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The Merry Wives of Windsor

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Act II, Scene 2

A room in the Garter Inn.



  • Falstaff. I will not lend thee a penny.
  • Pistol. Why, then the world's mine oyster.
    Which I with sword will open.
  • Falstaff. Not a penny. I have been content, sir, you should
    lay my countenance to pawn; I have grated upon my 800
    good friends for three reprieves for you and your
    coach-fellow Nym; or else you had looked through
    the grate, like a geminy of baboons. I am damned in
    hell for swearing to gentlemen my friends, you were
    good soldiers and tall fellows; and when Mistress 805
    Bridget lost the handle of her fan, I took't upon
    mine honour thou hadst it not.
  • Pistol. Didst not thou share? hadst thou not fifteen pence?
  • Falstaff. Reason, you rogue, reason: thinkest thou I'll
    endanger my soul gratis? At a word, hang no more 810
    about me, I am no gibbet for you. Go. A short knife
    and a throng! To your manor of Pickt-hatch! Go.
    You'll not bear a letter for me, you rogue! you
    stand upon your honour! Why, thou unconfinable
    baseness, it is as much as I can do to keep the 815
    terms of my honour precise: I, I, I myself
    sometimes, leaving the fear of God on the left hand
    and hiding mine honour in my necessity, am fain to
    shuffle, to hedge and to lurch; and yet you, rogue,
    will ensconce your rags, your cat-a-mountain 820
    looks, your red-lattice phrases, and your
    bold-beating oaths, under the shelter of your
    honour! You will not do it, you!
  • Pistol. I do relent: what would thou more of man?

[Enter ROBIN]

  • Robin. Sir, here's a woman would speak with you.


  • Hostess Quickly. I'll be sworn,
    As my mother was, the first hour I was born.
  • Falstaff. I do believe the swearer. What with me? 835
  • Falstaff. Two thousand, fair woman: and I'll vouchsafe thee
    the hearing.
  • Hostess Quickly. There is one Mistress Ford, sir:—I pray, come a
    little nearer this ways:—I myself dwell with master 840
    Doctor Caius,—
  • Falstaff. Well, on: Mistress Ford, you say,—
  • Hostess Quickly. Your worship says very true: I pray your worship,
    come a little nearer this ways.
  • Falstaff. I warrant thee, nobody hears; mine own people, mine 845
    own people.
  • Falstaff. Well, Mistress Ford; what of her?
  • Hostess Quickly. Why, sir, she's a good creature. Lord Lord! your
    worship's a wanton! Well, heaven forgive you and all 850
    of us, I pray!
  • Falstaff. Mistress Ford; come, Mistress Ford,—
  • Hostess Quickly. Marry, this is the short and the long of it; you
    have brought her into such a canaries as 'tis
    wonderful. The best courtier of them all, when the 855
    court lay at Windsor, could never have brought her
    to such a canary. Yet there has been knights, and
    lords, and gentlemen, with their coaches, I warrant
    you, coach after coach, letter after letter, gift
    after gift; smelling so sweetly, all musk, and so 860
    rushling, I warrant you, in silk and gold; and in
    such alligant terms; and in such wine and sugar of
    the best and the fairest, that would have won any
    woman's heart; and, I warrant you, they could never
    get an eye-wink of her: I had myself twenty angels 865
    given me this morning; but I defy all angels, in
    any such sort, as they say, but in the way of
    honesty: and, I warrant you, they could never get
    her so much as sip on a cup with the proudest of
    them all: and yet there has been earls, nay, which 870
    is more, pensioners; but, I warrant you, all is one with her.
  • Falstaff. But what says she to me? be brief, my good
  • Hostess Quickly. Marry, she hath received your letter, for the which
    she thanks you a thousand times; and she gives you 875
    to notify that her husband will be absence from his
    house between ten and eleven.
  • Hostess Quickly. Ay, forsooth; and then you may come and see the
    picture, she says, that you wot of: Master Ford, 880
    her husband, will be from home. Alas! the sweet
    woman leads an ill life with him: he's a very
    jealousy man: she leads a very frampold life with
    him, good heart.
  • Falstaff. Ten and eleven. Woman, commend me to her; I will 885
    not fail her.
  • Hostess Quickly. Why, you say well. But I have another messenger to
    your worship. Mistress Page hath her hearty
    commendations to you too: and let me tell you in
    your ear, she's as fartuous a civil modest wife, and 890
    one, I tell you, that will not miss you morning nor
    evening prayer, as any is in Windsor, whoe'er be the
    other: and she bade me tell your worship that her
    husband is seldom from home; but she hopes there
    will come a time. I never knew a woman so dote upon 895
    a man: surely I think you have charms, la; yes, in truth.
  • Falstaff. Not I, I assure thee: setting the attractions of my
    good parts aside I have no other charms.
  • Falstaff. But, I pray thee, tell me this: has Ford's wife and 900
    Page's wife acquainted each other how they love me?
  • Hostess Quickly. That were a jest indeed! they have not so little
    grace, I hope: that were a trick indeed! but
    Mistress Page would desire you to send her your
    little page, of all loves: her husband has a 905
    marvellous infection to the little page; and truly
    Master Page is an honest man. Never a wife in
    Windsor leads a better life than she does: do what
    she will, say what she will, take all, pay all, go
    to bed when she list, rise when she list, all is as 910
    she will: and truly she deserves it; for if there
    be a kind woman in Windsor, she is one. You must
    send her your page; no remedy.
  • Hostess Quickly. Nay, but do so, then: and, look you, he may come and 915
    go between you both; and in any case have a
    nay-word, that you may know one another's mind, and
    the boy never need to understand any thing; for
    'tis not good that children should know any
    wickedness: old folks, you know, have discretion, 920
    as they say, and know the world.
  • Falstaff. Fare thee well: commend me to them both: there's
    my purse; I am yet thy debtor. Boy, go along with
    this woman.
    [Exeunt MISTRESS QUICKLY and ROBIN] 925
    This news distracts me!
  • Pistol. This punk is one of Cupid's carriers:
    Clap on more sails; pursue; up with your fights:
    Give fire: she is my prize, or ocean whelm them all!


