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 IV. Scene II.

Scene II.—A Room in FORD'S House.


Fal. Mistress 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, com-
plement and ceremony of it. But are you sure
of your husband now?
Mrs. Ford. He's a-birding, sweet Sir John.
Mrs. Page. [Within.] What ho! gossip Ford!
what ho!
Mrs. Ford. Step into the chamber. Sir John.

Mrs. Page. How now, sweetheart! who's at
home besides yourself?
Mrs. Ford. Why, none but mine own people.
Mrs. Page. Indeed!
Mrs. Ford. No, certainly.—[Aside to her.]
Speak louder.
Mrs. Page. Truly, I am so glad you have no-
body here.
Mrs. Ford. Why?
Mrs. Page. Why, woman, your husband is in
his old lunes again: he so takes on yonder with
my husband; so rails against all married man-
kind; so curses all Eve's daughters, of what com-
plexion 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
Mrs. Ford. Why, does he talk of him?
Mrs. Page. Of 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 make another
experiment of his suspicion. But I am glad the
knight is not here; now he shall see his own
Mrs. Ford. How near is he, Mistress Page?
Mrs. Page. Hard by; at street end; he will
be here anon.
Mrs. Ford. I am undone! the knight is here.
Mrs. Page. Why 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.
Mrs. Ford. Which way should he go? how
should I bestow him? Shall I put him into the
basket again?

Re-enter FALSTAFF.
Fal. No, I'll come no more i' the basket.
May I not go out ere he come?
Mrs. Page. Alas! three of Master Ford's bro-
thers watch the door with pistols, that none
shall issue out; otherwise you might slip away
ere he came. But what make you here?
Fal. What shall I do? I'll creep up into the
Mrs. Ford. There they always use to dis-
charge their birding-pieces.
Mrs. Page. Creep into the kiln-hole.
Fal. Where is it?
Mrs. Ford. He will seek there, on my word.
Neither press, 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.
Fal. I'll go out, then.
Mrs. Page. If you go out in your own sem-
blance, you die. Sir John. Unless you go out
Mrs. Ford. How might we disguise him?
Mrs. Page. Alas the day! I know not. There
is no woman's gown big enough for him; other-
wise, he might put on a hat, a muffler, and a
kerchief, and so escape.
Fal. Good hearts, devise something: any ex-
tremity rather than a mischief.
Mrs. Ford. My maid's aunt, the fat woman of
Brainford, has a gown above.
Mrs. Page. On my word, it will serve him;
she's as big as he is: and there's her thrummed
hat and her muffler too. Run up. Sir John.
Mrs. Ford. Go, go, sweet Sir John: Mistress
Page and I will look some linen for your head.
Mrs. Page. Quick, quick! we'll come dress
you straight; put on the gown the while.
Mrs. Ford. I would my husband would meet
him in this shape: he cannot abide the old woman
of Brainford; he swears she's a witch; forbade
her my house, and hath threatened to beat her.
Mrs. Page. Heaven guide him to thy hus-
band's cudgel, and the devil guide his cudgel
Mrs. Ford. But is my husband coming?
Mrs. Page. Ay, in good sadness, is he; and
talks of the basket too, howsoever he hath had
Mrs. Ford. We'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.
Mrs. Page. Nay, but he'll be here presently:
let's go dress him like the witch of Brainford.
Mrs. Ford. I'll first direct my men what they
shall do with the basket. Go up; I'll bring
linen for him straight. [Exit.
Mrs. Page. Hang 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:
We do not act that often jest and laugh;
'Tis old, but true, 'Still swine eats all the draff'

Re-enter MISTRESS FORD, with two Servants.
Mrs. Ford. Go, 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. [Exit.
First Serv. Come, come, take it up.
Sec. Serv. Pray heaven, it be not full of knight
First Serv. I hope not; I had as lief bear so
much lead.

