Windsor. A street in front of Page’s house.
(Mistress Margaret Page; Mistress Ford; Ford; Pistol; Page; Nym; Mistress Quickly; Host; Shallow)
Mistress Page rereads Falstaff’s letter, outraged at the man’s presumption. Her friend Mistress Ford arrives, having herself received such a letter, and comparing them they realize that they are exactly the same, with the exception of their names. The two plan to revenge themselves on him and go in to discuss how. Ford arrives home, accompanied by Pistol, who is warning him of Falstaff’s designs on his wife. Nym in the meantime informs Page of the same. Ford believes Pistol while Page is skeptical of Nym. The two wives decide to use Mistress Quickly as their messenger to Falstaff. Page and Ford discuss the accusations brought against Falstaff; Page points out that the informers are servants Falstaff has sacked, but Ford is still suspicious. The Host arrives in a jolly mood to tell Ford and Page about the upcoming duel between the Welsh parson and the French doctor. Ford, wanting to find out what Falstaff is up to, bribes the Host to introduce him to the knight under the name of Brook. (91 lines)
Enter Mistress Page, reading of a letter.
What, have I scap’d love-letters in the holiday-time of my beauty, and am I now a subject for them? Let me see.
“Ask me no reason why I love you, for though Love use Reason for his precisian, he admits him not for his counsellor. You are not young, no more am I; go to then, there’s sympathy. You are merry, so am I; ha, ha! Then there’s more sympathy. You love sack, and so do I; would you desire better sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page—at the least if the love of a soldier can suffice—that I love thee. I will not say, pity me—’tis not a soldier-like phrase—but I say, love me. By me,
Thine own true knight,
By day or night,
Or any kind of light,
With all his might
For thee to fight,
What a Herod of Jewry is this! O wicked, wicked world! One that is well-nigh worn to pieces with age to show himself a young gallant! What an unweigh’d behavior hath this Flemish drunkard pick’d (with the devil’s name!) out of my conversation, that he dares in this manner assay me? Why, he hath not been thrice in my company! What should I say to him? I was then frugal of my mirth. Heaven forgive me! Why, I’ll exhibit a bill in the parliament for the putting down of men. How shall I be reveng’d on him? For reveng’d I will be! As sure as his guts are made of puddings.
Enter Mistress Ford.
Mistress Page, trust me, I was going to your house.
And trust me, I was coming to you. You look very ill.
Nay, I’ll ne’er believe that; I have to show to the contrary.
Faith, but you do, in my mind.
Well—I do then; yet I say I could show you to the contrary. O Mistress Page, give me some counsel!
What’s the matter, woman?
O woman—if it were not for one trifling respect, I could come to such honor!
Hang the trifle, woman, take the honor. What is it? Dispense with trifles. What is it?
If I would but go to hell for an eternal moment or so, I could be knighted.
What? Thou liest! Sir Alice Ford! These knights will hack, and so thou shouldst not alter the article of thy gentry.
We burn daylight. Here, read, read; perceive how I might be knighted. I shall think the worse of fat men, as long as I have an eye to make difference of men’s liking: and yet he would not swear; prais’d women’s modesty; and gave such orderly and well-behav’d reproof to all uncomeliness, that I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words; but they do no more adhere and keep place together than the hundred Psalms to the tune of “Green-sleeves.” What tempest, I trow, threw this whale (with so many tuns of oil in his belly) ashore at Windsor? How shall I be reveng’d on him? I think the best way were to entertain him with hope, till the wicked fire of lust have melted him in his own grease. Did you ever hear the like?
Letter for letter; but that the name of Page and Ford differs! To thy great comfort in this mystery of ill opinions, here’s the twin-brother of thy letter; but let thine inherit first, for I protest mine never shall. I warrant he hath a thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for different names (sure, more!); and these are of the second edition. He will print them, out of doubt; for he cares not what he puts into the press, when he would put us two. I had rather be a giantess, and lie under Mount Pelion. Well—I will find you twenty lascivious turtles ere one chaste man.
Why, this is the very same: the very hand; the very words. What doth he think of us?
Nay, I know not; it makes me almost ready to wrangle with mine own honesty. I’ll entertain myself like one that I am not acquainted withal; for sure unless he know some strain in me that I know not myself, he would never have boarded me in this fury.
“Boarding,” call you it? I’ll be sure to keep him above deck.
So will I; if he come under my hatches, I’ll never to sea again. Let’s be reveng’d on him: let’s appoint him a meeting, give him a show of comfort in his suit, and lead him on with a fine-baited delay, till he hath pawn’d his horses to mine host of the Garter.
Nay, I will consent to act any villainy against him, that may not sully the chariness of our honesty. O that my husband saw this letter! It would give eternal food to his jealousy.
Why, look where he comes; and my good man too. He’s as far from jealousy as I am from giving him cause, and that (I hope) is an unmeasurable distance.
