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The Merry Wives of Windsor

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ACT IV SCENE II A room in FORD'S house. 
FALSTAFFMistress Ford, your sorrow hath eaten up my
sufferance. I see you are obsequious in your love,
and I profess requital to a hair's breadth; not
only, Mistress Ford, in the simple
office of love, but in all the accoutrement,5
complement and ceremony of it. But are you
sure of your husband now?
MISTRESS FORDHe's a-birding, sweet Sir John.
MISTRESS PAGE[Within] What, ho, gossip Ford! what, ho!
MISTRESS FORDStep into the chamber, Sir John.10
MISTRESS PAGEHow now, sweetheart! who's at home besides yourself?
MISTRESS FORDWhy, none but mine own people.
MISTRESS FORDNo, certainly.
[Aside to her]
Speak louder.15
MISTRESS PAGETruly, I am so glad you have nobody here.
MISTRESS PAGEWhy, woman, your husband is in his old lunes again:
he so takes on yonder with my husband; so rails
against all married mankind; so curses all Eve's20
daughters, of what complexion soever; and so buffets
himself on the forehead, crying, 'Peer out, peer
out!' that any madness I ever yet beheld seemed but
tameness, civility and patience, to this his
distemper he is in now: I am glad the fat knight is not here.25
MISTRESS FORDWhy, does he talk of him?
MISTRESS PAGEOf none but him; and swears he was carried out, the
last time he searched for him, in a basket; protests
to my husband he is now here, and hath drawn him and
the rest of their company from their sport, to make30
another experiment of his suspicion: but I am glad
the knight is not here; now he shall see his own foolery.
MISTRESS FORDHow near is he, Mistress Page?
MISTRESS PAGEHard by; at street end; he will be here anon.
MISTRESS FORDI am undone! The knight is here.35
MISTRESS PAGEWhy then you are utterly shamed, and he's but a dead
man. What a woman are you!--Away with him, away
with him! better shame than murder.
FORDWhich way should be go? how should I bestow him?
Shall I put him into the basket again?40
[Re-enter FALSTAFF]
FALSTAFFNo, I'll come no more i' the basket. May I not go
out ere he come?
MISTRESS PAGEAlas, three of Master Ford's brothers watch the door
with pistols, that none shall issue out; otherwise
you might slip away ere he came. But what make you here?45
FALSTAFFWhat shall I do? I'll creep up into the chimney.
MISTRESS FORDThere they always use to discharge their
birding-pieces. Creep into the kiln-hole.
FALSTAFFWhere is it?
MISTRESS FORDHe will seek there, on my word. Neither press,50
coffer, chest, trunk, well, vault, but he hath an
abstract for the remembrance of such places, and
goes to them by his note: there is no hiding you in the house.
FALSTAFFI'll go out then.
MISTRESS PAGEIf you go out in your own semblance, you die, Sir55
John. Unless you go out disguised--
MISTRESS FORDHow might we disguise him?
MISTRESS PAGEAlas the day, I know not! There is no woman's gown
big enough for him otherwise he might put on a hat,
a muffler and a kerchief, and so escape.60
FALSTAFFGood hearts, devise something: any extremity rather
than a mischief.
MISTRESS FORDMy maid's aunt, the fat woman of Brentford, has a
gown above.
MISTRESS PAGEOn my word, it will serve him; she's as big as he65
is: and there's her thrummed hat and her muffler
too. Run up, Sir John.
MISTRESS FORDGo, go, sweet Sir John: Mistress Page and I will
look some linen for your head.
MISTRESS PAGEQuick, quick! we'll come dress you straight: put70
on the gown the while.
MISTRESS FORDI would my husband would meet him in this shape: he
cannot abide the old woman of Brentford; he swears
she's a witch; forbade her my house and hath
threatened to beat her.75
MISTRESS PAGEHeaven guide him to thy husband's cudgel, and the
devil guide his cudgel afterwards!
MISTRESS FORDBut is my husband coming?
MISTRESS PAGEAh, in good sadness, is he; and talks of the basket
too, howsoever he hath had intelligence.80
MISTRESS FORDWe'll try that; for I'll appoint my men to carry the
basket again, to meet him at the door with it, as
they did last time.
MISTRESS PAGENay, but he'll be here presently: let's go dress him
like the witch of Brentford.85
MISTRESS FORDI'll first direct my men what they shall do with the
basket. Go up; I'll bring linen for him straight.
MISTRESS PAGEHang him, dishonest varlet! we cannot misuse him enough.
We'll leave a proof, by that which we will do,
Wives may be merry, and yet honest too:90
We do not act that often jest and laugh;
'Tis old, but true, Still swine eat all the draff.
[Re-enter MISTRESS FORD with two Servants]
MISTRESS FORDGo, sirs, take the basket again on your shoulders:
your master is hard at door; if he bid you set it
down, obey him: quickly, dispatch.95
First ServantCome, come, take it up.
Second ServantPray heaven it be not full of knight again.
