ACT III
Scene 3
 

FORD'S house

Enter MISTRESS FORD and MISTRESS PAGE

MRS. FORD
What, John! what, Robert!

MRS. PAGE
Quickly, quickly! Is the buck-basket-

MRS. FORD
I warrant. What, Robin, I say!

Enter SERVANTS with a basket

MRS. PAGE
Come, come, come.

MRS. FORD
Here, set it down.

MRS. PAGE
Give your men the charge; we must be brief.

MRS. FORD
Marry, as I told you before, John and Robert, be
ready here hard by in the brew-house; and when I suddenly
call you, come forth, and, without any pause or
staggering, take this basket on your shoulders. That done,
trudge with it in all haste, and carry it among the whitsters
in Datchet Mead, and there empty it in the muddy ditch
close by the Thames side.

MRS. PAGE
You will do it?

MRS. FORD
I ha' told them over and over; they lack no
direction. Be gone, and come when you are call'd.

Exeunt SERVANTS

MRS. PAGE
Here comes little Robin.

Enter ROBIN

MRS. FORD
How now, my eyas-musket, what news with
you?

ROBIN
My Master Sir John is come in at your back-door,
Mistress Ford, and requests your company.

MRS. PAGE
You little Jack-a-Lent, have you been true to us?

ROBIN
Ay, I'll be sworn. My master knows not of your
being here, and hath threat'ned to put me into everlasting
liberty, if I tell you of it; for he swears he'll turn me away.

MRS. PAGE
Thou 'rt a good boy; this secrecy of thine shall
be a tailor to thee, and shall make thee a new doublet and
hose. I'll go hide me.

MRS. FORD
Do so. Go tell thy master I am alone. [Exit
ROBIN]
Mistress Page, remember you your cue.

MRS. PAGE
I warrant thee; if I do not act it, hiss me.

Exit MRS. PAGE

MRS. FORD
Go to, then; we'll use this unwholesome
humidity, this gross wat'ry pumpion; we'll teach him to
know turtles from jays.

Enter FALSTAFF

FALSTAFF
Have I caught thee, my heavenly jewel?
Why, now let me die, for I have liv'd long enough; this is
the period of my ambition. O this blessed hour!

MRS. FORD
O sweet Sir John!

FALSTAFF
Mistress Ford, I cannot cog, I cannot prate,
Mistress Ford. Now shall I sin in my wish; I would thy
husband were dead; I'll speak it before the best lord, I
would make thee my lady.

MRS. FORD
I your lady, Sir John? Alas, I should be a pitiful
lady.

FALSTAFF
Let the court of France show me such another. I
see how thine eye would emulate the diamond; thou hast
the right arched beauty of the brow that becomes the
ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance.

MRS. FORD
A plain kerchief, Sir John; my brows become
nothing else, nor that well neither.

FALSTAFF
By the Lord, thou art a tyrant to say so; thou
wouldst make an absolute courtier, and the firm fixture of
thy foot would give an excellent motion to thy gait in a
semi-circled farthingale. I see what thou wert, if Fortune
thy foe were, not Nature, thy friend. Come, thou canst not
hide it.

MRS. FORD
Believe me, there's no such thing in me.

FALSTAFF
What made me love thee? Let that persuade thee
there's something extra-ordinary in thee. Come, I cannot
cog, and say thou art this and that, like a many of these
lisping hawthorn-buds that come like women in men's
apparel, and smell like Bucklersbury in simple time; I
cannot; but I love thee, none but thee; and thou deserv'st it.

MRS. FORD
Do not betray me, sir; I fear you love Mistress
Page.

FALSTAFF
Thou mightst as well say I love to walk by the
Counter-gate, which is as hateful to me as the reek of a
lime-kiln.

MRS. FORD
Well, heaven knows how I love you; and you
shall one day find it.

FALSTAFF
Keep in that mind; I'll deserve it.

MRS. FORD
Nay, I must tell you, so you do; or else I could
not be in that mind.

ROBIN
[Within] Mistress Ford, Mistress Ford! here's
Mistress Page at the door, sweating and blowing and looking
wildly, and would needs speak with you presently.

FALSTAFF
She shall not see me; I will ensconce me behind
the arras.

