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 IV.

Scene IV.—A Room in FORD'S House.

Enter PAGE, FORD, MISTRESS PAGE, MISTRESS
FORD, and SIR HIGH EVANS.

Eva. 'Tis one of the pest discretions of a
'oman as ever I did look upon.
Page. And did he send you both these letters
at an instant?
Mrs. Page. Within a quarter of an hour.
Ford. Pardon me, wife. Henceforth do what
thou wilt;
I rather will suspect the sun with cold
Than thee with wantonness: now doth thy
honour stand,
In him that was of late an heretic,
As firm as faith.
Page. 'Tis well, 'tis well; no more.
Be not as extreme in submission
As in offence;
But let our plot go forward: let our wives
Yet once again, to make us public sport,
Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow,
Where we may take him and disgrace him for it.
Ford. There is no better way than that they
spoke of.
Page. How? to send him word they'll meet
him in the Park at midnight? Fie, fie! he'll
never come.
Eva. You say he has been thrown into the
rivers, and has been grievously peaten as an old
'oman: methinks there should be terrors in him
that he should not come; methinks his flesh is
punished, he shall have no desires.
Page. So think I too.
Mrs. Ford. Devise but how you'll use him
when he comes,
And let us two devise to bring him thither.
Mrs. Page. There is an old tale goes that
Herne the hunter,
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd
horns;
And there he blasts the tree, and takes the
cattle,
And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a
chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner:
You have heard of such a spirit, and well you
know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Receiv'd and did deliver to our age
This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.
Page. Why, yet there want not many that
do fear
In deep of night to walk by this Herne's oak.
But what of this?
Mrs. Ford. Marry, this is our device;
That Falstaff at that oak shall meet with us,
Disguis'd like Herne with huge horns on his
head.
Page. Well, let it not be doubted but he'll
come,
And in this shape when you have brought him
thither,
What shall be done with him? what is your
plot?
Mrs. Page. That likewise have we thought
upon, and thus:
Nan Page my daughter, and my little son,
And three or four more of their growth, we'll
dress
Like urchins, ouphs and fairies, green and
white,
With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads,
And rattles in their hands. Upon a sudden,
As Falstaff, she, and I, are newly met,
Let them from forth a sawpit rush at once
With some diffused song: upon their sight,
We two in great amazedness will fly:
Then let them all encircle him about,
And, fairy-like, to-pinch the unclean knight;
And ask him why, that hour of fairy revel,
In their so sacred paths he dares to tread
In shape profane.
Mrs. Ford. And till he tell the truth,
Let the supposed fairies pinch him sound
And burn him with their tapers.
Mrs. Page. The truth being known,
We'll all present ourselves, dis-horn the spirit,
And mock him home to Windsor.
Ford. The children must
Be practis'd well to this, or they'll ne'er do't.
Eva. I will teach the children their be-
haviours; and I will be like a jack-an-apes
also, to burn the knight with my taber.
Ford. That will be excellent. I'll go buy
them vizards.
Mrs. Page. My Nan shall be the queen of all
the fairies,
Finely attired in a robe of white.
Page. That silk will I go buy:—[Aside] and
in that time
Shall Master Slender steal my Nan away,
And marry her at Eton. Go, send to Falstaff
straight.
Ford. Nay, I'll to him again in name of Brook;
He'll tell me all his purpose. Sure, he'll come.
Mrs. Page. Fear not you that. Go, get us
properties.
And tricking for our fairies.
Eva. Let us about it: it is admirable plea-
sures and fery honest knaveries.
[Exeunt PAGE, FORD, and EVANS.
Mrs. Page. Go, Mistress Ford,
Send Quickly to Sir John, to know his mind.
[Exit MISTRESS FORD.
I'll to the doctor: he hath my good will,
And none but he, to marry with Nan Page.
That Slender, though well landed, is an idiot;
And him my husband best of all affects:
The doctor is well money'd, and his friends
Potent at court: he, none but he, shall have her,
Though twenty thousand worthier come to
crave her. [Exit.
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