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The Merry Wives of Windsor

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[Enter FALSTAFF disguised as Herne]
FALSTAFFThe Windsor bell hath struck twelve; the minute
draws on. Now, the hot-blooded gods assist me!
Remember, Jove, thou wast a bull for thy Europa; love
set on thy horns. O powerful love! that, in some
respects, makes a beast a man, in some other, a man5
a beast. You were also, Jupiter, a swan for the love
of Leda. O omnipotent Love! how near the god drew
to the complexion of a goose! A fault done first in
the form of a beast. O Jove, a beastly fault! And
then another fault in the semblance of a fowl; think10
on 't, Jove; a foul fault! When gods have hot
backs, what shall poor men do? For me, I am here a
Windsor stag; and the fattest, I think, i' the
forest. Send me a cool rut-time, Jove, or who can
blame me to piss my tallow? Who comes here? my15
MISTRESS FORDSir John! art thou there, my deer? my male deer?
FALSTAFFMy doe with the black scut! Let the sky rain
potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Green
Sleeves, hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let20
there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here.
MISTRESS FORDMistress Page is come with me, sweetheart.
FALSTAFFDivide me like a bribe buck, each a haunch: I will
keep my sides to myself, my shoulders for the fellow
of this walk, and my horns I bequeath your husbands.25
Am I a woodman, ha? Speak I like Herne the hunter?
Why, now is Cupid a child of conscience; he makes
restitution. As I am a true spirit, welcome!
[Noise within]
MISTRESS PAGEAlas, what noise?
MISTRESS FORDHeaven forgive our sins30
FALSTAFFWhat should this be?
[They run off]
FALSTAFFI think the devil will not have me damned, lest the
oil that's in me should set hell on fire; he would
never else cross me thus.35
[ Enter SIR HUGH EVANS, disguised as before; PISTOL, as Hobgoblin; MISTRESS QUICKLY, ANNE PAGE, and others, as Fairies, with tapers ]
MISTRESS QUICKLYFairies, black, grey, green, and white,
You moonshine revellers and shades of night,
You orphan heirs of fixed destiny,
Attend your office and your quality.
Crier Hobgoblin, make the fairy oyes.40
PISTOLElves, list your names; silence, you airy toys.
Cricket, to Windsor chimneys shalt thou leap:
Where fires thou find'st unraked and hearths unswept,
There pinch the maids as blue as bilberry:
Our radiant queen hates sluts and sluttery.45
FALSTAFFThey are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die:
I'll wink and couch: no man their works must eye.
[Lies down upon his face]
SIR HUGH EVANSWhere's Bede? Go you, and where you find a maid
That, ere she sleep, has thrice her prayers said,
Raise up the organs of her fantasy;50
Sleep she as sound as careless infancy:
But those as sleep and think not on their sins,
Pinch them, arms, legs, backs, shoulders, sides and shins.
Search Windsor Castle, elves, within and out:55
Strew good luck, ouphes, on every sacred room:
That it may stand till the perpetual doom,
In state as wholesome as in state 'tis fit,
Worthy the owner, and the owner it.
The several chairs of order look you scour60
With juice of balm and every precious flower:
Each fair instalment, coat, and several crest,
With loyal blazon, evermore be blest!
And nightly, meadow-fairies, look you sing,
Like to the Garter's compass, in a ring:65
The expressure that it bears, green let it be,
More fertile-fresh than all the field to see;
And 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' write
In emerald tufts, flowers purple, blue and white;
Let sapphire, pearl and rich embroidery,70
Buckled below fair knighthood's bending knee:
Fairies use flowers for their charactery.
Away; disperse: but till 'tis one o'clock,
Our dance of custom round about the oak
Of Herne the hunter, let us not forget.75
SIR HUGH EVANSPray you, lock hand in hand; yourselves in order set
And twenty glow-worms shall our lanterns be,
To guide our measure round about the tree.
