London. A street.
(Hostess Quickly; Fang; Snare; Sir John Falstaff; Bardolph; Page; Lord Chief Justice; Lord Chief Justice’s Men; Master Gower; Officers)
Mistress Quickly sets Fang and Snare to arrest Falstaff for debt, but he, Bardolph and the page fight them off. The Lord Chief Justice and his men enter and stop the fray; the chief Justice refuses to believe a word Falstaff says in his own defense and orders him to settle the debt. As the Chief Justice is distracted by a message, Falstaff gives his word to pay up while actually borrowing more from Mistress Quickly. She invites him to dinner and offers to have Doll Tearsheet, his favorite whore, join him. The Lord Chief Justice tells Falstaff that he ought to have been long gone, and that he has orders to recruit more soldiers as he marches north. (80 lines)
Enter Hostess Quickly of the Tavern and an officer or two—Fang and Snare, Snare lagging behind.
Master Fang, have you ent’red the action?
It is ent’red.
Where’s your yeoman? Is’t a lusty yeoman?
Will ’a stand to’t?
Sirrah! Where’s Snare?
O Lord, ay! Good Master Snare.
Snare, we must arrest Sir John Falstaff.
Yea, good Master Snare, I have ent’red him and all.
It may chance cost some of us our lives, for he will stab.
Alas the day, take heed of him! He stabb’d me in mine own house, most beastly, in good faith. ’A cares not what mischief he does, if his weapon be out. He will foin like any devil, he will spare neither man, woman, nor child.
If I can close with him, I care not for his thrust.
No, nor I neither, I’ll be at your elbow.
And I but fist him once, and ’a come but within my vice—
I am undone by his going, I warrant you, he’s an infinitive thing upon my score. Good Master Fang, hold him sure. Good Master Snare, let him not scape. ’a comes continuantly to Pie-corner (saving your manhoods) to buy a saddle, and he is indited to dinner to the Lubber’s Head in Lumbert street, to Master Smooth’s the silk-man. I pray you, since my exion is ent’red and my case so openly known to the world, let him be brought in to his answer. A hundred mark is a long one for a poor lone woman to bear, and I have borne, and borne, and borne, and have been fubb’d off, and fubb’d off, and fubb’d off, from this day to that day, that it is a shame to be thought on. There is no honesty in such dealing, unless a woman should be made an ass and a beast, to bear every knave’s wrong.
Enter Sir John Falstaff and Bardolph and the Boy Page.
Yonder he comes, and that arrant malmsey-nose knave, Bardolph, with him. Do your offices, do your offices, Master Fang and Master Snare, do me, do me, do me your offices.
How now, whose mare’s dead? What’s the matter?
I arrest you at the suit of Mistress Quickly.
Away, varlets! Draw, Bardolph, cut me off the villain’s head, throw the quean in the channel.
Throw me in the channel? I’ll throw thee in the channel. Wilt thou? Wilt thou? Thou bastardly rogue! Murder, murder! Ah, thou honeysuckle villain! Wilt thou kill God’s officers and the King’s? Ah, thou honeyseed rogue! Thou art a honeyseed, a man-queller, and a woman-queller.
Keep them off, Bardolph.
A rescue! A rescue!
Good people, bring a rescue or two.
The Page attacks her.
Thou wo’t, wo’t thou? Thou wo’t, wo’t ta? Do, do, thou rogue! Do, thou hempseed!
Away, you scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe.
Enter Lord Chief Justice and his Men.
What is the matter? Keep the peace here, ho!
Good my lord, be good to me; I beseech you stand to me.
How now, Sir John? What are you brawling here?
Doth this become your place, your time, and business?
You should have been well on your way to York.
Stand from him, fellow, wherefore hang’st thou upon him?
O my most worshipful lord, and’t please your Grace, I am a poor widow of Eastcheap, and he is arrested at my suit.
For what sum?
It is more than for some, my lord, it is for all I have. He hath eaten me out of house and home, he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his, but I will have some of it out again, or I will ride thee a’ nights like the mare.
I think I am as like to ride the mare, if I have any vantage of ground to get up.
How comes this, Sir John? What man of good temper would endure this tempest of exclamation? Are you not asham’d to enforce a poor widow to so rough a course to come by her own?
