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

Act I. Scene I.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Windsor.Before PAGE’S House.


Shal.Sir Hugh, persuade me not; I will make a Star-chamber matter of it; if he were twenty Sir John Falstaffs he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.

Slen.In the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and coram.

Shal.Ay, cousin Slender, and cust-alorum.

Slen.Ay, and rato-lorum too; and a gentleman born, Master Parson; who writes himself armigero, in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation,—armigero.

Shal.Ay, that I do; and have done any time these three hundred years.

Slen.All his successors gone before him hath done ’t; and all his ancestors that come after him may: they may give the dozen white luces in their coat.

Shal.It is an old coat.

Eva.The dozen white louses do become an old coat well; it agrees well, Passant; it is a familiar beast to man, and signifies love.

Shal.The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old coat.

Slen.I may quarter, coz?

Shal.You may, by marrying.

Eva.It is marring indeed, if he quarter it.

Shal.Not a whit.

Eva.Yes, py’r lady; if he has a quarter of your coat, there is but three skirts for yourself, in my simple conjectures: but that is all one. If Sir John Falstaff have committed disparagements unto you, I am of the Church, and will be glad to do my benevolence to make atonements and compremises between you.

Shal.The Council shall hear it; it is a riot.

Eva.It is not meet the Council hear a riot; there is no fear of Got in a riot. The Council, look you, shall desire to hear the fear of Got, and not to hear a riot; take your vizaments in that.

Shal.Ha! o’ my life, if I were young again, the sword should end it.

Eva.It is petter that friends is the sword, and end it; and there is also another device in my prain, which, peradventure, prings goot discretions with it. There is Anne Page, which is daughter to Master Thomas Page, which is pretty virginity.

Slen.Mistress Anne Page? She has brown hair, and speaks small like a woman.

Eva.It is that fery person for all the orld, as just as you will desire; and seven hundred pounds of moneys, and gold and silver, is her grandsire, upon his death’s-bed,—Got deliver to a joyful resurrections!—give, when she is able to overtake seventeen years old. It were a goot motion if we leave our pribbles and prabbles, and desire a marriage between Master Abraham and Mistress Anne Page.

Shal.Did her grandsire leave her seven hundred pound?

Eva.Ay, and her father is make her a petter penny.

Shal.I know the young gentlewoman; she has good gifts.

Eva.Seven hundred pounds and possibilities is goot gifts.

Shal.Well, let us see honest Master Page. Is Falstaff there?

Eva.Shall I tell you a lie? I do despise a liar as I do despise one that is false; or as I despise one that is not true. The knight, Sir John, is there; and, I beseech you, be ruled by your well-willers. I will peat the door for Master Page.[Knocks.]What, hoa! Got pless your house here!

Page.[Within]Who’s there?

Eva.Here is Got’s plessing, and your friend, and Justice Shallow; and here young Master Slender, that peradventures shall tell you another tale, if matters grow to your likings.

Enter PAGE.

Page.I am glad to see your worships well.

I thank you for my venison, Master Shallow.

Shal.Master Page, I am glad to see you: much good do it your good heart! I wished your venison better; it was ill killed. How doth good Mistress Page?—and I thank you always with my heart, la! with my heart.

Page.Sir, I thank you.

Shal.Sir, I thank you; by yea and no, I do.

Page.I am glad to see you, good Master Slender.

Slen.How does your fallow greyhound, sir?

I heard say he was outrun on Cotsall.

Page.It could not be judged, sir.

Slen.You’ll not confess, you’ll not confess.

Shal.That he will not: ’tis your fault, ’tis your fault. ’Tis a good dog.

Page.A cur, sir.

Shal.Sir, he’s a good dog, and a fair dog; can there be more said? he is good and fair. Is Sir John Falstaff here?

Page.Sir, he is within; and I would I could do a good office between you.

Eva.It is spoke as a Christians ought to speak.

Shal.He hath wronged me, Master Page.

Page.Sir, he doth in some sort confess it.

Shal.If it be confessed, it is not redressed: is not that so, Master Page? He hath wronged me; indeed, he hath;—at a word, he hath,—believe me: Robert Shallow, esquire, saith, he is wronged.

Page.Here comes Sir John.