  • Falstaff. Sayest thou so, old Jack? go thy ways; I'll make
    more of thy old body than I have done. Will they
    yet look after thee? Wilt thou, after the expense
    of so much money, be now a gainer? Good body, I
    thank thee. Let them say 'tis grossly done; so it be 935
    fairly done, no matter.


  • Bardolph. Sir John, there's one Master Brook below would fain
    speak with you, and be acquainted with you; and hath
    sent your worship a morning's draught of sack. 940
  • Falstaff. Call him in.
    [Exit BARDOLPH]
    Such Brooks are welcome to me, that o'erflow such 945
    liquor. Ah, ha! Mistress Ford and Mistress Page
    have I encompassed you? go to; via!

[Re-enter BARDOLPH, with FORD disguised]

  • Ford. Bless you, sir!
  • Falstaff. And you, sir! Would you speak with me? 950
  • Ford. I make bold to press with so little preparation upon
  • Falstaff. You're welcome. What's your will? Give us leave, drawer.


  • Ford. Sir, I am a gentleman that have spent much; my name is Brook. 955
  • Falstaff. Good Master Brook, I desire more acquaintance of you.
  • Ford. Good Sir John, I sue for yours: not to charge you;
    for I must let you understand I think myself in
    better plight for a lender than you are: the which
    hath something embolden'd me to this unseasoned 960
    intrusion; for they say, if money go before, all
    ways do lie open.
  • Falstaff. Money is a good soldier, sir, and will on.
  • Ford. Troth, and I have a bag of money here troubles me:
    if you will help to bear it, Sir John, take all, or 965
    half, for easing me of the carriage.
  • Falstaff. Sir, I know not how I may deserve to be your porter.
  • Ford. I will tell you, sir, if you will give me the hearing.
  • Falstaff. Speak, good Master Brook: I shall be glad to be
    your servant. 970
  • Ford. Sir, I hear you are a scholar,—I will be brief
    with you,—and you have been a man long known to me,
    though I had never so good means, as desire, to make
    myself acquainted with you. I shall discover a
    thing to you, wherein I must very much lay open mine 975
    own imperfection: but, good Sir John, as you have
    one eye upon my follies, as you hear them unfolded,
    turn another into the register of your own; that I
    may pass with a reproof the easier, sith you
    yourself know how easy it is to be such an offender. 980
  • Ford. There is a gentlewoman in this town; her husband's
    name is Ford.
  • Ford. I have long loved her, and, I protest to you, 985
    bestowed much on her; followed her with a doting
    observance; engrossed opportunities to meet her;
    fee'd every slight occasion that could but niggardly
    give me sight of her; not only bought many presents
    to give her, but have given largely to many to know 990
    what she would have given; briefly, I have pursued
    her as love hath pursued me; which hath been on the
    wing of all occasions. But whatsoever I have
    merited, either in my mind or, in my means, meed,
    I am sure, I have received none; unless experience 995
    be a jewel that I have purchased at an infinite
    rate, and that hath taught me to say this:
    'Love like a shadow flies when substance love pursues;
    Pursuing that that flies, and flying what pursues.'
  • Falstaff. Have you received no promise of satisfaction at her hands? 1000
  • Falstaff. Have you importuned her to such a purpose?
  • Falstaff. Of what quality was your love, then?
  • Ford. Like a fair house built on another man's ground; so 1005
    that I have lost my edifice by mistaking the place
    where I erected it.
  • Falstaff. To what purpose have you unfolded this to me?
  • Ford. When I have told you that, I have told you all.
    Some say, that though she appear honest to me, yet in 1010
    other places she enlargeth her mirth so far that
    there is shrewd construction made of her. Now, Sir
    John, here is the heart of my purpose: you are a
    gentleman of excellent breeding, admirable
    discourse, of great admittance, authentic in your 1015
    place and person, generally allowed for your many
    war-like, court-like, and learned preparations.
