A room in Ford’s house.
(Mistress Ford; Mistress Margaret Page; First Servant; Second Servant; Robin; Falstaff; Ford; Page; Caius; Evans)
Mistress Ford and Mistress Page instruct the servants to take out the buck basket when they are told to, without any pausing, and to dump the contents in the ditch. Mistress Page hides as Falstaff comes in. He begins to woo Mistress Ford; at the right moment, Robin rushes in to announce Mistress Page. Not wanting her to discover that he is two-timing her, Falstaff hides behind a tapestry while Mistress Page, in a flurry, announces that Ford and others are coming. Mistress Ford admits to having a man in the house, and Mistress Page suggests that he sneak out in the laundry basket. In a panic Falstaff appears and consents, while Mistress Page scolds him for dissembling. He is carried out by the servants just as Ford frantically bursts in and searches the house. The two wives reproach him for his suspicions. Shocked at the extent of his jealousy, Mistress Ford decides to cure her husband of it, while she and Mistress Page plan more tricks on Falstaff. Ford invites his friends to dinner all the same and they accept, though Page suggests that they will mock him the next morning. Caius and Evans remind each other not to forget the Host. (99 lines)
Enter Mistress Ford, Mistress Page.
What, John! What, Robert!
Quickly, quickly! Is the buck-basket—
I warrant. What, Robin, I say!
Enter Servants with a great buck-basket.
Come, come, come.
Here, set it down.
Give your men the charge, we must be brief.
Marry, as I told you before, John and Robert, be ready here hard by in the brew-house, and when I suddenly call you, come forth, and (without any pause or staggering) take this basket on your shoulders. That done, trudge with it in all haste, and carry it among the whitsters in Datchet-mead, and there empty it in the muddy ditch close by the Thames side.
You will do it?
I ha’ told them over and over, they lack no direction. Be gone, and come when you are call’d.
Here comes little Robin.
How now, my eyas-musket, what news with you?
My master, Sir John, is come in at your back door, Mistress Ford, and requests your company.
You little Jack-a-Lent, have you been true to us?
Ay, I’ll be sworn. My master knows not of your being here, and hath threat’ned to put me into everlasting liberty if I tell you of it; for he swears he’ll turn me away.
Thou’rt a good boy. This secrecy of thine shall be a tailor to thee, and shall make thee a new doublet and hose. I’ll go hide me.
Do so. Go tell thy master I am alone.
Mistress Page, remember you your cue.
I warrant thee, if I do not act it, hiss me.
Go to then. We’ll use this unwholesome humidity, this gross wat’ry pumpion. We’ll teach him to know turtles from jays.
“Have I caught thee, my heavenly jewel?” Why, now let me die, for I have liv’d long enough. This is the period of my ambition. O this blessed hour!
O sweet Sir John!
Mistress Ford, I cannot cog, I cannot prate, Mistress Ford. Now shall I sin in my wish: I would thy husband were dead. I’ll speak it before the best lord, I would make thee my lady.
I your lady, Sir John? Alas, I should be a pitiful lady!
Let the court of France show me such another. I see how thine eye would emulate the diamond. Thou hast the right arch’d beauty of the brow that becomes the ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance.
A plain kerchief, Sir John. My brows become nothing else, nor that well neither.
By the Lord, thou art a tyrant to say so. Thou wouldst make an absolute courtier, and the firm fixture of thy foot would give an excellent motion to thy gait in a semicircled farthingale. I see what thou wert, if Fortune thy foe were not, Nature thy friend. Come, thou canst not hide it.
Believe me, there’s no such thing in me.
What made me love thee? Let that persuade thee there’s something extraordinary in thee. Come, I cannot cog and say thou art this and that, like a many of these lisping hawthorn buds, that come like women in men’s apparel, and smell like Bucklersbury in simple time—I cannot; but I love thee, none but thee; and thou deserv’st it.
Do not betray me, sir. I fear you love Mistress Page.
Thou mightst as well say I love to walk by the Counter-gate, which is as hateful to me as the reek of a lime-kill.
Well, heaven knows how I love you, and you shall one day find it.
Keep in that mind, I’ll deserve it.
Nay, I must tell you, so you do; or else I could not be in that mind.
Mistress Ford, Mistress Ford! Here’s Mistress Page at the door, sweating, and blowing, and looking wildly, and would needs speak with you presently.
She shall not see me, I will ensconce me behind the arras.
Pray you do so, she’s a very tattling woman.
Falstaff stands behind the arras.
Enter Mistress Page.
What’s the matter? How now?
O Mistress Ford, what have you done? You’re sham’d, y’ are overthrown, y’ are undone forever!
What’s the matter, good Mistress Page?
O well-a-day, Mistress Ford, having an honest man to your husband, to give him such cause of suspicion!
What cause of suspicion?
What cause of suspicion? Out upon you! How am I mistook in you!
Why, alas, what’s the matter?
Your husband’s coming hither, woman, with all the officers in Windsor, to search for a gentleman that he says is here now in the house; by your consent to take an ill advantage of his absence. You are undone.
