you have suffered, I think to repay that money will be a biting affliction.

Page Yet be cheerful, knight: thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my house; where I will desire thee to laugh at my wife, that now laughs at thee: tell her Master Slender hath married her daughter.

Mistress Page [Aside] Doctors doubt that: if Anne Page be my daughter, she is, by this, Doctor Caius’ wife.

Enter Slender

Slender Whoa ho! ho, father Page!

Page Son, how now! how now, son! have you dispatched?

Slender Dispatched! I’ll make the best in Gloucestershire know on’t; would I were hanged, la, else.

Page Of what, son?

Slender I came yonder at Eton to marry Mistress Anne Page, and she’s a great lubberly boy. If it had not been i’ the church, I would have swinged him, or he should have swinged me. If I did not think it had been Anne Page, would I might never stir! — and ’tis a postmaster’s boy.

Page Upon my life, then, you took the wrong.

Slender What need you tell me that? I think so, when I took a boy for a girl. If I had been married to him, for all he was in woman’s apparel, I would not have had him.

Page Why, this is your own folly. Did not I tell you how you should know my daughter by her garments?

Slender I went to her in white, and cried ’mum,’ and she cried ‘budget,’ as Anne and I had appointed; and yet it was not Anne, but a postmaster’s boy.

Mistress Page Good George, be not angry: I knew of your purpose; turned my daughter into green; and, indeed, she is now with the doctor at the deanery, and there married.

Enter Doctor Caius

Doctor Caius Vere is Mistress Page? By gar, I am cozened: I ha’ married un garcon, a boy; un paysan, by gar, a boy; it is not Anne Page: by gar, I am cozened.

Mistress Page Why, did you take her in green?

Doctor Caius Ay, by gar, and ’tis a boy: by gar, I’ll raise all Windsor.


Ford This is strange. Who hath got the right Anne?

Page My heart misgives me: here comes Master Fenton.

Enter Fenton and Anne Page

How now, Master Fenton!

Anne Page Pardon, good father! good my mother, pardon!

Page Now, mistress, how chance you went not with Master Slender?

Mistress Page Why went you not with master doctor, maid?

Fenton You do amaze her: hear the truth of it.
You would have married her most shamefully,
Where there was no proportion held in love.
The truth is, she and I, long since contracted,
Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us.
The offence is holy that she hath committed;
And this deceit loses the name of craft,
Of disobedience, or unduteous title,
Since therein she doth evitate and shun
A thousand irreligious cursed hours,
Which forced marriage would have brought upon her.

Ford Stand not amazed; here is no remedy:
In love the heavens themselves do guide the state;
Money buys lands, and wives are sold by fate.

Falstaff I am glad, though you have ta’en a special stand to strike at me, that your arrow hath glanced.

Page Well, what remedy? Fenton, heaven give thee joy!
What cannot be eschew’d must be embraced.

Falstaff When night-dogs run, all sorts of deer are chased.

Mistress Page Well, I will muse no further. Master Fenton,
Heaven give you many, many merry days!
Good husband, let us every one go home,
And laugh this sport o’er by a country fire;
Sir John and all.

Ford   Let it be so. Sir John,
To Master Brook you yet shall hold your word
For he tonight shall lie with Mistress Ford.


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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59