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The Merry Wives of Windsor - Act 4, scene 4
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Navigate this workThe Merry Wives of Windsor - Act 4, scene 4
Act 4, scene 4
Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, having fully disclosed their dealings with Falstaff to their husbands, conspire with them to humiliate Falstaff publicly that night in Windsor Forest. Master and Mistress Page each plan to take advantage of the occasion to marry their daughter to the suitor of their choice.Enter Page, Ford, Mistress Page, Mistress Ford, and
⌜Sir Hugh⌝ Evans.
SIR HUGH 2300 ’Tis one of the best discretions of a ’oman as
2301 ever I did look upon.
PAGE 2302 And did he send you both these letters at an
MISTRESS PAGE 2304 5Within a quarter of an hour.
2305 Pardon me, wife. Henceforth do what thou wilt.
2306 I rather will suspect the sun with ⌜cold⌝
2307 Than thee with wantonness. Now doth thy honor
2309 10 In him that was of late an heretic,
2310 As firm as faith.
PAGE 2311 ’Tis well, ’tis well. No more.
2312 Be not as extreme in submission as in offense.
2313 But let our plot go forward. Let our wives
2314 15 Yet once again, to make us public sport,
2315 Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow,
2316 Where we may take him and disgrace him for it.
2317 There is no better way than that they spoke of.
PAGE 2318 How, to send him word they’ll meet him in the
2319 20 park at midnight? Fie, fie, he’ll never come.
p. 161SIR HUGH 2320 You say he has been thrown in the rivers
2321 and has been grievously peaten as an old ’oman.
2322 Methinks there should be terrors in him, that he
2323 should not come. Methinks his flesh is punished;
2324 25 he shall have no desires.
PAGE 2325 So think I too.
2326 Devise but how you’ll use him when he comes,
2327 And let us two devise to bring him thither.
2328 There is an old tale goes that Herne the Hunter,
2329 30 Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
2330 Doth all the wintertime, at still midnight,
2331 Walk round about an oak, with great ragged horns,
2332 And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,
2333 And ⌜makes⌝ milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a
2334 35 chain
2335 In a most hideous and dreadful manner.
2336 You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
2337 The superstitious idle-headed eld
2338 Received and did deliver to our age
2339 40 This tale of Herne the Hunter for a truth.
2340 Why, yet there want not many that do fear
2341 In deep of night to walk by this Herne’s oak.
2342 But what of this?
MISTRESS FORD 2343 Marry, this is our device,
2344 45 That Falstaff at that oak shall meet with us.
2345 Well, let it not be doubted but he’ll come.
2346 And in this shape when you have brought him
2348 What shall be done with him? What is your plot?
2349 50 That likewise have we thought upon, and thus:
2350 Nan Page my daughter, and my little son,
p. 1632351 And three or four more of their growth we’ll dress
2352 Like urchins, aufs, and fairies, green and white,
2353 With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads
2354 55 And rattles in their hands. Upon a sudden,
2355 As Falstaff, she, and I are newly met,
2356 Let them from forth a sawpit rush at once
2357 With some diffusèd song. Upon their sight,
2358 We two in great amazedness will fly.
2359 60 Then let them all encircle him about,
2360 And, fairy-like, to pinch the unclean knight,
2361 And ask him why, that hour of fairy revel,
2362 In their so sacred paths he dares to tread
2363 In shape profane.
FORD 2364 65 And till he tell the truth,
2365 Let the supposèd fairies pinch him sound
2366 And burn him with their tapers.
MISTRESS PAGE 2367 The truth being known,
2368 We’ll all present ourselves, dis-horn the spirit,
2369 70 And mock him home to Windsor.
FORD 2370 The children must
2371 Be practiced well to this, or they’ll ne’er do ’t.
SIR HUGH 2372 I will teach the children their behaviors, and
2373 I will be like a jackanapes also, to burn the knight
2374 75 with my taber.
FORD 2375 That will be excellent. I’ll go buy them vizards.
2376 My Nan shall be the queen of all the fairies,
2377 Finely attirèd in a robe of white.
2378 That silk will I go buy. ⌜(Aside.)⌝ And in that time
2379 80 Shall Master Slender steal my Nan away
2380 And marry her at Eton.—Go, send to Falstaff
2382 Nay, I’ll to him again in name of ⌜Brook.⌝
2383 He’ll tell me all his purpose. Sure he’ll come.
p. 165MISTRESS PAGE
2384 85 Fear not you that. Go get us properties
2385 And tricking for our fairies.
SIR HUGH 2386 Let us about it. It is admirable pleasures and
2387 fery honest knaveries.
⌜Page, Ford, and Sir Hugh exit.⌝
MISTRESS PAGE 2388 Go, Mistress Ford,
2389 90 Send quickly to Sir John to know his mind.
⌜Mistress Ford exits.⌝
2390 I’ll to the doctor. He hath my good will,
2391 And none but he, to marry with Nan Page.
2392 That Slender, though well-landed, is an idiot,
2393 And he my husband best of all affects.
2394 95 The doctor is well-moneyed, and his friends
2395 Potent at court. He, none but he, shall have her,
2396 Though twenty thousand worthier come to crave her.