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

Act V. Scene V.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Another part of the Park.

Enter FALSTAFF disguised as Herne, with a buck’s head on.

Fal.The Windsor bell hath struck twelve; the minute draws on. Now, the hot-blooded gods assist me! Remember, Jove, thou wast a bull for thy Europa; love set on thy horns. O powerful love! that, in some respects, makes a beast a man; in some other, a man a beast. You were also, Jupiter, a swan for the love of Leda; O omnipotent love! how near the god drew to the complexion of a goose! A fault done first in the form of a beast; O Jove, a beastly fault! and then another fault in the semblance of a fowl: think on ’t, Jove; a foul fault! When gods have hot backs, what shall poor men do? For me, I am here a Windsor stag; and the fattest, I think, i’ the forest: send me a cool rut-time, Jove, or who can blame me to piss my tallow? Who comes here? my doe?


Mrs. Ford.Sir John! art thou there, my deer? my male deer?

Fal.My doe with the black scut! Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of ‘Green Sleeves;’ hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here.[Embracing her.

Mrs. Ford.Mistress Page is come with me, sweetheart.

Fal.Divide me like a brib’d buck, each a haunch: I will keep my sides to myself, my shoulders for the fellow of this walk, and my horns I bequeath your husbands. Am I a woodman, ha? Speak I like Herne the hunter? Why, now is Cupid a child of conscience; he makes restitution. As I am a true spirit, welcome![Noise within.

Mrs. Page.Alas! what noise?

Mrs. Ford.Heaven forgive our sins!

Fal.What should this be?

Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Page.Away, away![They run off.

Fal.I think the devil will not have me damned, lest the oil that is in me should set hell on fire; he would never else cross me thus.

Enter SIR HUGH EVANS, like a Satyr; PISTOL as Hobgoblin; ANNE PAGE, as the Fairy Queen, attended by her Brother and Others, as Fairies, with waxen tapers on their heads.

Anne.Fairies, black, grey, green, and white,

You moonshine revellers, and shades of night,

You orphan heirs of fixed destiny,

Attend your office and your quality.

Crier Hobgoblin, make the fairy oyes.

Pist.Elves, list your names: silence, you airy toys!

Cricket, to Windsor chimneys shalt thou leap:

Where fires thou find’st unrak’d and hearths unswept,

There pinch the maids as blue as bilberry:

Our radiant queen hates sluts and sluttery.

Fal.They are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die:

I’ll wink and couch: no man their works must eye.[Lies down upon his face.

Eva.Where’s Bede? Go you, and where you find a maid

That, ere she sleep, has thrice her prayers said,

Rein up the organs of her fantasy,

Sleep she as sound as careless infancy;

But those that sleep and think not on their sins,

Pinch them, arms, legs, backs, shoulders, sides, and shins.

Anne.About, about!

Search Windsor castle, elves, within and out:

Strew good luck, ouphs, on every sacred room,

That it may stand till the perpetual doom,

In state as wholesome as in state ’tis fit,

Worthy the owner, and the owner it.

The several chairs of order look you scour

With juice of balm and every precious flower:

Each fair instalment, coat, and several crest,

With loyal blazon, ever more be blest!

And nightly, meadow-fairies, look you sing,

Like to the Garter’s compass, in a ring:

The expressure that it bears, green let it be,

More fertile-fresh than all the field to see;

And, Honi soit qui mal y pense write

In emerald tufts, flowers purple, blue, and white;

Like sapphire, pearl, and rich embroidery,

Buckled below fair knighthood’s bending knee:

Fairies use flowers for their charactery.

Away! disperse! But, till ’tis one o’clock,

Our dance of custom round about the oak

Of Herne the hunter, let us not forget.

Eva.Pray you, lock hand in hand; yourselves in order set;

And twenty glow-worms shall our lanthorns be,

To guide our measure round about the tree.

But, stay; I smell a man of middle-earth.

Fal.Heavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he transform me to a piece of cheese!

