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 II.

Scene II.—A Room in the Garter Inn.


Fal. I will not lend thee a penny.
Pist. Why, then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.
I will retort the sum in equipage.
Fal. Not a penny. I have been content, sir,
you should lay my countenance to pawn: I have
grated upon my good friends for three reprieves
for you and your coach-fellow Nym; or else you
had looked through the grate, like a geminy of
baboons. I am damned in hell for swearing to
gentlemen my friends, you were good soldiers
and tall fellows; and when Mistress Bridget lost
the handle of her fan, I took't upon mine honour
thou hadst it not.
Pist. Didst thou not share? hadst thou not
fifteen pence?
Fal. Reason, you rogue, reason: thinkest
thou, I'll endanger my soul gratis? At a word,
hang no more about me; I am no gibbet for you:
go: a short knife and a throng!—to your manor
of Picht-hatch! go. You'll not bear a letter for
me, you rogue!—you stand upon your honour!—
Why, thou unconfinable baseness, it is as much
as I can do to keep the terms of mine honour
precise. I, I. I, myself sometimes, leaving the
fear of God on the left hand and hiding mine
honour in my necessity, am fain to shuffle, to
hedge and to lurch; and yet you, rogue, will
ensconce your rags, your cat-a-mountain looks,
your red-lattice phrases, and your bold-beating
oaths, under the shelter of your honour! You
will not do it, you!
Pist. I do relent: what wouldst thou more
of man?

Enter ROBIN.
Rob. Sir, here's a woman would speak with
Fal. Let her approach.

Quick. Give your worship good morrow.
Fal. Good morrow, good wife.
Quick. Not so, an't please your worship.
Fal. Good maid, then.
Quick. I'll be sworn
As my mother was, the first hour I was born.
Fal. I do believe the swearer. What with me?
Quick. Shall I vouchsafe your worship a word
or two.
Fal. Two thousand, fair woman; and I'll
vouchsafe thee the hearing.
Quick. There is one Mistress Ford, sir,—I
pray, come a little nearer this ways:—I myself
dwell with Master Doctor Caius.
Fal. Well, on: Mistress Ford, you say,—
Quick. Your worship says very true:—I pray
your worship, come a little nearer this ways.
Fal. I warrant thee, nobody hears; mine own
people, mine own people.
Quick. Are they so? God bless them, and
make them his servants!
Fal. Well: Mistress Ford; what of her?
Quick. Why, sir, she's a good creature. Lord,
Lord! your worship's a wanton! Well, heaven
forgive you, and all of us, I pray!
Fal. Mistress Ford; come, Mistress Ford,—
Quick. Marry, this is the short and the long
of it. You have brought her into such a canaries
as 'tis wonderful: the best courtier of them all,
when the court lay at Windsor, could never have
brought her to such a canary; yet there has been
knights, and lords, and gentlemen, with their
coaches, I warrant you, coach after coach, letter
after letter, gift after gift; smelling so sweetly—
all musk, and so rushling, I warrant you, in silk
and gold; and in such alligant terms; and in
such wine and sugar of the best and the fairest,
that would have won any woman's heart; and, I
warrant you, they could never get an eye-wink of
her. I had myself twenty angels given me this
morning; but I defy all angels, in any such sort,
as they say. but in the way of honesty: and, I
warrant you, they could never get her so much
as sip on a cup with the proudest of them all;
and yet there has been earls, nay, which is more,
pensioners; but, I warrant you, all is one with her.
Fal. But what says she to me? be brief, my
good she-Mercury.
Quick. Marry, she hath received your letter;
for the which she thanks you a thousand times;
and she gives you to notify that her husband
will be absence from his house between ten and
Fal. Ten and eleven?
Quick. Ay, forsooth; and then you may come
and see the picture, she says, that you wot of:
Master Ford, her husband, will be from home.
Alas! the sweet woman leads an ill life with him;
he's a very jealousy man; she leads a very
frampold life with him, good heart.
Fal. Ten and eleven. Woman, commend me
to her; I will not fail her.
Quick. Why, you say well. But I have an-
other messenger to your worship: Mistress Page
hath her hearty commendations to you too:
and let me tell you in your ear, she's as fartuous
a civil modest wife, and one, I tell you, that will
not miss you morning nor evening prayer, as any
is in Windsor, whoe'er be the other: and she
bade me tell your worship that her husband is
seldom from home; but, she hopes there will
come a time. I never knew a woman so dote
upon a man: surely, I think you have charms,
la; yes, in truth.
Fal. Not I, I assure thee: setting the attraction
of my good parts aside, I have no other charms.
Quick. Blessing on your heart for't!
Fal. But, I pray thee, tell me this: has Ford's
wife and Page's wife acquainted each other how
they love me?
Quick. That were a jest indeed! they have
not so little grace, I hope: that were a trick,
indeed! But Mistress Page would desire you to
send her your little page, of all loves: her hus-
band has a marvellous infection to the little
page; and, truly, Master Page is an honest man.
Never a wife in Windsor leads a better life than
she does: do what she will, say what she will,
take all, pay all, go to bed when she list, rise
when she list, all is as she will: and, truly she
deserves it; for if there be a kind woman in
Windsor, she is one. You must send her your
page; no remedy.
Fal. Why, I will.
Quick. Nay, but do so, then: and, look you,
he may come and go between you both; and in
any case have a nay-word, that you may know
one another's mind, and the boy never need to
understand any thing; for 'tis not good that
children should know any wickedness: old folks,
you know, have discretion, as they say, and know
the world.
Fal. Fare thee well: commend me to them
both. There's my purse; I am yet thy debtor.—
Boy, go along with this woman.—[Exeunt MIS-
TRESS QUICKLY and ROBIN.] This news distracts
Pist. This punk is one of Cupid's carriers.
Clap on more sails; pursue; up with your fights;
Give fire! she is my prize, or ocean whelm them
all! [Exit.
Fal. Sayest thou so, old Jack? go thy ways;
I'll make more of thy old body than I have done.
Will they yet look after thee? Wilt thou, after
the expense of so much money, be now a gainer?
Good body, I thank thee. Let them say 'tis
grossly done; so it be fairly done, no matter.