But, stay; I smell a man of middle-earth.
FALSTAFFHeavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he80
transform me to a piece of cheese!
PISTOLVile worm, thou wast o'erlook'd even in thy birth.
MISTRESS QUICKLYWith trial-fire touch me his finger-end:
If he be chaste, the flame will back descend
And turn him to no pain; but if he start,85
It is the flesh of a corrupted heart.
PISTOLA trial, come.
SIR HUGH EVANSCome, will this wood take fire?
[They burn him with their tapers]
MISTRESS QUICKLYCorrupt, corrupt, and tainted in desire!90
About him, fairies; sing a scornful rhyme;
And, as you trip, still pinch him to your time.
Fie on sinful fantasy!
Fie on lust and luxury!
Lust is but a bloody fire,95
Kindled with unchaste desire,
Fed in heart, whose flames aspire
As thoughts do blow them, higher and higher.
Pinch him, fairies, mutually;
Pinch him for his villany;100
Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about,
Till candles and starlight and moonshine be out.
[ During this song they pinch FALSTAFF. DOCTOR CAIUS comes one way, and steals away a boy in green; SLENDER another way, and takes off a boy in white; and FENTON comes and steals away ANN PAGE. A noise of hunting is heard within. All the Fairies run away. FALSTAFF pulls off his buck's head, and rises ]
PAGENay, do not fly; I think we have watch'd you now
Will none but Herne the hunter serve your turn?
MISTRESS PAGEI pray you, come, hold up the jest no higher105
Now, good Sir John, how like you Windsor wives?
See you these, husband? do not these fair yokes
Become the forest better than the town?
FORDNow, sir, who's a cuckold now? Master Brook,
Falstaff's a knave, a cuckoldly knave; here are his110
horns, Master Brook: and, Master Brook, he hath
enjoyed nothing of Ford's but his buck-basket, his
cudgel, and twenty pounds of money, which must be
paid to Master Brook; his horses are arrested for
it, Master Brook.115
MISTRESS FORDSir John, we have had ill luck; we could never meet.
I will never take you for my love again; but I will
always count you my deer.
FALSTAFFI do begin to perceive that I am made an ass.
FORDAy, and an ox too: both the proofs are extant.120
FALSTAFFAnd these are not fairies? I was three or four
times in the thought they were not fairies: and yet
the guiltiness of my mind, the sudden surprise of my
powers, drove the grossness of the foppery into a
received belief, in despite of the teeth of all125
rhyme and reason, that they were fairies. See now
how wit may be made a Jack-a-Lent, when 'tis upon
ill employment!
SIR HUGH EVANSSir John Falstaff, serve Got, and leave your
desires, and fairies will not pinse you.130
FORDWell said, fairy Hugh.
SIR HUGH EVANSAnd leave your jealousies too, I pray you.
FORDI will never mistrust my wife again till thou art
able to woo her in good English.
FALSTAFFHave I laid my brain in the sun and dried it, that135
it wants matter to prevent so gross o'erreaching as
this? Am I ridden with a Welsh goat too? shall I
have a coxcomb of frize? 'Tis time I were choked
with a piece of toasted cheese.
SIR HUGH EVANSSeese is not good to give putter; your belly is all putter.140
FALSTAFF'Seese' and 'putter'! have I lived to stand at the
taunt of one that makes fritters of English? This
is enough to be the decay of lust and late-walking
through the realm.
MISTRESS PAGEWhy Sir John, do you think, though we would have the145
virtue out of our hearts by the head and shoulders
and have given ourselves without scruple to hell,
that ever the devil could have made you our delight?
FORDWhat, a hodge-pudding? a bag of flax?
MISTRESS PAGEA puffed man?150
PAGEOld, cold, withered and of intolerable entrails?
FORDAnd one that is as slanderous as Satan?
PAGEAnd as poor as Job?
FORDAnd as wicked as his wife?