You are the happier woman.
Let’s consult together against this greasy knight. Come hither.
Enter Ford with Pistol; Page with Nym.
Well, I hope it be not so.
Hope is a curtal dog in some affairs. Sir John affects thy wife.
Why, sir, my wife is not young.
He woos both high and low, both rich and poor,
Both young and old, one with another, Ford.
He loves the gallimaufry, Ford. Perpend.
Love my wife?
With liver burning hot. Prevent; or go thou
Like Sir Actaeon he, with Ringwood at thy heels—
O, odious is the name!
What name, sir?
The horn, I say. Farewell.
Take heed, have open eye, for thieves do foot by night.
Take heed, ere summer comes or cuckoo-birds do sing.
Away, Sir Corporal Nym!
Believe it, Page, he speaks sense.
I will be patient; I will find out this.
And this is true; I like not the humor of lying. He hath wrong’d me in some humors. I should have borne the humor’d letter to her; but I have a sword, and it shall bite upon my necessity. He loves your wife: there’s the short and the long. My name is Corporal Nym; I speak, and I avouch; ’tis true; my name is Nym, and Falstaff loves your wife. Adieu. I love not the humor of bread and cheese and there’s the humor of it. Adieu.
“The humor of it,” quoth ’a! Here’s a fellow frights English out of his wits.
I will seek out Falstaff.
I never heard such a drawling, affecting rogue.
If I do find it—well.
I will not believe such a Cataian, though the priest o’ th’ town commended him for a true man.
’Twas a good sensible fellow—well.
Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford come forward.
How now, Meg?
Whither go you, George, hark you?
How now, sweet Frank, why art thou melancholy?
I melancholy? I am not melancholy. Get you home; go.
Faith, thou hast some crotchets in thy head now. Will you go, Mistress Page?
Have with you. You’ll come to dinner, George?
Aside to Mrs. Ford.
Look who comes yonder. She shall be our messenger to this paltry knight.
Aside to Mrs. Page
Trust me, I thought on her. She’ll fit it.
Enter Mistress Quickly.
You are come to see my daughter Anne?
Ay, forsooth; and I pray, how does good Mistress Anne?
Go in with us and see. We have an hour’s talk with you.
Exeunt Mrs. Page, Mrs. Ford, and Mrs. Quickly.
How now, Master Ford?
You heard what this knave told me, did you not?
Yes, and you heard what the other told me?
Do you think there is truth in them?
Hang ’em, slaves! I do not think the knight would offer it; but these that accuse him in his intent towards our wives are a yoke of his discarded men—very rogues, now they be out of service.
Were they his men?
Marry, were they.
I like it never the better for that. Does he lie at the Garter?
Ay, marry, does he. If he should intend this voyage toward my wife, I would turn her loose to him; and what he gets more of her than sharp words, let it lie on my head.
I do not misdoubt my wife; but I would be loath to turn them together. A man may be too confident. I would have nothing lie on my head. I cannot be thus satisfied.
Look where my ranting host of the Garter comes. There is either liquor in his pate, or money in his purse, when he looks so merrily. How now, mine host?
How now, bully-rook? Thou’rt a gentleman. Cavaleiro Justice, I say!
I follow, mine host, I follow. Good even and twenty, good Master Page! Master Page, will you go with us? We have sport in hand.
Tell him, Cavaleiro Justice; tell him, bully-rook.
Sir, there is a fray to be fought between Sir Hugh the Welsh priest and Caius the French doctor.
Good mine host o’ th’ Garter, a word with you.
What say’st thou, my bully-rook?
Ford and the Host talk.
Will you go with us to behold it? My merry host hath had the measuring of their weapons, and, I think, hath appointed them contrary places; for, believe me, I hear the parson is no jester. Hark, I will tell you what our sport shall be.
They converse apart.
Hast thou no suit against my knight, my guest-cavalier?
None, I protest; but I’ll give you a pottle of burnt sack to give me recourse to him and tell him my name is Brook—only for a jest.
My hand, bully; thou shalt have egress and regress—said I well?—and thy name shall be Brook. It is a merry knight. Will you go, An-heires?
Have with you, mine host.
I have heard the Frenchman hath good skill in his rapier.
Tut, sir; I could have told you more. In these times you stand on distance: your passes, stoccadoes, and I know not what. ’Tis the heart, Master Page, ’tis here, ’tis here. I have seen the time, with my long sword I would have made you four tall fellows skip like rats.
Here, boys, here, here! Shall we wag?
Have with you. I had rather hear them scold than fight.
Exeunt Host, Shallow, and Page.
Though Page be a secure fool, and stands so firmly on his wife’s frailty, yet I cannot put off my opinion so easily. She was in his company at Page’s house; and what they made there, I know not. Well, I will look further into’t, and I have a disguise to sound Falstaff. If I find her honest, I lose not my labor; if she be otherwise, ’tis labor well bestow’d.