’Tis not so, I hope.
Pray heaven it be not so, that you have such a man here; but ’tis most certain your husband’s coming, with half Windsor at his heels, to search for such a one. I come before to tell you. If you know yourself clear, why, I am glad of it; but if you have a friend here, convey, convey him out. Be not amaz’d, call all your senses to you, defend your reputation, or bid farewell to your good life forever.
What shall I do? There is a gentleman, my dear friend; and I fear not mine own shame so much as his peril. I had rather than a thousand pound he were out of the house.
For shame, never stand “you had rather” and “you had rather.” Your husband’s here at hand, bethink you of some conveyance. In the house you cannot hide him. O, how have you deceiv’d me! Look, here is a basket; if he be of any reasonable stature, he may creep in here, and throw foul linen upon him, as if it were going to bucking; or—it is whiting-time—send him by your two men to Datchet-mead.
He’s too big to go in there. What shall I do?
Starting from his concealment.
Let me see’t, let me see’t, O, let me see’t! I’ll in, I’ll in. Follow your friend’s counsel. I’ll in.
What, Sir John Falstaff?
Are these your letters, knight?
To Mrs. Page.
I love thee. Help me away.—Let me creep in here. I’ll never—
Goes into the basket; they put clothes over him.
Help to cover your master, boy. Call your men, Mistress Ford. You dissembling knight!
What, John! Robert! John!
Go take up these clothes here quickly. Where’s the cowl-staff? Look how you drumble! Carry them to the laundress in Datchet-mead; quickly, come.
Enter Ford, Page, Caius, Evans.
Pray you come near. If I suspect without cause, why then make sport at me, then let me be your jest, I deserve it. How now? Whither bear you this?
To the laundress, forsooth.
Why, what have you to do whither they bear it? You were best meddle with buck-washing.
Buck! I would I could wash myself of the buck! Buck, buck, buck! Ay, buck! I warrant you, buck, and of the season too, it shall appear.
Exeunt Servants with the basket.
Gentlemen, I have dream’d tonight; I’ll tell you my dream. Here, here, here be my keys. Ascend my chambers, search, seek, find out. I’ll warrant we’ll unkennel the fox. Let me stop this way first.
Locking the door.
So, now uncape.
Good Master Ford, be contented. You wrong yourself too much.
True, Master Page. Up, gentlemen, you shall see sport anon. Follow me, gentlemen.
This is fery fantastical humors and jealousies.
By gar, ’tis no the fashion of France; it is not jealous in France.
Nay, follow him, gentlemen, see the issue of his search.
Exeunt Page, Caius, and Evans.
Is there not a double excellency in this?
I know not which pleases me better, that my husband is deceiv’d, or Sir John.
What a taking was he in when your husband ask’d who was in the basket!
I am half afraid he will have need of washing, so throwing him into the water will do him a benefit.
Hang him, dishonest rascal! I would all of the same strain were in the same distress.
I think my husband hath some special suspicion of Falstaff’s being here, for I never saw him so gross in his jealousy till now.
I will lay a plot to try that, and we will yet have more tricks with Falstaff. His dissolute disease will scarce obey this medicine.
Shall we send that foolish carrion, Mistress Quickly, to him, and excuse his throwing into the water, and give him another hope, to betray him to another punishment?
We will do it. Let him be sent for tomorrow, eight a’ clock, to have amends.
Enter Ford, Page, Caius, and Evans.
I cannot find him. May be the knave bragg’d of that he could not compass.
Aside to Mrs. Ford
Heard you that?
You use me well, Master Ford, do you?
Ay, I do so.
Heaven make you better than your thoughts!
You do yourself mighty wrong, Master Ford.
Ay, ay; I must bear it.
If there be any pody in the house, and in the chambers, and in the coffers, and in the presses, heaven forgive my sins at the day of judgment!
Be-gar, nor I too; there is no-bodies.
Fie, fie, Master Ford, are you not asham’d? What spirit, what devil suggests this imagination? I would not ha’ your distemper in this kind for the wealth of Windsor Castle.
’Tis my fault, Master Page. I suffer for it.
You suffer for a pad conscience. Your wife is as honest a omans as I will desires among five thousand, and five hundred too.
By gar, I see ’tis an honest woman.
Well, I promis’d you a dinner. Come, come, walk in the park. I pray you pardon me; I will hereafter make known to you why I have done this. Come, wife, come, Mistress Page, I pray you pardon me; pray heartly pardon me.
Let’s go in, gentlemen, but (trust me) we’ll mock him. I do invite you tomorrow morning to my house to breakfast; after, we’ll a-birding together. I have a fine hawk for the bush. Shall it be so?
If there is one, I shall make two in the company.
If there be one or two, I shall make-a the turd.
Pray you go, Master Page.
Exit with Page.
I pray you now remembrance tomorrow on the lousy knave, mine host.
Dat is good, by gar; with all my heart!
A lousy knave, to have his gibes and his mockeries!