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The Merry Wives of Windsor

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Act III, Scene 5

A room in the Garter Inn.



  • Falstaff. Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in't.
    [Exit BARDOLPH]
    Have I lived to be carried in a basket, like a 1750
    barrow of butcher's offal, and to be thrown in the
    Thames? Well, if I be served such another trick,
    I'll have my brains ta'en out and buttered, and give
    them to a dog for a new-year's gift. The rogues
    slighted me into the river with as little remorse as 1755
    they would have drowned a blind bitch's puppies,
    fifteen i' the litter: and you may know by my size
    that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking; if the
    bottom were as deep as hell, I should down. I had
    been drowned, but that the shore was shelvy and 1760
    shallow,—a death that I abhor; for the water swells
    a man; and what a thing should I have been when I
    had been swelled! I should have been a mountain of mummy.

[Re-enter BARDOLPH with sack]

  • Bardolph. Here's Mistress Quickly, sir, to speak with you. 1765
  • Falstaff. Let me pour in some sack to the Thames water; for my
    belly's as cold as if I had swallowed snowballs for
    pills to cool the reins. Call her in.


  • Hostess Quickly. By your leave; I cry you mercy: give your worship
    good morrow.
  • Falstaff. Take away these chalices. Go brew me a pottle of
    sack finely.
  • Falstaff. Simple of itself; I'll no pullet-sperm in my brewage.
    [Exit BARDOLPH]
    How now!
  • Falstaff. Mistress Ford! I have had ford enough; I was thrown 1780
    into the ford; I have my belly full of ford.
  • Hostess Quickly. Alas the day! good heart, that was not her fault:
    she does so take on with her men; they mistook their erection.
  • Falstaff. So did I mine, to build upon a foolish woman's promise.
  • Hostess Quickly. Well, she laments, sir, for it, that it would yearn 1785
    your heart to see it. Her husband goes this morning
    a-birding; she desires you once more to come to her
    between eight and nine: I must carry her word
    quickly: she'll make you amends, I warrant you.
  • Falstaff. Well, I will visit her: tell her so; and bid her 1790
    think what a man is: let her consider his frailty,
    and then judge of my merit.
  • Falstaff. Do so. Between nine and ten, sayest thou?
  • Falstaff. Well, be gone: I will not miss her.


  • Falstaff. I marvel I hear not of Master Brook; he sent me word
    to stay within: I like his money well. O, here he comes. 1800

[Enter FORD]

  • Ford. Bless you, sir!
  • Falstaff. Now, master Brook, you come to know what hath passed
    between me and Ford's wife?
  • Ford. That, indeed, Sir John, is my business. 1805
  • Falstaff. Master Brook, I will not lie to you: I was at her
    house the hour she appointed me.
  • Ford. And sped you, sir?
  • Falstaff. Very ill-favoredly, Master Brook.
  • Ford. How so, sir? Did she change her determination? 1810
  • Falstaff. No, Master Brook; but the peaking Cornuto her
    husband, Master Brook, dwelling in a continual
    'larum of jealousy, comes me in the instant of our
    encounter, after we had embraced, kissed, protested,
    and, as it were, spoke the prologue of our comedy; 1815
    and at his heels a rabble of his companions, thither
    provoked and instigated by his distemper, and,
    forsooth, to search his house for his wife's love.
  • Ford. What, while you were there?
  • Ford. And did he search for you, and could not find you?
  • Falstaff. You shall hear. As good luck would have it, comes
    in one Mistress Page; gives intelligence of Ford's
    approach; and, in her invention and Ford's wife's
    distraction, they conveyed me into a buck-basket. 1825
  • Ford. A buck-basket!
  • Falstaff. By the Lord, a buck-basket! rammed me in with foul
    shirts and smocks, socks, foul stockings, greasy
    napkins; that, Master Brook, there was the rankest
    compound of villanous smell that ever offended nostril. 1830
  • Ford. And how long lay you there?
  • Falstaff. Nay, you shall hear, Master Brook, what I have
    suffered to bring this woman to evil for your good.
    Being thus crammed in the basket, a couple of Ford's
    knaves, his hinds, were called forth by their 1835
    mistress to carry me in the name of foul clothes to
    Datchet-lane: they took me on their shoulders; met
    the jealous knave their master in the door, who
    asked them once or twice what they had in their
    basket: I quaked for fear, lest the lunatic knave 1840
    would have searched it; but fate, ordaining he
    should be a cuckold, held his hand. Well: on went he
    for a search, and away went I for foul clothes. But
    mark the sequel, Master Brook: I suffered the pangs
    of three several deaths; first, an intolerable 1845
    fright, to be detected with a jealous rotten
    bell-wether; next, to be compassed, like a good
    bilbo, in the circumference of a peck, hilt to
    point, heel to head; and then, to be stopped in,
    like a strong distillation, with stinking clothes 1850
    that fretted in their own grease: think of that,—a
    man of my kidney,—think of that,—that am as subject
    to heat as butter; a man of continual dissolution
    and thaw: it was a miracle to scape suffocation.
    And in the height of this bath, when I was more than 1855
    half stewed in grease, like a Dutch dish, to be
    thrown into the Thames, and cooled, glowing hot,
    in that surge, like a horse-shoe; think of
    that,—hissing hot,—think of that, Master Brook.
  • Ford. In good sadness, I am sorry that for my sake you 1860
    have sufferd all this. My suit then is desperate;
    you'll undertake her no more?
  • Falstaff. Master Brook, I will be thrown into Etna, as I have
    been into Thames, ere I will leave her thus. Her
    husband is this morning gone a-birding: I have 1865
    received from her another embassy of meeting; 'twixt
    eight and nine is the hour, Master Brook.
  • Ford. 'Tis past eight already, sir.
  • Falstaff. Is it? I will then address me to my appointment.
    Come to me at your convenient leisure, and you shall 1870
    know how I speed; and the conclusion shall be
    crowned with your enjoying her. Adieu. You shall
    have her, Master Brook; Master Brook, you shall
    cuckold Ford.


  • Ford. Hum! ha! is this a vision? is this a dream? do I
    sleep? Master Ford awake! awake, Master Ford!
    there's a hole made in your best coat, Master Ford.
    This 'tis to be married! this 'tis to have linen
    and buck-baskets! Well, I will proclaim myself 1880
    what I am: I will now take the lecher; he is at my
    house; he cannot 'scape me; 'tis impossible he
    should; he cannot creep into a halfpenny purse,
    nor into a pepper-box: but, lest the devil that
    guides him should aid him, I will search 1885
    impossible places. Though what I am I cannot avoid,
    yet to be what I would not shall not make me tame:
    if I have horns to make one mad, let the proverb go
    with me: I'll be horn-mad.