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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene III.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

A Room in FORD’S House.


Mrs. Ford.What, John! what, Robert!

Mrs. Page.Quickly, quickly:—Is the buck-basket—

Mrs. Ford.I warrant. What, Robin, I say!

Enter Servants with a Basket.

Mrs. Page.Come, come, come.

Mrs. Ford.Here, set it down.

Mrs. Page.Give your men the charge; we must be brief.

Mrs. Ford.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.

Mrs. Page.You will do it?

Mrs. Ford.I have told them over and over; they lack no direction. Be gone, and come when you are called.[Exeunt Servants.

Mrs. Page.Here comes little Robin.

Enter ROBIN.

Mrs. Ford.How now, my eyas-musket! what news with you?

Rob.My master, Sir John, is come in at your back-door, Mistress Ford, and requests your company.

Mrs. PageYou little Jack-a-Lent, have you been true to us?

Rob.Ay, I’ll be sworn. My master knows not of your being here, and hath threatened to put me into everlasting liberty if I tell you of it; for he swears he’ll turn me away.

Mrs. Page.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.

Mrs. Ford.Do so. Go tell thy master I am alone.[Exit ROBIN.]Mistress Page, remember you your cue.

Mrs. Page.I warrant thee; if I do not act it, hiss me.[Exit.

Mrs. Ford.Go to, then: we’ll use this unwholesome humidity, this gross watery pumpion; we’ll teach him to know turtles from jays.


Fal.‘Have I caught my heavenly jewel?’ Why, now let me die, for I have lived long enough: this is the period of my ambition: O this blessed hour!

Mrs. Ford.O, sweet Sir John!

Fal.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.

Mrs. Ford.I your lady, Sir John! alas, I should be a pitiful lady.

Fal.Let the court of France show me such another. I see how thine eye would emulate the diamond: thou hast the right arched beauty of the brow that becomes the ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance.

Mrs. Ford.A plain kerchief, Sir John: my brows become nothing else; nor that well neither.

Fal.By the Lord, thou art a traitor 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 semi-circled farthingale. I see what thou wert, if Fortune thy foe were not, Nature thy friend. Come, thou canst not hide it.

Mrs. Ford.Believe me, there’s no such thing in me.

Fal.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 hawthornbuds, 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 deservest it.

Mrs. Ford.Do not betray me, sir. I fear you love Mistress Page.

Fal.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-kiln.

Mrs. Ford.Well, heaven knows how I love you; and you shall one day find it.

Fal.Keep in that mind; I’ll deserve it.

Mrs. Ford.Nay, I must tell you, so you do, or else I could not be in that mind.

Rob.[Within.]Mistress Ford! Mistress Ford! here’s Mistress Page at the door, sweating and blowing and looking wildly, and would needs speak with you presently.

Fal.She shall not see me: I will ensconce me behind the arras.

Mrs. Ford.Pray you, do so: she’s a very tattling woman.[FALSTAFF hides himself.


What’s the matter? how now!

Mrs. Page.O Mistress Ford! what have you done? You’re shamed, you are overthrown, you’re undone for ever!

Mrs. Ford.What’s the matter, good Mistress Page?

Mrs. Page.O well-a-day, Mistress Ford! having an honest man to your husband, to give him such cause of suspicion!

Mrs. Ford.What cause of suspicion?

Mrs. Page.What cause of suspicion! Out upon you! how am I mistook in you!

Mrs. Ford.Why, alas, what’s the matter?

Mrs. Page.Your husband’s coming hither, woman, with all the officers of 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.

Mrs. Ford.[Aside.]Speak louder.—’Tis not so, I hope.

Mrs. Page.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 amazed; call all your senses to you: defend your reputation, or bid farewell to your good life for ever.

Mrs. Ford.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.

Mrs. Page.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 deceived 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.

Mrs. Ford.He’s too big to go in there. What shall I do?

Fal.[Coming forward.]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.

Mrs. Page.What, Sir John Falstaff! Are these your letters, knight?

Fal.I love thee, and none but thee; help me away: let me creep in here. I’ll never—[He gets into the basket; they cover him with foul linen.

Mrs. Page.Help to cover your master, boy. Call your men, Mistress Ford. You dissembling knight!

Mrs. Ford.What, John! Robert! John![Exit ROBIN.

Re-enter Servants.

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.


Ford.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! what goes here? whither bear you this?

Serv.To the laundress, forsooth.

Mrs. Ford.Why, what have you to do whither they bear it? You were best meddle with buck-washing.

Ford.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 dreamed to-night; 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.

Page.Good Master Ford, be contented: you wrong yourself too much.

Ford.True, Master Page. Up, gentlemen; you shall see sport anon: follow me, gentlemen.[Exit.

Eva.This is fery fantastical humours and jealousies.

Caius.By gar, ’tis no de fashion of France; it is not jealous in France.

Page.Nay, follow him, gentlemen; see the issue of his search.[Exeunt PAGE, CAIUS, and EVANS.

Mrs. Page.Is there not a double excellency in this?

Mrs. Ford.I know not which pleases me better; that my husband is deceived, or Sir John.

Mrs. Page.What a taking was he in when your husband asked who was in the basket!

Mrs. Ford.I am half afraid he will have need of washing; so throwing him into the water will do him a benefit.

Mrs. Page.Hang him, dishonest rascal! I would all of the same strain were in the same distress.

Mrs. Ford.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.

Mrs. Page.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.

Mrs. Ford.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?

Mrs. Page.We will do it: let him be sent for to-morrow, eight o’clock, to have amends.


Ford.I cannot find him: may be the knave bragged of that he could not compass.

Mrs. Page.[Aside to MRS. FORD.]Heard you that?

Mrs. Ford.[Aside to MRS. PAGE.]Ay, ay, peace.—You use me well, Master Ford, do you?

Ford.Ay, I do so.

Mrs. Ford.Heaven make you better than your thoughts!


Mrs. Page.You do yourself mighty wrong, Master Ford.

Ford.Ay, ay; I must hear it.

Eva.If there pe 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!

Caius.By gar, nor I too, dere is no bodies.

Page.Fie, fie, Master Ford! are you not ashamed? What spirit, what devil suggests this imagination? I would not ha’ your distemper in this kind for the wealth of Windsor Castle.

Ford.’Tis my fault, Master Page: I suffer for it.

Eva.You suffer for a pad conscience: your wife is as honest a ’omans as I will desires among five thousand, and five hundred too.

Caius.By gar, I see ’tis an honest woman.

Ford.Well; I promised you a dinner. Come, come, walk in the Park: J 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 heartily, pardon me.

Page.Let’s go in, gentlemen; but, trust me, we’ll mock him. I do invite you to-morrow morning to my house to breakfast; after, we’ll a-birding together: I have a fine hawk for the bush. Shall it be so?

Ford.Any thing.

Eva.If there is one, I shall make two in the company.

Caius.If dere be one or two, I shall make-a le turd.

Ford.Pray you go, Master Page.

Eva.I pray you now, remembrance to-morrow on the lousy knave, mine host.

Caius.Dat is good; by gar, vit all my heart.

Eva.A lousy knave! to have his gibes and his mockeries![Exeunt.