First ServantI hope not; I had as lief bear so much lead.
FORDAy, but if it prove true, Master Page, have you any
way then to unfool me again? Set down the basket,100
villain! Somebody call my wife. Youth in a basket!
O you panderly rascals! there's a knot, a ging, a
pack, a conspiracy against me: now shall the devil
be shamed. What, wife, I say! Come, come forth!
Behold what honest clothes you send forth to bleaching!105
PAGEWhy, this passes, Master Ford; you are not to go
loose any longer; you must be pinioned.
SIR HUGH EVANSWhy, this is lunatics! this is mad as a mad dog!
SHALLOWIndeed, Master Ford, this is not well, indeed.
FORDSo say I too, sir.110
Come hither, Mistress Ford; Mistress Ford the honest
woman, the modest wife, the virtuous creature, that
hath the jealous fool to her husband! I suspect
without cause, mistress, do I?
MISTRESS FORDHeaven be my witness you do, if you suspect me in115
any dishonesty.
FORDWell said, brazen-face! hold it out. Come forth, sirrah!
[Pulling clothes out of the basket]
PAGEThis passes!
MISTRESS FORDAre you not ashamed? let the clothes alone.
FORDI shall find you anon.120
SIR HUGH EVANS'Tis unreasonable! Will you take up your wife's
clothes? Come away.
FORDEmpty the basket, I say!
MISTRESS FORDWhy, man, why?
FORDMaster Page, as I am a man, there was one conveyed125
out of my house yesterday in this basket: why may
not he be there again? In my house I am sure he is:
my intelligence is true; my jealousy is reasonable.
Pluck me out all the linen.
MISTRESS FORDIf you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death.130
PAGEHere's no man.
SHALLOWBy my fidelity, this is not well, Master Ford; this
wrongs you.
SIR HUGH EVANSMaster Ford, you must pray, and not follow the
imaginations of your own heart: this is jealousies.135
FORDWell, he's not here I seek for.
PAGENo, nor nowhere else but in your brain.
FORDHelp to search my house this one time. If I find
not what I seek, show no colour for my extremity; let
me for ever be your table-sport; let them say of140
me, 'As jealous as Ford, Chat searched a hollow
walnut for his wife's leman.' Satisfy me once more;
once more search with me.
MISTRESS FORDWhat, ho, Mistress Page! come you and the old woman
down; my husband will come into the chamber.145
FORDOld woman! what old woman's that?
MISTRESS FORDNay, it is my maid's aunt of Brentford.
FORDA witch, a quean, an old cozening quean! Have I not
forbid her my house? She comes of errands, does
she? We are simple men; we do not know what's150
brought to pass under the profession of
fortune-telling. She works by charms, by spells,
by the figure, and such daubery as this is, beyond
our element we know nothing. Come down, you witch,
you hag, you; come down, I say!155
MISTRESS FORDNay, good, sweet husband! Good gentlemen, let him
not strike the old woman.
[ Re-enter FALSTAFF in woman's clothes, and MISTRESS PAGE ]
MISTRESS PAGECome, Mother Prat; come, give me your hand.
FORDI'll prat her.
[Beating him]
Out of my door, you witch, you hag, you baggage, you160
polecat, you runyon! out, out! I'll conjure you,
I'll fortune-tell you.
MISTRESS PAGEAre you not ashamed? I think you have killed the
poor woman.
MISTRESS FORDNay, he will do it. 'Tis a goodly credit for you.165
FORDHang her, witch!
SIR HUGH EVANSBy the yea and no, I think the 'oman is a witch
indeed: I like not when a 'oman has a great peard;
I spy a great peard under his muffler.
FORDWill you follow, gentlemen? I beseech you, follow;170
see but the issue of my jealousy: if I cry out thus
upon no trail, never trust me when I open again.
PAGELet's obey his humour a little further: come,
MISTRESS PAGETrust me, he beat him most pitifully.175
MISTRESS FORDNay, by the mass, that he did not; he beat him most
unpitifully, methought.
MISTRESS PAGEI'll have the cudgel hallowed and hung o'er the
altar; it hath done meritorious service.
MISTRESS FORDWhat think you? may we, with the warrant of180
womanhood and the witness of a good conscience,
pursue him with any further revenge?
MISTRESS PAGEThe spirit of wantonness is, sure, scared out of
him: if the devil have him not in fee-simple, with
fine and recovery, he will never, I think, in the185
way of waste, attempt us again.
MISTRESS FORDShall we tell our husbands how we have served him?
MISTRESS PAGEYes, by all means; if it be but to scrape the
figures out of your husband's brains. If they can
find in their hearts the poor unvirtuous fat knight190
shall be any further afflicted, we two will still be
the ministers.
MISTRESS FORDI'll warrant they'll have him publicly shamed: and
methinks there would be no period to the jest,
should he not be publicly shamed.195
MISTRESS PAGECome, to the forge with it then; shape it: I would
not have things cool.

Next: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 4, Scene 3


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