Another room in the Garter Inn.
Fenton offers to pay the Host even more than he lost when his horses were stolen if he will have a priest ready between twelve and one. He and Anne have decided that she will slip away with him instead of either Slender or Caius. The Host agrees. (53 lines)
Enter Fenton, Host.
Master Fenton, talk not to me, my mind is heavy; I will give over all.
Yet hear me speak. Assist me in my purpose,
And (as I am a gentleman) I’ll give thee
A hundred pound in gold more than your loss.
I will hear you, Master Fenton, and I will (at the least) keep your counsel.
From time to time I have acquainted you
With the dear love I bear to fair Anne Page,
Who mutually hath answer’d my affection
(So far forth as herself might be her chooser)
Even to my wish. I have a letter from her
Of such contents as you will wonder at;
The mirth whereof so larded with my matter,
That neither, singly, can be manifested
Without the show of both. Fat Falstaff
Hath a great scene; the image of the jest
I’ll show you here at large. Hark, good mine host:
Tonight at Herne’s oak, just ’twixt twelve and one,
Must my sweet Nan present the Fairy Queen;
The purpose why, is here; in which disguise,
While other jests are something rank on foot,
Her father hath commanded her to slip
Away with Slender, and with him at Eton
Immediately to marry. She hath consented.
Her mother (even strong against that match
And firm for Doctor Caius) hath appointed
That he shall likewise shuffle her away,
While other sports are tasking of their minds,
And at the dean’ry, where a priest attends,
Straight marry her. To this her mother’s plot
She (seemingly obedient) likewise hath
Made promise to the doctor. Now, thus it rests:
Her father means she shall be all in white;
And in that habit, when Slender sees his time
To take her by the hand and bid her go,
She shall go with him. Her mother hath intended
(The better to denote her to the doctor,
For they must all be mask’d and vizarded)
That quaint in green she shall be loose enrob’d,
With ribands pendant, flaring ’bout her head;
And when the doctor spies his vantage ripe,
To pinch her by the hand, and on that token,
The maid hath given consent to go with him.
Which means she to deceive, father or mother?
Both, my good host, to go along with me.
And here it rests, that you’ll procure the vicar
To stay for me at church, ’twixt twelve and one,
And in the lawful name of marrying,
To give our hearts united ceremony.
Well, husband your device; I’ll to the vicar.
Bring you the maid, you shall not lack a priest.
So shall I evermore be bound to thee;
Besides, I’ll make a present recompense.