The Merry Wives of Windsor

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Act III, Scene 3

A room in FORD’S house.

       
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[Enter MISTRESS FORD and MISTRESS PAGE]

[Enter Servants with a basket]

  • 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 1415
    it among the whitsters in Datchet-mead, and there
    empty it in the muddy ditch close by the Thames side.
  • Mistress Ford. I ha' told them over and over; they lack no
    direction. Be gone, and come when you are called. 1420

[Exeunt Servants]

[Enter ROBIN]

  • Robin. My master, Sir John, is come in at your back-door, 1425
    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 1430
    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. 1435
    [Exit ROBIN]
    Mistress Page, remember you your cue.

[Exit]

  • Mistress Ford. Go to, then: we'll use this unwholesome humidity, 1440
    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 1445
    period of my ambition: O this blessed hour!
  • 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 1450
    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 1455
    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 1460
    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. 1465
  • 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 1470
    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 1475
    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. 1480
  • 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. 1485
  • 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! 1490
  • Mistress Page. O Mistress Ford, what have you done? You're shamed,
    you're overthrown, you're undone for ever!
  • Mistress Page. O well-a-day, Mistress Ford! having an honest man
    to your husband, to give him such cause of suspicion! 1495
  • Mistress Page. What cause of suspicion! Out pon you! how am I
    mistook in you!
  • Mistress Page. Your husband's coming hither, woman, with all the 1500
    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 Page. Pray heaven it be not so, that you have such a man 1505
    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 1510
    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 1515
    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 1520
    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? 1525
  • 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. 1530
    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! 1535
    [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. 1540

[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. 1545
  • 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. 1550
    [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. 1555
    [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. 1560

[Exit]

  • 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. 1565

[Exeunt PAGE, DOCTOR CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS]

  • 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 1570
    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. 1575
  • 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 1580
    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? 1585
  • 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. 1590
  • 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! 1600
  • 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. 1605
  • 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.
  • 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. 1615
  • 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. 1620
  • 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. 1625

[Exeunt]

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