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

Act II. Scene I.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Before PAGE’S House.

Enter MISTRESS PAGE, with a Letter.

Mrs. Page.What! have I ’scaped love-letters in the holiday-time of my beauty, and am I now a subject for them? Let me see.

  • Ask me no reason why I love you; for though Love use Reason for his physician, he admits him not for his counsellor. You are not young, no more am I; go to then, there’s sympathy; you are merry, so am I; ha! ha! then, there’s more sympathy; you love sack, and so do I; would you desire better sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page, at the least, if the love of a soldier can suffice, that I love thee. I will not say, pity me,—’tis not a soldier-like phrase; but I say, love me. By me,
  • Thine own true knight,
  • By day or night,
  • Or any kind of light,
  • With all his might
  • For thee to fight,
  • What a Herod of Jewry is this! O wicked, wicked world! one that is well-nigh worn to pieces with age, to show himself a young gallant! What an unweighed behaviour hath this Flemish drunkard picked, with the devil’s name! out of my conversation, that he dares in this manner assay me? Why, he hath not been thrice in my company! What should I say to him? I was then frugal of my mirth:—heaven forgive me! Why, I’ll exhibit a bill in the parliament for the putting down of men. How shall I be revenged on him? for revenged I will be, as sure as his guts are made of puddings.


    Mrs. Ford.Mistress Page! trust me, I was going to your house.

    Mrs. Page.And, trust me, I was coming to you. You look very ill.

    Mrs. Ford.Nay, I’ll ne’er believe that: I have to show to the contrary.

    Mrs. Page.Faith, but you do, in my mind.

    Mrs. Ford.Well, I do then; yet, I say I could show you to the contrary. O, Mistress Page! give me some counsel.

    Mrs. Page.What’s the matter, woman?

    Mrs. Ford.O woman, if it were not for one trifling respect, I could come to such honour!

    Mrs. Page.Hang the trifle, woman; take the honour. What is it?—dispense with trifles;—what is it?

    Mrs. Ford.If I would but go to hell for an eternal moment or so, I could be knighted.

    Mrs. Page.What? thou liest. Sir Alice Ford! These knights will hack; and so thou shouldst not alter the article of the gentry.

    Mrs. Ford.We burn daylight: here, read, read; perceive how I might be knighted. I shall think the worse of fat men as long as I have an eye to make difference of men’s liking: and yet he would not swear; praised women’s modesty; and gave such orderly and well-behaved reproof to all uncomeliness, that I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words; but they do no more adhere and keep place together than the Hundredth Psalm to the tune of ‘Green Sleeves.’ What tempest, I trow, threw this whale, with so many tuns of oil in his belly, ashore at Windsor? How shall I be revenged on him? I think, the best way were to entertain him with hope, till the wicked fire of lust have melted him in his own grease. Did you ever hear the like?

    Mrs. Page.Letter for letter, but that the name of Page and Ford differs! To thy great comfort in this mystery of ill opinions, here’s the twin brother of thy letter: but let thine inherit first; for, I protest, mine never shall. I warrant, he hath a thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for different names, sure more, and these are of the second edition. He will print them, out of doubt; for he cares not what he puts into the press, when he would put us two: I had rather be a giantess, and lie under Mount Pelion. Well, I will find you twenty lascivious turtles ere one chaste man.

    Mrs. Ford.Why, this is the very same; the very hand, the very words. What doth he think of us?

    Mrs. Page.Nay, I know not: it makes me almost ready to wrangle with mine own honesty. I’ll entertain myself like one that I am not acquainted withal; for, sure, unless he know some strain in me, that I know not myself, he would never have boarded me in this fury.

    Mrs. Ford.Boarding call you it? I’ll be sure to keep him above deck.

    Mrs. Page.So will I: if he come under my hatches, I’ll never to sea again. Let’s be revenged on him: let’s appoint him a meeting; give him a show of comfort in his suit, and lead him on with a fine-baited delay, till he hath pawned his horses to mine host of the Garter.

    Mrs. Ford.Nay, I will consent to act any villany against him, that may not sully the chariness of our honesty. O, that my husband saw this letter! it would give eternal food to his jealousy.

    Mrs. Page.Why, look, where he comes; and my good man too: he’s as far from jealousy, as I am from giving him cause; and that, I hope, is an unmeasurable distance.

    Mrs. Ford.You are the happier woman.

    Mrs. Page.Let’s consult together against this greasy knight. Come hither.[They retire.

    Enter FORD, PISTOL, PAGE, and NYM.

    Ford.Well, I hope it be not so.

    Pist.Hope is a curtal dog in some affairs:

    Sir John affects thy wife.

    Ford.Why, sir, my wife is not young

    Pist.He woos both high and low, both rich and poor,

    Both young and old, one with another, Ford.

    He loves the galimaufry: Ford, perpend.

    Ford.Love my wife!

    Pist.With liver burning hot: prevent, or go thou,

    Like Sir Actæon he, with Ringwood at thy heels.—

    O! odious is the name!

    Ford.What name, sir?

