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

Act IV. Scene IV.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

A Room in FORD’S House.


Eva.’Tis one of the pest discretions of a ’oman as ever I did look upon.

Page.And did he send you both these letters at an instant?

Mrs. Page.Within a quarter of an hour.

Ford.Pardon me, wife. Henceforth do what thou wilt;

I rather will suspect the sun with cold

Than thee with wantonness: now doth thy honour stand,

In him that was of late an heretic,

As firm as faith.

Page.’Tis well, ’tis well; no more.

Be not as extreme in submission

As in offence;

But let our plot go forward: let our wives

Yet once again, to make us public sport,

Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow,

Where we may take him and disgrace him for it.

Ford.There is no better way than that they spoke of.

Page.How? to send him word they’ll meet him in the Park at midnight? Fie, fie! he’ll never come.

Eva.You say he has been thrown into the rivers, and has been grievously peaten as an old ’oman: methinks there should be terrors in him that he should not come; methinks his flesh is punished, he shall have no desires.

Page.So think I too.

Mrs. Ford.Devise but how you’ll use him when he comes,

And let us two devise to bring him thither.

Mrs. Page.There is an old tale goes that Herne the hunter,

Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest,

Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,

Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns;

And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,

And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain

In a most hideous and dreadful manner:

You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know

The superstitious idle-headed eld

Receiv’d and did deliver to our age

This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.

Page.Why, yet there want not many that do fear

In deep of night to walk by this Herne’s oak.

But what of this?

Mrs. Ford.Marry, this is our device;

That Falstaff at that oak shall meet with us,

Disguis’d like Herne with huge horns on his head.

Page.Well, let it not be doubted but he’ll come,

And in this shape when you have brought him thither,

What shall be done with him? what is your plot?

Mrs. Page.That likewise have we thought upon, and thus:

Nan Page my daughter, and my little son,

And three or four more of their growth, we’ll dress

Like urchins, ouphs and fairies, green and white,

With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads,

And rattles in their hands. Upon a sudden,

As Falstaff, she, and I, are newly met,

Let them from forth a sawpit rush at once

With some diffused song: upon their sight,

We two in great amazedness will fly:

Then let them all encircle him about,

And, fairy-like, to-pinch the unclean knight;

And ask him why, that hour of fairy revel,

In their so sacred paths he dares to tread

In shape profane.

Mrs. Ford.And till he tell the truth,

Let the supposed fairies pinch him sound

And burn him with their tapers.

Mrs. Page.The truth being known,

We’ll all present ourselves, dis-horn the spirit,

And mock him home to Windsor.

Ford.The children must

Be practis’d well to this, or they’ll ne’er do ’t.

Eva.I will teach the children their behaviours; and I will be like a jack-an-apes also, to burn the knight with my taber.

Ford.That will be excellent. I’ll go buy them vizards.

Mrs. Page.My Nan shall be the queen of all the fairies,

Finely attired in a robe of white.

Page.That silk will I go buy:—[Aside]and in that time

Shall Master Slender steal my Nan away,

And marry her at Eton. Go, send to Falstaff straight.

Ford.Nay, I’ll to him again in name of Brook;

He’ll tell me all his purpose. Sure, he’ll come.

Mrs. Page.Fear not you that. Go, get us properties,

And tricking for our fairies.

Eva.Let us about it: it is admirable pleasures and fery honest knaveries.[Exeunt PAGE, FORD, and EVANS.

Mrs. Page.Go, Mistress Ford,

Send Quickly to Sir John, to know his mind.[Exit MISTRESS FORD.

I’ll to the doctor: he hath my good will,

And none but he, to marry with Nan Page.

That Slender, though well landed, is an idiot;

And him my husband best of all affects:

The doctor is well money’d, and his friends

Potent at court: he, none but he, shall have her,

Though twenty thousand worthier come to crave her.[Exit.