The Merry Wives of Windsor

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Act IV, Scene 2

A room in FORD’S house.

       
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[Enter 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
    only, Mistress Ford, in the simple 1970
    office of love, but in all the accoutrement,
    complement and ceremony of it. But are you
    sure of your husband now?

[Exit FALSTAFF]

[Enter MISTRESS PAGE]

  • Mistress Page. How now, sweetheart! who's at home besides yourself?
  • Mistress Page. Why, 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 1990
    himself on the forehead, crying, '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 Page. Of 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 his suspicion: but I am glad 2000
    the knight is not here; now he shall see his own foolery.
  • Mistress Page. Why then you are utterly shamed, and he's but a dead 2005
    man. What a woman are you!—Away with him, away
    with him! better shame than murder.
  • Ford. Which way should be go? how should I bestow him?
    Shall I put him into the basket again?

[Re-enter FALSTAFF]

  • Falstaff. No, I'll come no more i' the basket. May I not go
    out ere he come?
  • Mistress Page. Alas, 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? 2015
  • Falstaff. What shall I do? I'll creep up into the chimney.
  • Mistress Ford. There they always use to discharge their
    birding-pieces. Creep into the kiln-hole.
  • Mistress Ford. He will seek there, on my word. Neither press, 2020
    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.
  • Mistress Page. If you go out in your own semblance, you die, Sir 2025
    John. Unless you go out disguised—
  • Mistress Page. Alas the day, I know not! There is no woman's gown
    big enough for him otherwise he might put on a hat,
    a muffler and a kerchief, and so escape. 2030
  • Falstaff. Good hearts, devise something: any extremity rather
    than a mischief.
  • Mistress Ford. My 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 2035
    is: and there's her thrummed hat and her muffler
    too. Run up, Sir John.
  • Mistress Ford. Go, 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 2040
    on the gown the while.

[Exit FALSTAFF]

  • Mistress Ford. I would my husband would meet him in this shape: he
    cannot abide the old woman of Brentford; he swears
    she's a witch; forbade her my house and hath 2045
    threatened to beat her.
  • Mistress Page. Heaven guide him to thy husband's cudgel, and the
    devil guide his cudgel afterwards!
  • Mistress Page. Ah, in good sadness, is he; and talks of the basket 2050
    too, howsoever he hath had intelligence.
  • Mistress Ford. We'll try that; for I'll appoint my men 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 2055
    like the witch of Brentford.
  • Mistress Ford. I'll first direct my men what they shall do with the
    basket. Go up; I'll bring linen for him straight.

[Exit]

  • Mistress Page. Hang him, dishonest varlet! we cannot misuse him enough. 2060
    We'll leave a proof, by that which we will do,
    Wives may be merry, and yet honest too:
    We do not act that often jest and laugh;
    'Tis old, but true, Still swine eat all the draff.

[Exit]

[Re-enter MISTRESS FORD with two Servants]

  • Mistress Ford. Go, sirs, take the basket again on your shoulders:
    your master is hard at door; if he bid you set it
    down, obey him: quickly, dispatch.

[Exit]

[Enter FORD, PAGE, SHALLOW, DOCTOR CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS]

  • Ford. Ay, but if it prove true, Master Page, have you any 2075
    way then to unfool me again? Set down the basket,
    villain! Somebody call my wife. Youth in a basket!
    O you panderly rascals! there's a knot, a ging, a
    pack, a conspiracy against me: now shall the devil
    be shamed. What, wife, I say! Come, come forth! 2080
    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.
  • Ford. So say I too, sir.
    [Re-enter MISTRESS FORD]
    Come hither, Mistress Ford; Mistress Ford the honest
    woman, the modest wife, the virtuous creature, that
    hath the jealous fool to her husband! I suspect 2090
    without cause, mistress, do I?
  • Mistress Ford. Heaven be my witness you do, if you suspect me in
    any dishonesty.
  • Ford. Well said, brazen-face! hold it out. Come forth, sirrah!

[Pulling clothes out of the basket]

  • Ford. I shall find you anon.
  • Sir Hugh Evans. 'Tis unreasonable! Will you take up your wife's
    clothes? Come away. 2100
  • Ford. Empty the basket, I say!
  • Ford. Master 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: 2105
    my intelligence is true; my jealousy is reasonable.
    Pluck me out all the linen.
  • Mistress Ford. If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death.
  • Page. Here's no man.
  • Robert Shallow. By my fidelity, this is not well, Master Ford; this 2110
    wrongs you.
  • Sir Hugh Evans. Master 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. 2115
  • Ford. Help to search my house this one time. If I find
    not what I seek, show no colour for my extremity; let
    me for ever be your table-sport; let them say of
    me, 'As jealous as Ford, Chat searched a hollow
    walnut for his wife's leman.' Satisfy me once more; 2120
    once more search with me.
  • Mistress Ford. 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?
  • 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
    fortune-telling. She works by charms, by spells, 2130
    by the figure, and such daubery as this is, beyond
    our element we know nothing. Come down, you witch,
    you hag, you; come down, I say!
  • Mistress Ford. Nay, good, sweet husband! Good gentlemen, let him
    not strike the old woman. 2135

[Re-enter FALSTAFF in woman's clothes, and MISTRESS PAGE]

  • Ford. I'll prat her.
    [Beating him]
    Out of my door, you witch, you hag, you baggage, you 2140
    polecat, you runyon! out, out! I'll conjure you,
    I'll fortune-tell you.

[Exit FALSTAFF]

  • Mistress Page. Are you not ashamed? I think you have killed the
    poor woman. 2145
  • Mistress Ford. Nay, he will do it. 'Tis a goodly credit for you.
  • Ford. Hang her, witch!
  • Sir Hugh Evans. By the 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 his muffler. 2150
  • Ford. Will 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.
  • Page. Let's obey his humour a little further: come,
    gentlemen. 2155

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

  • Mistress Ford. Nay, by the mass, that he did not; he beat him most
    unpitifully, methought.
  • Mistress Page. I'll have the cudgel hallowed and hung o'er the 2160
    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, scared out of 2165
    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. Yes, by all means; if it be but to scrape the 2170
    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. I'll warrant they'll have him publicly shamed: and 2175
    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.

[Exeunt]

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