The Merry Wives of Windsor

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Act IV, Scene 4

A room in FORD’S house.

       
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[Enter PAGE, FORD, MISTRESS PAGE, MISTRESS FORD,] [p]and SIR HUGH EVANS]

  • Sir Hugh Evans. 'Tis one of the best discretions of a 'oman as ever
    I did look upon.
  • Page. And did he send you both these letters at an instant?
  • Ford. Pardon me, wife. Henceforth do what thou wilt; 2200
    I rather will suspect the sun with cold
    Than thee with wantonness: now doth thy honour stand
    In him that was of late an heretic,
    As firm as faith.
  • Page. 'Tis well, 'tis well; no more: 2205
    Be not as extreme in submission
    As in offence.
    But let our plot go forward: let our wives
    Yet once again, to make us public sport,
    Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow, 2210
    Where we may take him and disgrace him for it.
  • Ford. There is no better way than that they spoke of.
  • Page. How? to send him word they'll meet him in the park
    at midnight? Fie, fie! he'll never come.
  • Sir Hugh Evans. You say he has been thrown in the rivers and has 2215
    been grievously peaten as an old 'oman: methinks
    there should be terrors in him that he should not
    come; methinks his flesh is punished, he shall have
    no desires.
  • Page. So think I too. 2220
  • Mistress Ford. Devise but how you'll use him when he comes,
    And let us two devise to bring him thither.
  • Mistress Page. There is an old tale goes that Herne the hunter,
    Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest,
    Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight, 2225
    Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns;
    And there he blasts the tree and takes the cattle
    And makes milch-kine yield blood and shakes a chain
    In a most hideous and dreadful manner:
    You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know 2230
    The superstitious idle-headed eld
    Received and did deliver to our age
    This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.
  • Page. Why, yet there want not many that do fear
    In deep of night to walk by this Herne's oak: 2235
    But what of this?
  • Mistress Ford. Marry, this is our device;
    That Falstaff at that oak shall meet with us.
  • Page. Well, let it not be doubted but he'll come:
    And in this shape when you have brought him thither, 2240
    What shall be done with him? what is your plot?
  • Mistress Page. That likewise have we thought upon, and thus:
    Nan Page my daughter and my little son
    And three or four more of their growth we'll dress
    Like urchins, ouphes and fairies, green and white, 2245
    With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads,
    And rattles in their hands: upon a sudden,
    As Falstaff, she and I, are newly met,
    Let them from forth a sawpit rush at once
    With some diffused song: upon their sight, 2250
    We two in great amazedness will fly:
    Then let them all encircle him about
    And, fairy-like, to-pinch the unclean knight,
    And ask him why, that hour of fairy revel,
    In their so sacred paths he dares to tread 2255
    In shape profane.
  • Mistress Ford. And till he tell the truth,
    Let the supposed fairies pinch him sound
    And burn him with their tapers.
  • Mistress Page. The truth being known, 2260
    We'll all present ourselves, dis-horn the spirit,
    And mock him home to Windsor.
  • Ford. The children must
    Be practised well to this, or they'll ne'er do't.
  • Sir Hugh Evans. I will teach the children their behaviors; and I 2265
    will be like a jack-an-apes also, to burn the
    knight with my taber.
  • Ford. That will be excellent. I'll go and buy them vizards.
  • Mistress Page. My Nan shall be the queen of all the fairies,
    Finely attired in a robe of white. 2270
  • Page. That silk will I go buy.
    [Aside]
    And in that time
    Shall Master Slender steal my Nan away
    And marry her at Eton. Go send to Falstaff straight. 2275
  • Ford. Nay I'll to him again in name of Brook
    He'll tell me all his purpose: sure, he'll come.
  • Mistress Page. Fear not you that. Go get us properties
    And tricking for our fairies.
  • Sir Hugh Evans. Let us about it: it is admirable pleasures and fery 2280
    honest knaveries.

[Exeunt PAGE, FORD, and SIR HUGH EVANS]

  • Mistress Page. Go, Mistress Ford,
    Send quickly to Sir John, to know his mind.
    [Exit MISTRESS FORD] 2285
    I'll to the doctor: he hath my good will,
    And none but he, to marry with Nan Page.
    That Slender, though well landed, is an idiot;
    And he my husband best of all affects.
    The doctor is well money'd, and his friends 2290
    Potent at court: he, none but he, shall have her,
    Though twenty thousand worthier come to crave her.

[Exit]

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