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The Merry Wives of Windsor

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ACT II SCENE I Before PAGE'S house. 
[Enter MISTRESS PAGE, with a letter]
MISTRESS PAGEWhat, 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 him5
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,--at10
the least, if the love of 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,15
Or any kind of light,
With all his might
For thee to fight, JOHN FALSTAFF'
What a Herod of Jewry is this! O wicked
world! One that is well-nigh worn to pieces with20
age to show himself a young gallant! What an
unweighed behavior 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! What25
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.30
MISTRESS FORDMistress Page! trust me, I was going to your house.
MISTRESS PAGEAnd, trust me, I was coming to you. You look very
MISTRESS FORDNay, I'll ne'er believe that; I have to show to the contrary.
MISTRESS PAGEFaith, but you do, in my mind.35
MISTRESS FORDWell, I do then; yet I say I could show you to the
contrary. O Mistress Page, give me some counsel!
MISTRESS PAGEWhat's the matter, woman?
MISTRESS FORDO woman, if it were not for one trifling respect, I
could come to such honour!40
MISTRESS PAGEHang the trifle, woman! take the honour. What is
it? dispense with trifles; what is it?
MISTRESS FORDIf I would but go to hell for an eternal moment or so,
I could be knighted.
MISTRESS PAGEWhat? thou liest! Sir Alice Ford! These knights45
will hack; and so thou shouldst not alter the
article of thy gentry.
MISTRESS FORDWe 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 of50
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 adhere55
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 him60
with hope, till the wicked fire of lust have melted
him in his own grease. Did you ever hear the like?
MISTRESS PAGELetter 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 thy65
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;70
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.
MISTRESS FORDWhy, this is the very same; the very hand, the very75
words. What doth he think of us?
MISTRESS PAGENay, 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 I80
know not myself, he would never have boarded me in this fury.
MISTRESS FORD'Boarding,' call you it? I'll be sure to keep him
above deck.
MISTRESS PAGESo will I if he come under my hatches, I'll never
to sea again. Let's be revenged on him: let's85
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.
MISTRESS FORDNay, I will consent to act any villany against him,
that may not sully the chariness of our honesty. O,90
that my husband saw this letter! it would give
eternal food to his jealousy.
MISTRESS PAGEWhy, 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.95
MISTRESS FORDYou are the happier woman.
MISTRESS PAGELet's consult together against this greasy knight.
Come hither.
[They retire]
[Enter FORD with PISTOL, and PAGE with NYM]
FORDWell, I hope it be not so.
PISTOLHope is a curtal dog in some affairs:100
Sir John affects thy wife.
FORDWhy, sir, my wife is not young.
PISTOLHe wooes both high and low, both rich and poor,
Both young and old, one with another, Ford;
He loves the gallimaufry: Ford, perpend.105
FORDLove my wife!
PISTOLWith liver burning hot. Prevent, or go thou,
Like Sir Actaeon he, with Ringwood at thy heels:
O, odious is the name!
FORDWhat name, sir?110
PISTOLThe 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.115
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.120
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.125
PAGE'The humour of it,' quoth a'! here's a fellow
frights English out of his wits.
FORDI will seek out Falstaff.
PAGEI never heard such a drawling, affecting rogue.
FORDIf I do find it: well.130
PAGEI 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.
PAGEHow now, Meg!
MISTRESS PAGEWhither go you, George? Hark you.135
MISTRESS FORDHow now, sweet Frank! why art thou melancholy?
FORDI melancholy! I am not melancholy. Get you home, go.
MISTRESS FORDFaith, thou hast some crotchets in thy head. Now,
will you go, Mistress Page?
MISTRESS PAGEHave with you. You'll come to dinner, George.140
Look who comes yonder: she shall be our messenger
to this paltry knight.
MISTRESS FORD[Aside to MISTRESS PAGE] Trust me, I thought on her:
she'll fit it.
MISTRESS PAGEYou are come to see my daughter Anne?145
MISTRESS QUICKLYAy, forsooth; and, I pray, how does good Mistress Anne?
MISTRESS PAGEGo in with us and see: we have an hour's talk with
PAGEHow now, Master Ford!
FORDYou heard what this knave told me, did you not?150
PAGEYes: and you heard what the other told me?
FORDDo you think there is truth in them?
PAGEHang '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;155
very rogues, now they be out of service.
FORDWere they his men?
PAGEMarry, were they.
FORDI like it never the better for that. Does he lie at
the Garter?160
PAGEAy, 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.
FORDI do not misdoubt my wife; but I would be loath to165
turn them together. A man may be too confident: I
would have nothing lie on my head: I cannot be thus satisfied.
PAGELook 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.170
[Enter Host]
How now, mine host!
HostHow now, bully-rook! thou'rt a gentleman.
Cavaleiro-justice, I say!
SHALLOWI follow, mine host, I follow. Good even and
twenty, good Master Page! Master Page, will you go175
with us? we have sport in hand.
HostTell him, cavaleiro-justice; tell him, bully-rook.
SHALLOWSir, there is a fray to be fought between Sir Hugh
the Welsh priest and Caius the French doctor.
FORDGood mine host o' the Garter, a word with you.180
[Drawing him aside]
HostWhat sayest thou, my bully-rook?
SHALLOW[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.185
Hark, I will tell you what our sport shall be.
[They converse apart]
HostHast thou no suit against my knight, my
FORDNone, I protest: but I'll give you a pottle of
burnt sack to give me recourse to him and tell him190
my name is Brook; only for a jest.
HostMy 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, An-heires?
SHALLOWHave with you, mine host.195
PAGEI have heard the Frenchman hath good skill in
his rapier.
SHALLOWTut, 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; 'tis200
here, 'tis here. I have seen the time, with my long
sword I would have made you four tall fellows skip like rats.
HostHere, boys, here, here! shall we wag?
PAGEHave with you. I would rather hear them scold than fight.
[Exeunt Host, SHALLOW, and PAGE]
FORDThough Page be a secure fool, an stands so firmly205
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 not210
my labour; if she be otherwise, 'tis labour well bestowed.

Next: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2, Scene 2


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