  • Ford. Believe it, for you know it. There is money; spend
    it, spend it; spend more; spend all I have; only 1020
    give me so much of your time in exchange of it, as
    to lay an amiable siege to the honesty of this
    Ford's wife: use your art of wooing; win her to
    consent to you: if any man may, you may as soon as
    any. 1025
  • Falstaff. Would it apply well to the vehemency of your
    affection, that I should win what you would enjoy?
    Methinks you prescribe to yourself very preposterously.
  • Ford. O, understand my drift. She dwells so securely on
    the excellency of her honour, that the folly of my 1030
    soul dares not present itself: she is too bright to
    be looked against. Now, could I could come to her
    with any detection in my hand, my desires had
    instance and argument to commend themselves: I
    could drive her then from the ward of her purity, 1035
    her reputation, her marriage-vow, and a thousand
    other her defences, which now are too too strongly
    embattled against me. What say you to't, Sir John?
  • Falstaff. Master Brook, I will first make bold with your
    money; next, give me your hand; and last, as I am a 1040
    gentleman, you shall, if you will, enjoy Ford's wife.
  • Ford. Want no money, Sir John; you shall want none.
  • Falstaff. Want no Mistress Ford, Master Brook; you shall want 1045
    none. I shall be with her, I may tell you, by her
    own appointment; even as you came in to me, her
    assistant or go-between parted from me: I say I
    shall be with her between ten and eleven; for at
    that time the jealous rascally knave her husband 1050
    will be forth. Come you to me at night; you shall
    know how I speed.
  • Ford. I am blest in your acquaintance. Do you know Ford,
  • Falstaff. Hang him, poor cuckoldly knave! I know him not: 1055
    yet I wrong him to call him poor; they say the
    jealous wittolly knave hath masses of money; for the
    which his wife seems to me well-favored. I will
    use her as the key of the cuckoldly rogue's coffer;
    and there's my harvest-home. 1060
  • Ford. I would you knew Ford, sir, that you might avoid him
    if you saw him.
  • Falstaff. Hang him, mechanical salt-butter rogue! I will
    stare him out of his wits; I will awe him with my
    cudgel: it shall hang like a meteor o'er the 1065
    cuckold's horns. Master Brook, thou shalt know I
    will predominate over the peasant, and thou shalt
    lie with his wife. Come to me soon at night.
    Ford's a knave, and I will aggravate his style;
    thou, Master Brook, shalt know him for knave and 1070
    cuckold. Come to me soon at night.


  • Ford. What a damned Epicurean rascal is this! My heart is
    ready to crack with impatience. Who says this is
    improvident jealousy? my wife hath sent to him; the 1075
    hour is fixed; the match is made. Would any man
    have thought this? See the hell of having a false
    woman! My bed shall be abused, my coffers
    ransacked, my reputation gnawn at; and I shall not
    only receive this villanous wrong, but stand under 1080
    the adoption of abominable terms, and by him that
    does me this wrong. Terms! names! Amaimon sounds
    well; Lucifer, well; Barbason, well; yet they are
    devils' additions, the names of fiends: but
    Cuckold! Wittol!—Cuckold! the devil himself hath 1085
    not such a name. Page is an ass, a secure ass: he
    will trust his wife; he will not be jealous. I will
    rather trust a Fleming with my butter, Parson Hugh
    the Welshman with my cheese, an Irishman with my
    aqua-vitae bottle, or a thief to walk my ambling 1090
    gelding, than my wife with herself; then she plots,
    then she ruminates, then she devises; and what they
    think in their hearts they may effect, they will
    break their hearts but they will effect. God be
    praised for my jealousy! Eleven o'clock the hour. 1095
    I will prevent this, detect my wife, be revenged on
    Falstaff, and laugh at Page. I will about it;
    better three hours too soon than a minute too late.
    Fie, fie, fie! cuckold! cuckold! cuckold!