What is the gross sum that I owe thee?
Marry, if thou wert an honest man, thyself and the money too. Thou didst swear to me upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in my Dauphin chamber, at the round table by a sea-coal fire, upon Wednesday in Wheeson week, when the Prince broke thy head for liking his father to a singing-man of Windsor, thou didst swear to me then, as I was washing thy wound, to marry me and make me my lady thy wife. Canst thou deny it? Did not goodwife Keech, the butcher’s wife, come in then and call me gossip Quickly? Coming in to borrow a mess of vinegar, telling us she had a good dish of prawns, whereby thou didst desire to eat some, whereby I told thee they were ill for a green wound? And didst thou not, when she was gone down stairs, desire me to be no more so familiarity with such poor people, saying that ere long they should call me madam? And didst thou not kiss me, and bid me fetch thee thirty shillings? I put thee now to thy book-oath. Deny it if thou canst.
My lord, this is a poor mad soul, and she says up and down the town that her eldest son is like you. She hath been in good case, and the truth is, poverty hath distracted her. But for these foolish officers, I beseech you I may have redress against them.
Sir John, Sir John, I am well acquainted with your manner of wrenching the true cause the false way. It is not a confident brow, nor the throng of words that come with such more than impudent sauciness from you, can thrust me from a level consideration. You have, as it appears to me, practic’d upon the easy-yielding spirit of this woman, and made her serve your uses both in purse and in person.
Yea, in truth, my lord.
Pray thee peace. Pay her the debt you owe her, and unpay the villainy you have done with her. The one you may do with sterling money, and the other with current repentance.
My lord, I will not undergo this sneap without reply. You call honorable boldness impudent sauciness; if a man will make curtsy and say nothing, he is virtuous. No, my lord, my humble duty rememb’red, I will not be your suitor. I say to you, I do desire deliverance from these officers, being upon hasty employment in the King’s affairs.
You speak as having power to do wrong, but answer in th’ effect of your reputation, and satisfy the poor woman.
Come hither, hostess.
Enter a messenger, Master Gower.
Now, Master Gower, what news?
The King, my lord, and Harry Prince of Wales
Are near at hand. The rest the paper tells.
As I am a gentleman!
Faith, you said so before.
As I am a gentleman! Come, no more words of it.
By this heav’nly ground I tread on, I must be fain to pawn both my plate and the tapestry of my dining-chambers.
Glasses, glasses, is the only drinking, and for thy walls, a pretty slight drollery, or the story of the Prodigal, or the German hunting in waterwork, is worth a thousand of these bed-hangers and these fly-bitten tapestries. Let it be ten pound, if thou canst. Come, and ’twere not for thy humors, there’s not a better wench in England. Go wash thy face, and draw the action. Come, thou must not be in this humor with me, dost not know me? Come, come, I know thou wast set on to this.
Pray thee, Sir John, let it be but twenty nobles. I’ faith, I am loath to pawn my plate, so God save me law!
Let it alone, I’ll make other shift. You’ll be a fool still.
Well, you shall have it, though I pawn my gown. I hope you’ll come to supper. You’ll pay me all together?
Will I live?
Go, with her, with her, hook on, hook on.
Will you have Doll Tearsheet meet you at supper?
No more words, let’s have her.
Exeunt Hostess and Fang, Snare, and Bardolph.
I have heard better news.
What’s the news, my lord?
Where lay the King tonight?
At Basingstoke, my lord.
I hope, my lord, all’s well. What is the news, my lord?
Come all his forces back?
No, fifteen hundred foot, five hundred horse,
Are march’d up to my Lord of Lancaster,
Against Northumberland and the Archbishop.
Comes the King back from Wales, my noble lord?
You shall have letters of me presently. Come, go along with me, good Master Gower.
What’s the matter?
Master Gower, shall I entreat you with me to dinner?
I must wait upon my good lord here, I thank you, good Sir John.
Sir John, you loiter here too long, being you are to take soldiers up in counties as you go.
Will you sup with me, Master Gower?
What foolish master taught you these manners, Sir John?
Master Gower, if they become me not, he was a fool that taught them me. This is the right fencing grace, my lord, tap for tap, and so part fair.
Now the Lord lighten thee! Thou art a great fool.