    Pist.The horn, I say. Farewell:

    Take heed; have open eye, for thieves do foot by night:

    Take heed, ere summer comes or cuckoo-birds do sing.

    Away, sir Corporal Nym!

    Believe it, Page; he speaks sense.[Exit.

    Ford.[Aside.]I will be patient: I will find out this.

    Nym.[To PAGE.]And this is true; I like not the humour of lying. He hath wronged me in some humours: I should have borne the humoured letter to her, but I have a sword and it shall bite upon my necessity. He loves your wife; there’s the short and the long. My name is Corporal Nym; I speak, and I avouch ’tis true: my name is Nym, and Falstaff loves your wife. Adieu. I love not the humour of bread and cheese; and there’s the humour of it. Adieu.[Exit.

    Page.[Aside.]‘The humour of it,’ quoth ’a! here’s a fellow frights humour out of his wits.

    Ford.I will seek out Falstaff.

    Page.I never heard such a drawling, affecting rogue.

    Ford.If I do find it: well.

    Page.I will not believe such a Cataian, though the priest o’ the town commended him for a true man.

    Ford.’Twas a good sensible fellow: well.

    Page.How now, Meg!

    Mrs. Page.Whither go you, George?—Hark you.

    Mrs. Ford.How now, sweet Frank! why art thou melancholy?

    Ford.I melancholy! I am not melancholy. Get you home, go.

    Mrs. Ford.Faith, thou hast some crotchets in thy head now. Will you go, Mistress Page?

    Mrs. Page.Have with you. You’ll come to dinner, George?[Aside to MRS. FORD.]Look, who comes yonder: she shall be our messenger to this paltry knight.

    Mrs. Ford.Trust me, I thought on her: she’ll fit it.


    Mrs. Page.You are come to see my daughter Anne?

    Quick.Ay, forsooth; and, I pray, how does good Mistress Anne?

    Mrs. Page.Go in with us, and see: we’d have an hour’s talk with you.[Exeunt MISTRESS PAGE, MISTRESS FORD, and MISTRESS QUICKLY.

    Page.How now, Master Ford!

    Ford.You heard what this knave told me, did you not?

    Page.Yes; and you heard what the other told me?

    Ford.Do you think there is truth in them?

    Page.Hang ’em, slaves! I do not think the knight would offer it: but these that accuse him in his intent towards our wives, are a yoke of his discarded men; very rogues, now they be out of service.

    Ford.Were they his men?

    Page.Marry, were they.

    Ford.I like it never the better for that. Does he lie at the Garter?

    Page.Ay, marry, does he. If he should intend this voyage towards my wife, I would turn her loose to him; and what he gets more of her than sharp words, let it lie on my head.

    Ford.I do not misdoubt my wife, but I would be loth to turn them together. A man may be too confident: I would have nothing ‘lie on my head:’ I cannot be thus satisfied.

    Page.Look, where my ranting host of the Garter comes. There is either liquor in his pate or money in his purse when he looks so merrily.—

    Enter Host and SHALLOW.

    How now, mine host!

    Host.How now, bully-rook! thou’rt a gentleman. Cavaliero-justice, I say!

    Shal.I follow, mine host, I follow. Good even and twenty, good Master Page! Master Page, will you go with us? we have sport in hand.

    Host.Tell him, cavaliero-justice; tell him, bully-rook.

    Shal.Sir, there is a fray to be fought between Sir Hugh the Welsh priest and Caius the French doctor.

    Ford.Good mine host o’ the Garter, a word with you.

    Host.What sayest thou, my bully-rook?[They go aside.

    Shal.[To PAGE.]Will you go with us to behold it? My merry host hath had the measuring of their weapons, and, I think, hath appointed them contrary places; for, believe me, I hear the parson is no jester. Hark, I will tell you what our sport shall be.[They go aside.

    Host.Hast thou no suit against my knight, my guest-cavalier?

    Ford.None, I protest: but I’ll give you a pottle of burnt sack to give me recourse to him and tell him my name is Brook, only for a jest.

    Host.My hand, bully: thou shalt have egress and regress; said I well? and thy name shall be Brook. It is a merry knight. Will you go, mynheers?

    Shal.Have with you, mine host.

    Page.I have heard, the Frenchman hath good skill in his rapier.

    Shal.Tut, sir! I could have told you more. In these times you stand on distance, your passes, stoccadoes, and I know not what: ’tis the heart, Master Page; ’tis here, ’tis here. I have seen the time with my long sword I would have made you four tall fellows skip like rats.

    Host.Here, boys, here, here! shall we wag?

    Page.Have with you. I had rather hear them scold than fight.[Exeunt Host, SHALLOW, and PAGE.

    Ford.Though Page be a secure fool, and stands so firmly on his wife’s frailty, yet I cannot put off my opinion so easily. She was in his company at Page’s house, and what they made there, I know not. Well, I will look further into ’t; and I have a disguise to sound Falstaff. If I find her honest, I lose not my labour; if she be otherwise, ’tis labour well bestowed.[Exit.