SIR HUGH EVANSAnd given to fornications, and to taverns and sack155
and wine and metheglins, and to drinkings and
swearings and starings, pribbles and prabbles?
FALSTAFFWell, I am your theme: you have the start of me; I
am dejected; I am not able to answer the Welsh
flannel; ignorance itself is a plummet o'er me: use160
me as you will.
FORDMarry, sir, we'll bring you to Windsor, to one
Master Brook, that you have cozened of money, to
whom you should have been a pander: over and above
that you have suffered, I think to repay that money165
will be a biting affliction.
PAGEYet be cheerful, knight: thou shalt eat a posset
to-night at my house; where I will desire thee to
laugh at my wife, that now laughs at thee: tell her
Master Slender hath married her daughter.170
MISTRESS PAGE[Aside] Doctors doubt that: if Anne Page be my
daughter, she is, by this, Doctor Caius' wife.
SLENDERWhoa ho! ho, father Page!
PAGESon, how now! how now, son! have you dispatched?
SLENDERDispatched! I'll make the best in Gloucestershire175
know on't; would I were hanged, la, else.
PAGEOf what, son?
SLENDERI came yonder at Eton to marry Mistress Anne Page,
and she's a great lubberly boy. If it had not been
i' the church, I would have swinged him, or he180
should have swinged me. If I did not think it had
been Anne Page, would I might never stir!--and 'tis
a postmaster's boy.
PAGEUpon my life, then, you took the wrong.
SLENDERWhat need you tell me that? I think so, when I took185
a boy for a girl. If I had been married to him, for
all he was in woman's apparel, I would not have had
PAGEWhy, this is your own folly. Did not I tell you how
you should know my daughter by her garments?190
SLENDERI went to her in white, and cried 'mum,' and she
cried 'budget,' as Anne and I had appointed; and yet
it was not Anne, but a postmaster's boy.
MISTRESS PAGEGood George, be not angry: I knew of your purpose;
turned my daughter into green; and, indeed, she is195
now with the doctor at the deanery, and there married.
DOCTOR CAIUSVere is Mistress Page? By gar, I am cozened: I ha'
married un garcon, a boy; un paysan, by gar, a boy;
it is not Anne Page: by gar, I am cozened.
MISTRESS PAGEWhy, did you take her in green?200
DOCTOR CAIUSAy, by gar, and 'tis a boy: by gar, I'll raise all Windsor.
FORDThis is strange. Who hath got the right Anne?
PAGEMy heart misgives me: here comes Master Fenton.
How now, Master Fenton!
ANNE PAGEPardon, good father! good my mother, pardon!205
PAGENow, mistress, how chance you went not with Master Slender?
MISTRESS PAGEWhy went you not with master doctor, maid?
FENTONYou do amaze her: hear the truth of it.
You would have married her most shamefully,
Where there was no proportion held in love.210
The truth is, she and I, long since contracted,
Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us.
The offence is holy that she hath committed;
And this deceit loses the name of craft,
Of disobedience, or unduteous title,215
Since therein she doth evitate and shun
A thousand irreligious cursed hours,
Which forced marriage would have brought upon her.
FORDStand not amazed; here is no remedy:
In love the heavens themselves do guide the state;220
Money buys lands, and wives are sold by fate.
FALSTAFFI am glad, though you have ta'en a special stand to
strike at me, that your arrow hath glanced.
PAGEWell, what remedy? Fenton, heaven give thee joy!
What cannot be eschew'd must be embraced.225
FALSTAFFWhen night-dogs run, all sorts of deer are chased.
MISTRESS PAGEWell, I will muse no further. Master Fenton,
Heaven give you many, many merry days!
Good husband, let us every one go home,
And laugh this sport o'er by a country fire;230
Sir John and all.
FORDLet it be so. Sir John,
To Master Brook you yet shall hold your word
For he tonight shall lie with Mistress Ford.

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