Windsor. A street.
(Mistress Margaret Page; Robin; Ford; Page; Shallow; Slender; Host; Evans; Caius; Rugby)
Mistress Page and Robin meet Ford as they go to visit his wife. Hearing that Robin used to be Falstaff’s servant, Ford is horrified, convinced that Page is a fool who cannot see how his wife is betraying him. When the crowd coming back from the failed duel comes up the street, Ford, hoping to catch his wife in the act and prove Page wrong, insists that they follow him to his house. He only manages to convince Evans, Caius and Page, as Slender and the others are going to help him woo Anne. (32 lines)
Enter Mistress Page, Robin.
Nay, keep your way, little gallant; you were wont to be a follower, but now you are a leader. Whether had you rather lead mine eyes, or eye your master’s heels?
I had rather, forsooth, go before you like a man than follow him like a dwarf.
O, you are a flattering boy, now I see you’ll be a courtier.
Well met, Mistress Page. Whither go you?
Truly, sir, to see your wife. Is she at home?
Ay, and as idle as she may hang together, for want of company. I think if your husbands were dead, you two would marry.
Be sure of that—two other husbands.
Where had you this pretty weathercock?
I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of. What do you call your knight’s name, sirrah?
Sir John Falstaff.
Sir John Falstaff!
He, he—I can never hit on ’s name. There is such a league between my goodman and he! Is your wife at home indeed?
Indeed she is.
By your leave, sir. I am sick till I see her.
Exeunt Mrs. Page and Robin.
Has Page any brains? Hath he any eyes? Hath he any thinking? Sure they sleep, he hath no use of them. Why, this boy will carry a letter twenty mile, as easy as a cannon will shoot point-blank twelve score. He pieces out his wive’s inclination; he gives her folly motion and advantage; and now she’s going to my wife, and Falstaff’s boy with her. A man may hear this show’r sing in the wind. And Falstaff’s boy with her! Good plots, they are laid, and our revolted wives share damnation together. Well, I will take him, then torture my wife, pluck the borrow’d veil of modesty from the so-seeming Mistress Page, divulge Page himself for a secure and willful Actaeon; and to these violent proceedings all my neighbors shall cry aim.
The clock gives me my cue, and my assurance bids me search—there I shall find Falstaff. I shall be rather prais’d for this than mock’d; for it is as positive as the earth is firm that Falstaff is there. I will go.
Enter Page, Shallow, Slender, Host, Evans, Caius, Rugby.
Well met, Master Ford.
Trust me, a good knot. I have good cheer at home, and I pray you all go with me.
I must excuse myself, Master Ford.
And so must I, sir. We have appointed to dine with Mistress Anne, and I would not break with her for more money than I’ll speak of.
We have linger’d about a match between Anne Page and my cousin Slender, and this day we shall have our answer.
I hope I have your good will, father Page.
You have, Master Slender, I stand wholly for you; but my wife, Master Doctor, is for you altogether.
Ay, be-gar, and de maid is love-a me. My nursh-a Quickly tell me so mush.
What say you to young Master Fenton? He capers, he dances, he has eyes of youth; he writes verses, he speaks holiday, he smells April and May—he will carry’t, he will carry’t—’tis in his buttons—he will carry’t.
Not by my consent, I promise you. The gentleman is of no having. He kept company with the wild Prince and Poins; he is of too high a region, he knows too much. No, he shall not knit a knot in his fortunes with the finger of my substance. If he take her, let him take her simply. The wealth I have waits on my consent, and my consent goes not that way.
I beseech you heartily, some of you go home with me to dinner. Besides your cheer, you shall have sport; I will show you a monster. Master Doctor, you shall go, so shall you, Master Page, and you, Sir Hugh.
Well, fare you well. We shall have the freer wooing at Master Page’s.
Exeunt Shallow and Slender.
Go home, John Rugby, I come anon.
Farewell, my hearts. I will to my honest knight Falstaff, and drink canary with him.
I think I shall drink in pipe-wine first with him; I’ll make him dance.—Will you go, gentles?
Have with you to see this monster.