Enter BARDOLPH, with a cup of Sack.
Bard. Sir John, there's one Master Brook
below would fain speak with you, and be ac-
quainted with you: and hath sent your worship
a morning's draught of sack.
Fal. Brook is his name?
Bard. Ay, sir.
Fal. Call him in. [Exit BARDOLPH.] Such
Brooks are welcome to me, that o'erflow such
liquor. Ah, ha! Mistress Ford and Mistress
Page, have I encompassed you? go to; via!

Re-enter BARDOLPH, with FORD disguised.
Ford. Bless you, sir!
Fal. And you, sir; would you speak with me?
Ford. I make bold to press with so little pre-
paration upon you.
Fal. You're welcome. What's your will?—
Give us leave, drawer. [Exit BARDOLPH.
Ford. Sir, I am a gentleman that have spent
much: my name is Brook.
Fal. Good Master Brook, I desire more ac-
quaintance of you.
Ford. Good Sir John, I sue for yours: not to
charge you; for I must let you understand I
think myself in better plight for a lender than
you are: the which hath something emboldened
me to this unseasoned intrusion; for, they say,
if money go before, all ways do lie open.
Fal. Money is a good soldier, sir, and will
Ford. Troth, and I have a bag of money here
troubles me: if you will help to bear it, Sir
John, take all, or half, for easing me of the car-
Fal. Sir, I know not how I may deserve to be
your porter.
Ford. I will tell you, sir, if you will give me
the hearing.
Fal. Speak, good Master Brook; I shall be
glad to be your servant.
Ford. Sir, I hear you are a scholar,—I will be
brief with you, and you have been a man long
known to me, though I had never so good means,
as desire, to make myself acquainted with you.
I shall discover a thing to you, wherein I must
very much lay open mine own imperfection; but,
good Sir John, as you have one eye upon my
follies, as you hear them unfolded, turn another
into the register of your own, that I may pass
with a reproof the easier, sith you yourself know
how easy it is to be such an offender.
Fal. Very well, sir; proceed.
Ford. There is a gentlewoman in this town,
her husband's name is Ford.
Fal. Well, sir.
Ford. I have long loved her, and, I protest
to you, bestowed much on her; followed her
with a doting observance; engrossed oppor-
tunities to meet her; fee'd every slight occasion
that could but niggardly give me sight of her;
not only bought many presents to give her, but
have given largely to many to know what she
would have given. Briefly, I have pursued her
as love hath pursued me; which hath been on
the wing of all occasions. But whatsoever I have
merited, either in my mind or in my means,
meed, I am sure, I have received none; unless
experience be a jewel that I have purchased at
an infinite rate; and that hath taught me to say
Love like a shadow flies when substance love pur-
Pursuing that that flies, and flying what pursues.
Fal. Have you received no promise of satis-
faction at her hands?
Ford. Never.
Fal. Have you importuned her to such a
Ford. Never.
Fal. Of what quality was your love, then?
Ford. Like a fair house built upon another
man's ground; so that I have lost my edifice by
mistaking the place where I erected it.
Fal. To what purpose have you unfolded this
to me?
Ford. When I have told you that, I have told
you all. Some say, that though she appear honest
to me, yet in other places she enlargeth her
mirth so far that there is shrewd construction
made of her. Now, Sir John, here is the heart
of my purpose: you are a gentleman of excel-
lent breeding, admirable discourse, of great ad-
mittance, authentic in your place and person,
generally allowed for your many war-like, court-
like, and learned preparations.
Fal. O,sir!
Ford. Believe it, for you know it. There is
money; spend it, spend it; spend more; spend
