The Merry Wives of Windsor

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Act II, Scene 1

Before PAGE’S house.

       
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[Enter MISTRESS PAGE, with a letter]

  • Mistress Page. What, have I scaped love-letters in the holiday-
    time of my beauty, and am I now a subject for them?
    Let me see. 570
    [Reads]
    'Ask me no reason why I love you; for though
    Love use Reason for his physician, he admits him
    not for his counsellor. You are not young, no more
    am I; go to then, there's sympathy: you are merry, 575
    so am I; ha, ha! then there's more sympathy: you
    love sack, and so do I; would you desire better
    sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page,—at
    the least, if the love of soldier can suffice,—
    that I love thee. I will not say, pity me; 'tis 580
    not a soldier-like phrase: but I say, love me. By me,
    Thine own true knight,
    By day or night,
    Or any kind of light,
    With all his might 585
    For thee to fight, JOHN FALSTAFF'
    What a Herod of Jewry is this! O wicked
    world! One that is well-nigh worn to pieces with
    age to show himself a young gallant! What an
    unweighed behavior hath this Flemish drunkard 590
    picked—with the devil's name!—out of my
    conversation, that he dares in this manner assay me?
    Why, he hath not been thrice in my company! What
    should I say to him? I was then frugal of my
    mirth: Heaven forgive me! Why, I'll exhibit a bill 595
    in the parliament for the putting down of men. How
    shall I be revenged on him? for revenged I will be,
    as sure as his guts are made of puddings.

[Enter MISTRESS FORD]

  • Mistress Ford. Mistress Page! trust me, I was going to your house. 600
  • Mistress Page. And, trust me, I was coming to you. You look very
    ill.
  • Mistress Ford. Nay, I'll ne'er believe that; I have to show to the contrary.
  • Mistress Ford. Well, I do then; yet I say I could show you to the 605
    contrary. O Mistress Page, give me some counsel!
  • Mistress Ford. O woman, if it were not for one trifling respect, I
    could come to such honour!
  • Mistress Page. Hang the trifle, woman! take the honour. What is 610
    it? dispense with trifles; what is it?
  • Mistress Ford. If I would but go to hell for an eternal moment or so,
    I could be knighted.
  • Mistress Page. What? thou liest! Sir Alice Ford! These knights
    will hack; and so thou shouldst not alter the 615
    article of thy gentry.
  • Mistress Ford. We burn daylight: here, read, read; perceive how I
    might be knighted. I shall think the worse of fat
    men, as long as I have an eye to make difference of
    men's liking: and yet he would not swear; praised 620
    women's modesty; and gave such orderly and
    well-behaved reproof to all uncomeliness, that I
    would have sworn his disposition would have gone to
    the truth of his words; but they do no more adhere
    and keep place together than the Hundredth Psalm to 625
    the tune of 'Green Sleeves.' What tempest, I trow,
    threw this whale, with so many tuns of oil in his
    belly, ashore at Windsor? How shall I be revenged
    on him? I think the best way were to entertain him
    with hope, till the wicked fire of lust have melted 630
    him in his own grease. Did you ever hear the like?
  • Mistress Page. Letter for letter, but that the name of Page and
    Ford differs! To thy great comfort in this mystery
    of ill opinions, here's the twin-brother of thy
    letter: but let thine inherit first; for, I 635
    protest, mine never shall. I warrant he hath a
    thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for
    different names—sure, more,—and these are of the
    second edition: he will print them, out of doubt;
    for he cares not what he puts into the press, when 640
    he would put us two. I had rather be a giantess,
    and lie under Mount Pelion. Well, I will find you
    twenty lascivious turtles ere one chaste man.
  • Mistress Ford. Why, this is the very same; the very hand, the very
    words. What doth he think of us? 645
  • Mistress Page. Nay, I know not: it makes me almost ready to
    wrangle with mine own honesty. I'll entertain
    myself like one that I am not acquainted withal;
    for, sure, unless he know some strain in me, that I
    know not myself, he would never have boarded me in this fury. 650
  • Mistress Ford. 'Boarding,' call you it? I'll be sure to keep him
    above deck.
  • Mistress Page. So will I. if he come under my hatches, I'll never
    to sea again. Let's be revenged on him: let's
    appoint him a meeting; give him a show of comfort in 655
    his suit and lead him on with a fine-baited delay,
    till he hath pawned his horses to mine host of the Garter.
  • Mistress Ford. Nay, I will consent to act any villany against him,
    that may not sully the chariness of our honesty. O,
    that my husband saw this letter! it would give 660
    eternal food to his jealousy.
  • Mistress Page. Why, look where he comes; and my good man too: he's
    as far from jealousy as I am from giving him cause;
    and that I hope is an unmeasurable distance.
  • Mistress Page. Let's consult together against this greasy knight.
    Come hither.

[They retire]

[Enter FORD with PISTOL, and PAGE with NYM]

  • Ford. Well, I hope it be not so. 670
  • Pistol. Hope is a curtal dog in some affairs:
    Sir John affects thy wife.
  • Ford. Why, sir, my wife is not young.
  • Pistol. He wooes both high and low, both rich and poor,
    Both young and old, one with another, Ford; 675
    He loves the gallimaufry: Ford, perpend.
  • Ford. Love my wife!
  • Pistol. With liver burning hot. Prevent, or go thou,
    Like Sir Actaeon he, with Ringwood at thy heels:
    O, odious is the name! 680
  • Ford. What name, sir?
  • Pistol. The horn, I say. Farewell.
    Take heed, have open eye, for thieves do foot by night:
    Take heed, ere summer comes or cuckoo-birds do sing.
    Away, Sir Corporal Nym! 685
    Believe it, Page; he speaks sense.

