List iconThe Merry Wives of WindsorList icon

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Act 4, scene 2

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Entire Play

In The Merry Wives of Windsor, fat, disreputable Sir John Falstaff pursues two housewives, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, who outwit…

Act 1, scene 1

Justice Shallow and his nephew Slender accompany Sir Hugh the parson to the Pages’ home. There they meet Sir John…

Act 1, scene 2

Sir Hugh sends Slender’s servant Simple with a letter to Mistress Quickly asking her to intercede with Anne Page on…

Act 1, scene 3

Falstaff, in desperate need of funds, dismisses his servant Bardolph, who enters the employ of the Host of the Garter….

Act 1, scene 4

Delivering Sir Hugh’s letter to Mistress Quickly, Simple is discovered by her employer Dr. Caius (another of Anne’s suitors). Furious…

Act 2, scene 1

Mistress Page and Mistress Ford compare their love letters from Falstaff and plot revenge against him. Pistol and Nym tell…

Act 2, scene 2

Falstaff receives Mistress Ford’s invitation to visit; he then accepts “Brook’s” money in exchange for his promise to compromise Mistress…

Act 2, scene 3

Dr. Caius responds furiously when Sir Hugh fails to meet him for their duel. The Host calms his anger by…

Act 3, scene 1

Page, Shallow, and Slender join Sir Hugh, who is waiting to fight Dr. Caius. When the Host brings Dr. Caius…

Act 3, scene 2

Ford, knowing of Falstaff’s visit to Mistress Ford, gathers as many men as he can to go with him to…

Act 3, scene 3

Mistress Ford and Mistress Page begin their revenge against Falstaff. As Falstaff joins Mistress Ford, Mistress Page enters with news…

Act 3, scene 4

Attempting to court Anne Page, Fenton is interrupted first by his rival Slender and then by a hostile Master and…

Act 3, scene 5

Falstaff agrees once again to visit Mistress Ford and again informs “Brook” of his plans.

Act 4, scene 1

William, the young son of Master and Mistress Page, is briefly tested on his Latin by Sir Hugh.

Act 4, scene 2

Visiting Mistress Ford, Falstaff is again interrupted by Mistress Page, again with news of Ford’s threatening approach. This time the…

Act 4, scene 3

Some Germans want to hire the Host’s horses.

Act 4, scene 4

Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, having fully disclosed their dealings with Falstaff to their husbands, conspire with them to humiliate…

Act 4, scene 5

The Host learns his horses have been stolen. Mistress Quickly approaches Falstaff with another invitation, this time to meet Mistress…

Act 4, scene 6

The Host is asked to arrange for a vicar to marry Anne to Fenton that night.

Act 5, scene 1

Falstaff, having agreed to meet Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, promises success to “Brook.”

Act 5, scene 2

Slender prepares to elope with Anne Page.

Act 5, scene 3

Dr. Caius waits to elope with Anne Page. Mistress Page and Mistress Ford follow their plan to torment Falstaff.

Act 5, scene 4

Sir Hugh and the “fairies” approach.

Act 5, scene 5

Falstaff is tormented by the “fairies” and then publicly humiliated. Slender and Dr. Caius enter in turn to report that…

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Scene 2
Enter Sir John Falstaff and Mistress Ford.

FALSTAFF 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

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ACT 4. SC. 2

 only, Mistress Ford, in the simple office of love,
5 but in all the accoutrement, compliment, and ceremony
 of it. But are you sure of your husband now?
MISTRESS FORD He’s a-birding, sweet Sir John.
MISTRESS PAGE, within What ho, gossip Ford! What
 ho!
MISTRESS FORD 10Step into th’ chamber, Sir John.
Falstaff exits.

Enter Mistress Page.

