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

Act IV. Scene VI.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Another Room in the Garter Inn.

Enter FENTON and Host.

Host.Master Fenton, talk not to me: my mind is heavy; I will give over all.

Fent.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.

Host.I will hear you, Master Fenton; and I will, at the least, keep your counsel.

Fent.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; wherein fat Falstaff

Hath a great scare: the image of the jest

I’ll show you here at large[Pointing to the Letter].Hark, good mine host:

To-night 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:

Now, sir,

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 deanery, 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 pendent, 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.

Host.Which means she to deceive, father or mother?

Fent.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.

Host.Well, husband your device; I’ll to the vicar.

Bring you the maid, you shall not lack a priest.

Fent.So shall I evermore be bound to thee;

Besides, I’ll make a present recompense.[Exeunt.