Pist.Vile worm, thou wast o’erlook’d even in thy birth.

Anne.With trial-fire touch me his finger-end:

If he be chaste, the flame will back descend

And turn him to no pain; but if he start,

It is the flesh of a corrupted heart.

Pist.A trial! come.

Eva.Come, will this wood take fire?[They burn him with their tapers.

Fal.Oh, oh, oh!

Anne.Corrupt, corrupt, and tainted in desire!

About him, fairies, sing a scornful rime;

And, as you trip, still pinch him to your time.

  • SONG.
  • Fie on sinful fantasy!
  • Fie on lust and luxury!
  • Lust is but a bloody fire,
  • Kindled with unchaste desire,
  • Fed in heart, whose flames aspire,
  • As thoughts do blow them higher and higher.
  • Pinch him, fairies, mutually;
  • Pinch him for his villany;
  • Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about,
  • Till candles and star-light and moonshine be out.
  • During this song, the Fairies pinch FALSTAFF. DOCTOR CAIUS comes one way, and steals away a Fairy in green; SLENDER another way, and takes off a Fairy in white; and FENTON comes, and steals away ANNE PAGE. A noise of hunting is heard within. The Fairies run away. FALSTAFF pulls off his buck’s head, and rises.


    Page.Nay, do not fly: I think we have watch’d you now:

    Will none but Herne the hunter serve your turn?

    Mrs. Page.I pray you, come, hold up the jest no higher.

    Now, good Sir John, how like you Windsor wives?

    See you these, husband? do not these fair yokes

    Become the forest better than the town?

    Ford.Now sir, who’s a cuckold now? Master Brook, Falstaff’s a knave, a cuckoldly knave; here are his horns, Master Brook: and, Master Brook, he hath enjoyed nothing of Ford’s but his buck-basket, his cudgel, and twenty pounds of money, which must be paid too, Master Brook; his horses are arrested for it, Master Brook.

    Mrs. Ford.Sir John, we have had ill luck; we could never meet. I will never take you for my love again, but I will always count you my deer.

    Fal.I do begin to perceive that I am made an ass.

    Ford.Ay, and an ox too; both the proofs are extant.

    Fal.And these are not fairies? I was three or four times in the thought they were not fairies; and yet the guiltiness of my mind, the sudden surprise of my powers, drove the grossness of the foppery into a received belief, in despite of the teeth of all rime and reason, that they were fairies. See now how wit may be made a Jack-a-lent, when ’tis upon ill employment!

    Eva.Sir John Falstaff, serve Got, and leave your desires, and fairies will not pinse you.

    Ford.Well said, fairy Hugh.

    Eva.And leave you your jealousies too, I pray you.

    Ford.I will never mistrust my wife again, till thou art able to woo her in good English.

    Fal.Have I laid my brain in the sun and dried it, that it wants matter to prevent so gross o’er-reaching as this? Am I ridden with a Welsh goat too? shall I have a coxcomb of frize? ’Tis time I were choked with a piece of toasted cheese.

    Eva.Seese is not goot to give putter: your pelly is all putter.

    Fal.‘Seese’ and ‘putter!’ have I lived to stand at the taunt of one that makes fritters of English? This is enough to be the decay of lust and late walking through the realm.

    Mrs. Page.Why, Sir John, do you think, though we would have thrust virtue out of our hearts by the head and shoulders, and have given ourselves without scruple to hell, that ever the devil could have made you our delight?

    Ford.What, a hodge-pudding? a bag of flax?

    Mrs. Page.A puffed man?

    Page.Old, cold, withered, and of intolerable entrails?

    Ford.And one that is as slanderous as Satan?

    Page.And as poor as Job?

    Ford.And as wicked as his wife?

    Eva.And given to fornications, and to taverns, and sack and wine and metheglins, and to drinkings and swearings and starings, pribbles and prabbles?

    Fal.Well, I am your theme: you have the start of me; I am dejected; I am not able to answer the Welsh flannel. Ignorance itself is a plummet o’er me: use me as you will.