Fal.Now, Master Shallow, you’ll complain of me to the king?

Shal.Knight, you have beaten my men, killed my deer, and broke open my lodge.

Fal.But not kissed your keeper’s daughter?

Shal.Tut, a pin! this shall be answered.

Fal.I will answer it straight: I have done all this. That is now answered.

Shal.The Council shall know this.

Fal.’Twere better for you if it were known in counsel: you’ll be laughed at.

Eva.Pauca verba, Sir John; goot worts.

Fal.Good worts! good cabbage. Slender, I broke your head: what matter have you against me?

Slen.Marry, sir, I have matter in my head against you; and against your cony-catching rascals, Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol. They carried me to the tavern, and made me drunk, and afterwards picked my pocket.

Bard.You Banbury cheese!

Slen.Ay, it is no matter.

Pist.How now, Mephistophilus!

Slen.Ay, it is no matter.

Nym.Slice, I say! pauca, pauca; slice! that’s my humour.

Slen.Where’s Simple, my man? can you tell, cousin?

Eva.Peace, I pray you. Now let us understand: there is three umpires in this matter, as I understand; that is—Master Page, fidelicet, Master Page; and there is myself, fidelicet, myself; and the three party is, lastly and finally, mine host of the Garter.

Page.We three, to hear it and end it between them.

Eva.Fery goot: I will make a prief of it in my note-book; and we will afterwards ork upon the cause with as great discreetly as we can.


Pist.He hears with ears.

Eva.The tevil and his tam! what phrase is this, ’He hears with ear?’ Why, it is affectations.

Fal.Pistol, did you pick Master Slender’s purse?

Slen.Ay, by these gloves, did he,—or I would I might never come in mine own great chamber again else,—of seven groats in mill-sixpences, and two Edward shovel-boards, that cost me two shilling and two pence a-piece of Yead Miller, by these gloves.

Fal.Is this true, Pistol?

Eva.No; it is false, if it is a pick-purse.

Pist.Ha, thou mountain foreigner!—Sir John and master mine,

I combat challenge of this latten bilbo.

Word of denial in thy labras here!

Word of denial: froth and scum, thou liest.

Slen.By these gloves, then, ’twas he.

Nym.Be avised, sir, and pass good humours. I will say, ‘marry trap,’ with you, if you run the nuthook’s humour on me: that is the very note of it.

Slen.By this hat, then, he in the red face had it; for though I cannot remember what I did when you made me drunk, yet I am not altogether an ass.

Fal.What say you, Scarlet and John?

Bard.Why, sir, for my part, I say, the gentleman had drunk himself out of his five sentences.

Eva.It is his ’five senses;’ fie, what the ignorance is!

Bard.And being fap, sir, was, as they say, cashier’d; and so conclusions pass’d the careires.

Slen.Ay, you spake in Latin then too; but ’tis no matter. I’ll ne’er be drunk whilst I live again, but in honest, civil, godly company, for this trick: if I be drunk, I’ll be drunk with those that have the fear of God, and not with drunken knaves.

Eva.So Got udge me, that is a virtuous mind.

Fal.You hear all these matters denied, gentlemen; you hear it.


Page.Nay, daughter, carry the wine in; we’ll drink within.[Exit ANNE PAGE.

Slen.O heaven! this is Mistress Anne Page.

Page.How now, Mistress Ford!

Fal.Mistress Ford, by my troth, you are very well met: by your leave, good mistress.[Kissing her.

Page.Wife, bid these gentlemen welcome. Come, we have a hot venison pasty to dinner: come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.[Exeunt all but SHALLOW, SLENDER, and EVANS.

Slen.I had rather than forty shillings I had my Book of Songs and Sonnets here.


How now, Simple! Where have you been? I must wait on myself, must I? You have not the Book of Riddles about you, have you?

Sim.Book of Riddles! why, did you not lend it to Alice Shortcake upon All-Hallowmas last, a fortnight afore Michaelmas?

Shal.Come, coz; come, coz; we stay for you. A word with you, coz; marry, this, coz: there is, as ’twere a tender, a kind of tender, made afar off by Sir Hugh here: do you understand me?

