William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor in the complete original text.
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The Merry Wives of Windsor

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Act II. Scene I.

Act II. Scene I.—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. Mis-
tress 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; bat 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 drunk-
ard 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 com-
pany! 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 thy 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 Hun-
dredth 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 re-
venged 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 vil-
lany against him, that may not sully the chari-
ness 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 immeasurable distance.
Mrs. Ford. You are the happier woman.
Mrs. Page. Let's consult together against
this greasy knight. Come hither. [They retire.

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 wooes 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
home humours: I should have borne the hu-
moured 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, affect-
ing 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
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
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.
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
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 gentle-
man. 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,
Shal. Sir, there is a fray to be fought between
Sir Hugh the Welsh priest and Caius the French
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 measur-
ing of their weapons, and, I think, hath ap-
pointed them contrary places; for, believe me, I
hear the parson is no Jester. Hark, I will tell
vou 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,
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.
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