    Ford.Marry, sir, we’ll bring you to Windsor, to one Master Brook, that you have cozened of money, to whom you should have been a pander: over and above that you have suffered, I think, to repay that money will be a biting affliction.

    Mrs. Ford.Nay, husband, let that go to make amends;

    Forgive that sum, and so we’ll all be friends.

    Ford.Well, here’s my hand: all is forgiven at last.

    Page.Yet be cheerful, knight: thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my house; where I will desire thee to laugh at my wife, that now laughs at thee. Tell her, Master Slender hath married her daughter.

    Mrs. Page.[Aside.]Doctors doubt that: if Anne Page be my daughter, she is, by this Doctor Caius’ wife.

    Enter SLENDER.

    Slen.Whoa, ho! ho! father Page!

    Page.Son, how now! how now, son! have you dispatched?

    Slen.Dispatched! I’ll make the best in Gloster-shire know on ’t; would I were hanged, la, else!

    Page.Of what, son?

    Slen.I came yonder at Eton to marry Mistress Anne Page, and she’s a great lubberly boy: if it had not been i’ the church, I would have swinged him, or he should have swinged me. If I did not think it had been Anne Page, would I might never stir! and ’tis a postmaster’s boy.

    Page.Upon my life, then, you took the wrong.

    Slen.What need you tell me that? I think so, when I took a boy for a girl. If I had been married to him, for all he was in woman’s apparel, I would not have had him.

    Page.Why, this is your own folly. Did not I tell you how you should know my daughter by her garments?

    Slen.I went to her in white, and cried, ‘mum,’ and she cried ‘budget,’ as Anne and I had appointed; and yet it was not Anne, but a postmaster’s boy.

    Eva.Jeshu! Master Slender, cannot you see put marry poys?

    Page.O I am vexed at heart: what shall I do?

    Mrs. Page.Good George, be not angry: I knew of your purpose; turned my daughter into green; and, indeed, she is now with the doctor at the deanery, and there married.


    Caius.Vere is Mistress Page? By gar, I am cozened: I ha’ married un garçon, a boy; un paysan, by gar, a boy; it is not Anne Page: by gar, I am cozened.

    Mrs. Page.Why, did you not take her in green?

    Caius.Ay, by gar, and ’tis a boy: by gar, I’ll raise all Windsor.[Exit.

    Ford.This is strange. Who hath got the right Anne?

    Page.My heart misgives me: here comes Master Fenton.

    Enter FENTON and ANNE PAGE.

    How now, Master Fenton!

    Anne.Pardon, good father! good my mother, pardon!

    Page.Now, mistress, how chance you went not with Master Slender?

    Mrs. Page.Why went you not with Master Doctor, maid?

    Fent.You do amaze her: hear the truth of it.

    You would have married her most shamefully,

    Where there was no proportion held in love.

    The truth is, she and I, long since contracted,

    Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us.

    The offence is holy that she hath committed,

    And this deceit loses the name of craft,

    Of disobedience, or unduteous title,

    Since therein she doth evitate and shun

    A thousand irreligious cursed hours,

    Which forced marriage would have brought upon her.

    Ford.Stand not amaz’d: here is no remedy:

    In love the heavens themselves do guide the state:

    Money buys lands, and wives are sold by fate.

    Fal.I am glad, though you have ta’en a special stand to strike at me, that your arrow hath glanced.

    Page.Well, what remedy?—Fenton, heaven give thee joy!

    What cannot be eschew’d must be embrac’d.

    Fal.When night dogs run all sorts of deer are chas’d.

    Mrs. Page.Well, I will muse no further. Master Fenton,

    Heaven give you many, many merry days!

    Good husband, let us every one go home,

    And laugh this sport o’er by a country fire;

    Sir John and all.

    Ford.Let it be so. Sir John,

    To Master Brook you yet shall hold your word;

    For he to-night shall lie with Mistress Ford.[Exeunt.