Slen.Ay, sir, you shall find me reasonable: if it be so, I shall do that that is reason.

Shal.Nay, but understand me.

Slen.So I do, sir.

Eva.Give ear to his motions, Master Slender: I will description the matter to you, if you pe capacity of it.

Slen.Nay, I will do as my cousin Shallow says. I pray you pardon me; he’s a justice of peace in his country, simple though I stand here.

Eva.But that is not the question; the question is concerning your marriage.

Shal.Ay, there’s the point, sir.

Eva.Marry, is it, the very point of it; to Mistress Anne Page.

Slen.Why, if it be so, I will marry her upon any reasonable demands.

Eva.But can you affection the ’oman? Let us command to know that of your mouth or of your lips; for divers philosophers hold that the lips is parcel of the mouth: therefore, precisely, can you carry your good will to the maid?

Shal.Cousin Abraham Slender, can you love her?

Slen.I hope, sir, I will do as it shall become one that would do reason.

Eva.Nay, Got’s lords and his ladies! you must speak possitable, if you can carry her your desires towards her.

Shal.That you must. Will you, upon good dowry, marry her?

Slen.I will do a greater thing than that, upon your request, cousin, in any reason.

Shal.Nay, conceive me, conceive me, sweet coz: what I do, is to pleasure you, coz. Can you love the maid?

Slen.I will marry her, sir, at your request; but if there be no great love in the beginning, yet heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance, when we are married and have more occasion to know one another: I hope, upon familiarity will grow more contempt: but if you say, ‘Marry her,’ I will marry her; that I am freely dissolved, and dissolutely.

Eva.It is a ferry discretion answer; save, the faul is in the ort ’dissolutely:’ the ort is, according to our meaning, ‘resolutely.’ His meaning is goot.

Shal.Ay, I think my cousin meant well.

Slen.Ay, or else I would I might be hanged, la!

Shal.Here comes fair Mistress Anne.

Re-enter ANNE PAGE.

Would I were young for your sake, Mistress Anne.

Anne.The dinner is on the table; my father desires your worships’ company.

Shal.I will wait on him, fair Mistress Anne.

Eva.Od’s plessed will! I will not be absence at the grace.[Exeunt SHALLOW and EVANS.

Anne.Will ’t please your worship to come in, sir?

Slen.No, I thank you, forsooth, heartily; I am very well.

Anne.The dinner attends you, sir.

Slen.I am not a-hungry, I thank you forsooth. Go, sirrah, for all you are my man, go wait upon my cousin Shallow.[Exit SIMPLE.]A justice of peace sometime may be beholding to his friend for a man. I keep but three men and a boy yet, till my mother be dead; but what though? yet I live like a poor gentleman born.

Anne.I may not go in without your worship: they will not sit till you come.

Slen.I’ faith, I’ll eat nothing; I thank you as much as though I did.

Anne.I pray you, sir, walk in.

Slen.I had rather walk here, I thank you. I bruised my shin th’ other day with playing at sword and dagger with a master of fence; three veneys for a dish of stewed prunes;—and, by my troth, I cannot abide the smell of hot meat since. Why do your dogs bark so? be there bears i’ the town?

Anne.I think there are, sir; I heard them talked of.

Slen.I love the sport well; but I shall as soon quarrel at it as any man in England. You are afraid, if you see the bear loose, are you not?

Anne.Ay, indeed, sir.

Slen.That’s meat and drink to me, now: I have seen Sackerson loose twenty times, and have taken him by the chain; but, I warrant you, the women have so cried and shrieked at it, that it passed: but women, indeed, cannot abide ’em; they are very ill-favoured rough things.

Re-enter PAGE.

Page.Come, gentle Master Slender, come; we stay for you.

Slen.I’ll eat nothing, I thank you, sir.

Page.By cock and pie, you shall not choose, sir! come, come.

Slen.Nay, pray you, lead the way.

Page.Come on, sir.

Slen.Mistress Anne, yourself shall go first.

Anne.Not I, sir; pray you, keep on.

Slen.Truly, I will not go first: truly, la! I will not do you that wrong.

Anne.I pray you, sir.

Slen.I’ll rather be unmannerly than troublesome. You do yourself wrong, indeed, la![Exeunt.