MISTRESS PAGE How now, sweetheart, who’s at home
 besides yourself?
MISTRESS FORD Why, none but mine own people.
MISTRESS PAGE Indeed?
MISTRESS FORD 15No, certainly. Aside to her. Speak
 louder.
MISTRESS PAGE Truly, I am so glad you have nobody
 here.
MISTRESS FORD Why?
MISTRESS PAGE 20Why, 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
25 “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 fat
 knight is not here.
MISTRESS FORD Why, does he talk of him?
MISTRESS PAGE 30Of 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
35 his suspicion. But I am glad the knight is not here.
 Now he shall see his own foolery.

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The Merry Wives of Windsor
ACT 4. SC. 2

MISTRESS FORD How near is he, Mistress Page?
MISTRESS PAGE Hard by, at street end. He will be here
 anon.
MISTRESS FORD 40I am undone! The knight is here.
MISTRESS 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.
MISTRESS FORD 45Which way should he go? How should
 I bestow him? Shall I put him into the basket
 again?

Enter Sir John Falstaff.

FALSTAFF No, I’ll come no more i’ th’ basket. May I not
 go out ere he come?
MISTRESS PAGE 50Alas, 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?
FALSTAFF What shall I do? I’ll creep up into the
55 chimney.
MISTRESS FORD There they always use to discharge
 their birding pieces.
MISTRESS PAGE Creep into the kiln-hole.
FALSTAFF Where is it?
MISTRESS FORD 60He 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.
FALSTAFF 65I’ll go out, then.
MISTRESS PAGE If you go out in your own semblance,
 you die, Sir John—unless you go out disguised.
MISTRESS FORD How might we disguise him?
MISTRESS PAGE Alas the day, I know not. There is no
70 woman’s gown big enough for him; otherwise he

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The Merry Wives of Windsor
ACT 4. SC. 2

 might put on a hat, a muffler, and a kerchief, and
 so escape.
FALSTAFF Good hearts, devise something. Any extremity
 rather than a mischief.
MISTRESS FORD 75My maid’s aunt, the fat woman of
 Brentford, has a gown above.
MISTRESS 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.
MISTRESS FORD 80Go, go, sweet Sir John. Mistress Page
 and I will look some linen for your head.
MISTRESS PAGE Quick, quick! We’ll come dress you
 straight. Put on the gown the while.
Falstaff exits.
MISTRESS FORD I would my husband would meet him
85 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.
MISTRESS PAGE Heaven guide him to thy husband’s
 cudgel, and the devil guide his cudgel afterwards!
MISTRESS FORD 90But is my husband coming?
MISTRESS PAGE Ay, in good sadness is he, and talks of
 the basket too, howsoever he hath had
 intelligence.
MISTRESS FORD We’ll try that; for I’ll appoint my men
95 to carry the basket again, to meet him at the door
 with it as they did last time.
MISTRESS PAGE Nay, but he’ll be here presently. Let’s go
 dress him like the witch of Brentford.
MISTRESS FORD I’ll first direct my men what they shall
100 do with the basket. Go up. I’ll bring linen for him
 straight.She exits.
MISTRESS PAGE Hang him, dishonest varlet! We cannot
 misuse him enough.
 We’ll leave a proof, by that which we will do,
105 Wives may be merry and yet honest too.

151
The Merry Wives of Windsor
ACT 4. SC. 2

 We do not act that often jest and laugh;
 ’Tis old but true: “Still swine eats all the draff.”
She exits.

Enter Mistress Ford with Robert and John,
who bring the buck-basket.


MISTRESS FORD Go, sirs, take the basket again on your
 shoulders. Your master is hard at door. If he bid
110 you set it down, obey him. Quickly, dispatch.
She exits.
ROBERT Come, come, take it up.
JOHN Pray heaven it be not full of knight again.
ROBERT I hope not. I had lief as bear so much lead.
They pick up the basket.

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


FORD Ay, but if it prove true, Master Page, have you
115 any way then to unfool me again?—Set down the
 basket, villain. They put the basket down. Somebody
 call my wife. Youth in a basket! O, you panderly
 rascals! There’s a knot, a gang, a pack, a
 conspiracy against me. Now shall the devil be
120 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.
SIR HUGH 125Why, this is lunatics. This is mad as a mad
 dog.
SHALLOW Indeed, Master Ford, this is not well, indeed.
FORD So say I too, sir.