Ford. Ay, but if it prove true, Master Page,
have you any way then to unfool me again? Set
down the basket, villains. Somebody call my
wife. Youth in a basket! O you panderly ras-
cals! 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! Be-
hold what honest clothes you send forth to
Page. Why, this passes! Master Ford, you
are not to go loose any longer; you must be
Eva. Why, this is lunatics! this is mad as a
mad dog!
Shal. Indeed, Master Ford, this is not well,
Ford. So say I too, sir —

Come hither. Mistress Ford, the honest woman,
the modest wife, the virtuous creature, that hath
the jealous fool to her husband! I suspect with-
out cause, mistress, do I?
Mrs. Ford. Heaven be my witness, you do, if
you suspect me in any dishonesty.
Ford. Well said, brazen-face! hold it out.
Come forth, sirrah!
[Pulls the clothes out of the basket.
Page. This passes?
Mrs. Ford. Are you not ashamed? let the
clothes alone.
Ford. I shall find you anon.
Eva. 'Tis unreasonable. Will you take up
your wife's clothes? Come away.
Ford. Empty the basket, I say!
Mrs. Ford. Why, man, why?
Ford. Master Page, as I am an honest man,
there was one conveyed out of my house yester-
day in this basket: why may not he be there
again? In my house I am sura he is; my in-
telligence is true; my jealousy is reasonable.
Pluck me out all the linen.
Mrs. Ford. If you find a man there he shall
die a flea's death.
Page. Here's no man.
Shal. By my fidelity, this is not well. Master
Ford; this wrongs you.
Eva. Master Ford, you must pray, and not
follow the imaginations of your own heart: this
is jealousies.
Ford. Well, he's not here I seek for.
Page. No, nor nowhere else but in your brain.
[Servants carry away the basket.
Ford. Help 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 of me, 'As jealous as Ford, that
searched a hollow walnut for his wife's leman.'
Satisfy me once more; once more search with
Mrs. Ford. What ho, Mistress Page! come
you and the old woman down; my husband will
come into the chamber.
Ford. Old woman! What old woman's that?
Mrs. Ford. Why, it is my maid's aunt of
Ford. A 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's 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!
Mrs. Ford. Nay, good, sweet husband! good
gentlemen, let him not strike the old woman.

Enter FALSTAFF in women's clothes, led by
Mrs. Page. Come, Mother Prat; come, give
me your hand.
Ford. I'll 'prat' her.—[Beats him.] Out of
my door, you witch, you rag, you baggage, you
polecat, you ronyon! out, out! I'll conjure you,
I'll fortune-tell you. [Exit FALSTAFF.
Mrs. Page. Are you not ashamed? I think
you have killed the poor woman.
Mrs. Ford. Nay, he will do it. Tis a goodly
credit for you.
Ford. Hang her, witch!
Eva. By 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 her
Ford. Will you follow, gentlemen? I beseech
you, follow: see but the issue of my jealousy.
If I cry out thus upon no trail, never trust me
when I open again.
Page. Let's obey his humour a little further.
Come, gentlemen.
and EVANS.
Mrs. Page. Trust me, he beat him most
Mrs. Ford. Nay, by the mass, that he did not;
he beat him most unpitifully methought.
Mrs. Page. I'll have the cudgel hallowed
and hung o'er the altar: it hath done meri-
torious service.
Mrs. Ford. What think you? May we, with
the warrant of womanhood and the witness of
a good conscience, pursue him with any further
Mrs. Page. The 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 the way of waste, attempt us again.
Mrs. Ford. Shall we tell our husbands how
we have served him?
Mrs. Page. Yes, 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 un-
virtuous fat knight shall be any further afflicted,
we two will still be the ministers.
Mrs. Ford. I'll warrant they'll have him
publicly shamed, and methinks there would be
no period to the jest, should he not be publicly
Mrs. Page. Come, to the forge with it then;
shape it: I would not have things cool. [Exeunt.
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