all I have; only give me so much of your time
in exchange of it, as to lay an amiable siege to
the honesty of this Ford's wife: use your art of
wooing, win her to consent to you; if any man
may, you may as soon as any.
Fal. Would it apply well to the vehemency
of your affection, that I should win what you
would enjoy? Methinks you prescribe to your-
self very preposterously.
Ford. O, understand my drift. She dwells so
securely on the excellency of her honour, that
the folly of my soul dares not present itself: she
is too bright to be looked against. Now, could I
come to her with any detection in my hand, my
desires had instance and argument to commend
themselves: I could drive her then from the ward
of her purity, her reputation, her marriage-vow,
and a thousand other her defences, which now
are too-too strongly embattled against me. What
say you to't. Sir John?
Fal. Master Brook, I will first make bold with
your money; next, give me your hand; and
last, as I am a gentleman, you shall, if you will,
enjoy Ford's wife.
Ford. O good sir!
Fal. I say you shall.
Ford. Want no money, Sir John; you shall
want none.
Fal. Want no Mistress Ford, Master Brook;
you shall want none. I shall be with her, I may
tell you, by her own appointment; even as you
came in to me, her assistant or go-between
parted from me: I say I shall be with her be-
tween ten and eleven; for at that time the jea-
lous rascally knave her husband will be forth.
Come you to me at night; you shall know how I
Ford. I am blest in your acquaintance. Do
you know Ford, sir?
Fal. Hang him, poor cuckoldly knave! I
know him not. Yet I wrong him, to call him
poor: they say the jealous wittolly knave hath
masses of money; for the which his wife seems
to me well-favoured. I will use her as the key of
the cuckoldly rogue's coffer; and there's my
Ford. I would you knew Ford, sir, that you
might avoid him, if you saw him.
Fal. Hang him, mechanical salt-butter rogue!
I will stare him out of his wits; I will awe him
with my cudgel: it shall hang like a meteor o'er
the cuckold's horns. Master Brook, thou shalt
know I will predominate over the peasant, and
thou shalt lie with his wife. Come to me soon at
night. Ford's a knave, and I will aggravate his
style; thou, Master Brook, shalt know him for
knave and cuckold. Come to me soon at night.
Ford. What a damned Epicurean rascal is
this! My heart is ready to crack with impatience.
Who says this is improvident jealousy? my wife
hath sent to him, the hour is fixed, the match is
made. Would any man have thought this? See
the hell of having a false woman! My bed shall
be abused, my coffers ransacked, my reputation
gnawn at; and I shall not only receive this
villanous wrong, but stand under the adoption
of abominable terms, and by him that does me
this wrong. Terms! names! Amaimon sounds
well; Lucifer, well; Barbason, well; yet they
are devils' additions, the names of fiends: but
Cuckold! Wittol!—Cuckold! the devil himself
hath not such a name. Page is an ass, a secure
ass: he will trust his wife; he will not be jealous.
I will rather trust a Fleming with my butter,
Parson Hugh the Welshman with my cheese, an
Irishman with my aqua-vitæ bottle, or a thief to
walk my ambling gelding, than my wife with her-
self: then she plots, then she ruminates, then she
devises; and what they think in their hearts
they may effect, they will break their hearts but
they will effect. God be praised for my jea-
lousy! Eleven o'clock the hour: I will prevent
this, detect my wife, be revenged on Falstaff, and
laugh at Page. I will about it; better three
hours too soon than a minute too late. Fie, fie,
fie! cuckold! cuckold! cuckold! [Exit.
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