[Exit]

  • Ford. [Aside] I will be patient; I will find out this.
  • Nym. [To PAGE] And this is true; I like not the humour
    of lying. He hath wronged me in some humours: I 690
    should have borne the humoured letter to her; but I
    have a sword and it shall bite upon my necessity.
    He loves your wife; there's the short and the long.
    My name is Corporal Nym; I speak and I avouch; 'tis
    true: my name is Nym and Falstaff loves your wife. 695
    Adieu. I love not the humour of bread and cheese,
    and there's the humour of it. Adieu.

[Exit]

  • Page. 'The humour of it,' quoth a'! here's a fellow
    frights English out of his wits. 700
  • Ford. I will seek out Falstaff.
  • Page. I never heard such a drawling, affecting rogue.
  • Ford. If I do find it: well.
  • Page. I will not believe such a Cataian, though the priest
    o' the town commended him for a true man. 705
  • Ford. 'Twas a good sensible fellow: well.
  • Page. How now, Meg!

[MISTRESS PAGE and MISTRESS FORD come forward]

  • Mistress Ford. How now, sweet Frank! why art thou melancholy? 710
  • Ford. I melancholy! I am not melancholy. Get you home, go.
  • Mistress Ford. Faith, thou hast some crotchets in thy head. Now,
    will you go, Mistress Page?
  • Mistress Page. Have with you. You'll come to dinner, George.
    [Aside to MISTRESS FORD] 715
    Look who comes yonder: she shall be our messenger
    to this paltry knight.
  • Mistress Ford. [Aside to MISTRESS PAGE] Trust me, I thought on her:
    she'll fit it.

[Enter MISTRESS QUICKLY]

  • Mistress Page. Go in with us and see: we have an hour's talk with
    you.

[Exeunt MISTRESS PAGE, MISTRESS FORD, and MISTRESS QUICKLY]

  • Page. How now, Master Ford!
  • Ford. You heard what this knave told me, did you not?
  • Page. Yes: and you heard what the other told me?
  • Ford. Do you think there is truth in them?
  • Page. Hang 'em, slaves! I do not think the knight would 730
    offer it: but these that accuse him in his intent
    towards our wives are a yoke of his discarded men;
    very rogues, now they be out of service.
  • Ford. Were they his men?
  • Page. Marry, were they. 735
  • Ford. I like it never the better for that. Does he lie at
    the Garter?
  • Page. Ay, marry, does he. If he should intend this voyage
    towards my wife, I would turn her loose to him; and
    what he gets more of her than sharp words, let it 740
    lie on my head.
  • Ford. I do not misdoubt my wife; but I would be loath to
    turn them together. A man may be too confident: I
    would have nothing lie on my head: I cannot be thus satisfied.
  • Page. Look where my ranting host of the Garter comes: 745
    there is either liquor in his pate or money in his
    purse when he looks so merrily.
    [Enter Host]
    How now, mine host!
  • Host. How now, bully-rook! thou'rt a gentleman. 750
    Cavaleiro-justice, I say!

[Enter SHALLOW]

  • Robert Shallow. I follow, mine host, I follow. Good even and
    twenty, good Master Page! Master Page, will you go
    with us? we have sport in hand. 755
  • Host. Tell him, cavaleiro-justice; tell him, bully-rook.
  • Robert Shallow. Sir, there is a fray to be fought between Sir Hugh
    the Welsh priest and Caius the French doctor.
  • Ford. Good mine host o' the Garter, a word with you.

[Drawing him aside]

  • Host. What sayest thou, my bully-rook?
  • Robert Shallow. [To PAGE] Will you go with us to behold it? My
    merry host hath had the measuring of their weapons;
    and, I think, hath appointed them contrary places;
    for, believe me, I hear the parson is no jester. 765
    Hark, I will tell you what our sport shall be.

[They converse apart]

  • Host. Hast thou no suit against my knight, my
    guest-cavaleire?
  • Ford. None, I protest: but I'll give you a pottle of 770
    burnt sack to give me recourse to him and tell him
    my name is Brook; only for a jest.
  • Host. My hand, bully; thou shalt have egress and regress;
    —said I well?—and thy name shall be Brook. It is
    a merry knight. Will you go, An-heires? 775
  • Page. I have heard the Frenchman hath good skill in
    his rapier.
  • Robert Shallow. Tut, sir, I could have told you more. In these times
    you stand on distance, your passes, stoccadoes, and 780
    I know not what: 'tis the heart, Master Page; 'tis
    here, 'tis here. I have seen the time, with my long
    sword I would have made you four tall fellows skip like rats.
  • Host. Here, boys, here, here! shall we wag?
  • Page. Have with you. I would rather hear them scold than fight. 785

[Exeunt Host, SHALLOW, and PAGE]

  • Ford. Though Page be a secure fool, an stands so firmly
    on his wife's frailty, yet I cannot put off my
    opinion so easily: she was in his company at Page's
    house; and what they made there, I know not. Well, 790
    I will look further into't: and I have a disguise
    to sound Falstaff. If I find her honest, I lose not
    my labour; if she be otherwise, 'tis labour well bestowed.

[Exit]

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