Enter Mistress Ford.

 Come hither, Mistress Ford.—Mistress Ford, the
130 honest woman, the modest wife, the virtuous creature,

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The Merry Wives of Windsor
ACT 4. SC. 2

 that hath the jealous fool to her husband!—I
 suspect without cause, mistress, do I?
MISTRESS FORD Heaven be my witness you do, if you
 suspect me in any dishonesty.
FORD 135Well said, brazen-face. Hold it out.—Come
 forth, sirrah.He pulls clothes out of the basket.
PAGE This passes.
MISTRESS FORD Are you not ashamed? Let the clothes
 alone.
FORD 140I shall find you anon.
SIR HUGH ’Tis unreasonable. Will you take up your
 wife’s clothes? Come, away.
FORD, to the Servants Empty the basket, I say.
MISTRESS FORD Why, man, why?
FORD 145Master 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.
MISTRESS FORD 150If you find a man there, he shall die a
 flea’s death.Robert and John empty the basket.
PAGE Here’s no man.
SHALLOW By my fidelity, this is not well, Master Ford.
 This wrongs you.
SIR HUGH 155Master Ford, you must pray, and not follow
 the imaginations of your own heart. This is
 jealousies.
FORD Well, he’s not here I seek for.
PAGE No, nor nowhere else but in your brain.
FORD 160Help to search my house this one time. If I find
 not what I seek, show no color for my extremity.
 Let me forever 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
165 more. Once more search with me.
Robert and John refill the basket and carry it off.

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The Merry Wives of Windsor
ACT 4. SC. 2

MISTRESS FORD, calling offstage 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?
MISTRESS FORD 170Why, 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
175 fortune-telling. She works by charms, by spells, by
 th’ figure, and such daubery as this is, beyond our
 element. We know nothing.— Come down, you
 witch, you hag, you! Come down, I say!
Ford seizes a cudgel.
MISTRESS FORD Nay, good sweet husband!—Good gentlemen,
180 let him not strike the old woman.

Enter Mistress Page and Sir John Falstaff disguised
as an old woman.


MISTRESS PAGE Come, Mother Pratt; come, give me
 your hand.
FORD I’ll pratt her. (He beats Falstaff.) Out of my
 door, you witch, you rag, you baggage, you polecat,
185 you runnion! Out, out! I’ll conjure you, I’ll
 fortune-tell you!Falstaff exits.
MISTRESS PAGE Are you not ashamed? I think you have
 killed the poor woman.
MISTRESS FORD Nay, he will do it.—’Tis a goodly credit
190 for you.
FORD Hang her, witch!
SIR HUGH 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 her muffler.
FORD 195Will 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.

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The Merry Wives of Windsor
ACT 4. SC. 3

PAGE Let’s obey his humor a little further. Come,
200 gentlemen.
Ford, Page, Caius, Sir Hugh, and Shallow exit.
MISTRESS PAGE Trust me, he beat him most pitifully.
MISTRESS FORD Nay, by th’ Mass, that he did not; he
 beat him most unpitifully, methought.
MISTRESS PAGE I’ll have the cudgel hallowed and hung
205 o’er the altar. It hath done meritorious service.
MISTRESS FORD What think you? May we, with the
 warrant of womanhood and the witness of a good
 conscience, pursue him with any further revenge?
MISTRESS PAGE The spirit of wantonness is, sure,
210 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.
MISTRESS FORD Shall we tell our husbands how we
 have served him?
MISTRESS PAGE 215Yes, 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.
MISTRESS FORD 220I’ll warrant they’ll have him publicly
 shamed, and methinks there would be no period to
 the jest should he not be publicly shamed.
MISTRESS PAGE Come, to the forge with it, then shape
 it. I would not have things cool.
They exit.