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

Act III. Scene V.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

A Room in the Garter Inn.


Fal.Bardolph, I say,—

Bard.Here, sir.

Fal.Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in ’t.[Exit BARD.]Have I lived to be carried in a basket, and to be thrown in the Thames like a barrow of butcher’s offal? Well, if I be served such another trick, I’ll have my brains ta’en out, and buttered, and give them to a dog for a new year’s gift. The rogues slighted me into the river with as little remorse as they would have drowned a blind bitch’s puppies, fifteen i’ the litter; and you may know by my size that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking: if the bottom were as deep as hell, I should down. I had been drowned but that the shore was shelvy and shallow; a death that I abhor, for the water swells a man, and what a thing should I have been when I had been swelled! I should have been a mountain of mummy.

Re-enter BARDOLPH, with the sack.

Bard.Here’s Mistress Quickly, sir, to speak with you.

Fal.Come, let me pour in some sack to the Thames water, for my belly’s as cold as if I had swallowed snowballs for pills to cool the reins. Call her in.

Bard.Come in, woman.


Quick.By your leave. I cry you mercy: give your worship good morrow.

Fal.Take away these chalices. Go brew me a pottle of sack finely.

Bard.With eggs, sir?

Fal.Simple of itself; I’ll no pullet-sperm in my brewage.[Exit BARDOLPH.]—How now!

Quick.Marry, sir, I come to your worship from Mistress Ford.

Fal.Mistress Ford! I have had ford enough; I was thrown into the ford; I have my belly full of ford.

Quick.Alas the day! good heart, that was not her fault: she does so take on with her men; they mistook their erection.

Fal.So did I mine, to build upon a foolish woman’s promise.

Quick.Well, she laments, sir, for it, that it would yearn your heart to see it. Her husband goes this morning a-birding: she desires you once more to come to her between eight and nine. I must carry her word quickly: she’ll make you amends, I warrant you.

Fal.Well, I will visit her: tell her so; and bid her think what a man is: let her consider his frailty, and then judge of my merit.

Quick.I will tell her.

Fal.Do so. Between nine and ten, sayest thou?

Quick.Eight and nine, sir.

Fal.Well, be gone: I will not miss her.

Quick.Peace be with you, sir.[Exit.

Fal.I marvel I hear not of Master Brook; he sent me word to stay within. I like his money well. O! here he comes.

Enter FORD.

Ford.Bless you, sir!

Fal.Now, Master Brook, you come to know what hath passed between me and Ford’s wife?

Ford.That, indeed, Sir John, is my business.

Fal.Master Brook, I will not lie to you: I was at her house the hour she appointed me.

Ford.And how sped you, sir?

Fal.Very ill-favouredly, Master Brook.

Ford.How so, sir? did she change her determination?

Fal.No, Master Brook; but the peaking cornuto her husband, Master Brook, dwelling in a continual ’larum of jealousy, comes me in the instant of our encounter, after we had embraced, kissed, protested, and, as it were, spoke the prologue of our comedy; and at his heels a rabble of his companions, thither provoked and instigated by his distemper, and, forsooth, to search his house for his wife’s love.

Ford.What! while you were there?

Fal.While I was there.

Ford.And did he search for you, and could not find you?

Fal.You shall hear. As good luck would have it, comes in one Mistress Page; gives intelligence of Ford’s approach; and in her invention, and Ford’s wife’s distraction, they conveyed me into a buck-basket.

Ford.A buck-basket!

Fal.By the Lord, a buck-basket! rammed me in with foul shirts and smocks, socks, foul stockings, greasy napkins; that, Master Brook, there was the rankest compound of villanous smell that ever offended nostril.

Ford.And how long lay you there?

Fal.Nay, you shall hear, Master Brook, what I have suffered to bring this woman to evil for your good. Being thus crammed in the basket, a couple of Ford’s knaves, his hinds, were called forth by their mistress to carry me in the name of foul clothes to Datchet-lane: they took me on their shoulders; met the jealous knave their master in the door, who asked them once or twice what they had in their basket. I quaked for fear lest the lunatic knave would have searched it; but Fate, ordaining he should be a cuckold, held his hand. Well; on went he for a search, and away went I for foul clothes. But mark the sequel, Master Brook: I suffered the pangs of three several deaths: first, an intolerable fright, to be detected with a jealous rotten bell-wether; next, to be compassed, like a good bilbo, in the circumference of a peck, hilt to point, heel to head; and then, to be stopped in, like a strong distillation, with stinking clothes that fretted in their own grease: think of that, a man of my kidney, think of that, that am as subject to heat as butter; a man of continual dissolution and thaw: it was a miracle to ’scape suffocation. And in the height of this bath, when I was more than half stewed in grease, like a Dutch dish, to be thrown into the Thames, and cooled, glowing hot, in that surge, like a horse-shoe; think of that, hissing hot, think of that, Master Brook!

Ford.In good sadness, sir, I am sorry that for my sake you have suffered all this. My suit then is desperate; you’ll undertake her no more?

Fal.Master Brook, I will be thrown into Etna, as I have been into Thames, ere I will leave her thus. Her husband is this morning gone a-birding: I have received from her another embassy of meeting; ’twist eight and nine is the hour, Master Brook.

Ford.’Tis past eight already, sir.

Fal.Is it? I will then address me to my appointment. Come to me at your convenient leisure, and you shall know how I speed, and the conclusion shall be crowned with your enjoying her: adieu. You shall have her, Master Brook; Master Brook, you shall cuckold Ford.[Exit.

Ford.Hum! ha! is this a vision? is this a dream? do I sleep? Master Ford, awake! awake, Master Ford! there’s a hole made in your best coat, Master Ford. This ’tis to be married: this ’tis to have linen and buck-baskets! Well, I will proclaim myself what I am: I will now take the lecher; he is at my house; he cannot ’scape me; ’tis impossible he should; he cannot creep into a half-penny purse, nor into a pepper-box; but, lest the devil that guides him should aid him, I will search impossible places. Though what I am I cannot avoid, yet to be what I would not, shall not make me tame: if I have horns to make me mad, let the proverb go with me; I’ll be horn-mad.[Exit.