MRS. FORD
Pray you, do so; she's a very tattling woman.

[FALSTAFF hides himself]

Re-enter MISTRESS PAGE and ROBIN

What's the matter? How now!

MRS. PAGE
O Mistress Ford, what have you done? You're
sham'd, y'are overthrown, y'are undone for ever.

MRS. FORD
What's the matter, good Mistress Page?

MRS. PAGE
O well-a-day, Mistress Ford, having an honest
man to your husband, to give him such cause of suspicion!

MRS. FORD
What cause of suspicion?

MRS. PAGE
What cause of suspicion? Out upon you, how
am I mistook in you!

MRS. FORD
Why, alas, what's the matter?

MRS. PAGE
Your husband's coming hither, woman, with all
the officers in Windsor, to search for a gentleman that he
says is here now in the house, by your consent, to take an
ill advantage of his absence. You are undone.

MRS. FORD
'Tis not so, I hope.

MRS. PAGE
Pray heaven it be not so that you have such a
man here; but 'tis most certain your husband's coming,
with half Windsor at his heels, to search for such a one. I
come before to tell you. If you know yourself clear, why,
I am glad of it; but if you have a friend here, convey,
convey him out. Be not amaz'd; call all your senses to you;
defend your reputation, or bid farewell to your good life
for ever.

MRS. FORD
What shall I do? There is a gentleman, my dear
friend; and I fear not mine own shame as much as his peril.
I had rather than a thousand pound he were out of the
house.

MRS. PAGE
For shame, never stand 'you had rather' and 'you
had rather'! Your husband's here at hand; bethink you of
some conveyance; in the house you cannot hide him. O,
how have you deceiv'd me! Look, here is a basket; if he be
of any reasonable stature, he may creep in here; and throw
foul linen upon him, as if it were going to bucking, or-it is
whiting-time-send him by your two men to Datchet
Mead.

MRS. FORD
He's too big to go in there. What shall I do?

FALSTAFF
[Coming forward] Let me see 't, let me see 't. O,
let me see 't! I'll in, I'll in; follow your friend's counsel;
I'll in.

MRS. PAGE
What, Sir John Falstaff! [Aside to FALSTAFF]
Are these your letters, knight?

FALSTAFF
[Aside to MRS. PAGE] I love thee and none but
thee; help me away.-Let me creep in here; I'll never-
[Gets into the basket; they cover him with foul linen]

MRS. PAGE
Help to cover your master, boy. Call your men,
Mistress Ford. You dissembling knight!

MRS. FORD
What, John! Robert! John!

Exit ROBIN

Re-enter SERVANTS

Go, take up these clothes here, quickly; where's the
cowl-staff? Look how you drumble. Carry them to the laundress
in Datchet Mead; quickly, come.

Enter FORD, PAGE, CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS

FORD
Pray you come near. If I suspect without cause, why
then make sport at me, then let me be your jest; I deserve
it. How now, whither bear you this?

SERVANT
To the laundress, forsooth.

MRS. FORD
Why, what have you to do whither they bear it?
You were best meddle with buck-washing.

FORD
Buck? I would I could wash myself of the buck!
Buck, buck, buck! ay, buck! I warrant you, buck; and of
the season too, it shall appear. [Exeunt SERVANTS with
basket]
Gentlemen, I have dream'd to-night; I'll tell you my
dream. Here, here, here be my keys; ascend my chambers,
search, seek, find out. I'll warrant we'll unkennel the fox.
Let me stop this way first. [Locking the door] So, now
uncape.

PAGE
Good Master Ford, be contented; you wrong yourself
too much.

FORD
True, Master Page. Up, gentlemen, you shall see sport
anon; follow me, gentlemen.

Exit

EVANS
This is fery fantastical humours and jealousies.

CAIUS
By gar, 'tis no the fashion of France; it is not jealous
in France.

PAGE
Nay, follow him, gentlemen; see the issue of his
search.

Exeunt EVANS, PAGE, and CAIUS

MRS. PAGE
Is there not a double excellency in this?

MRS. FORD
I know not which pleases me better, that my
husband is deceived, or Sir John.

MRS. PAGE
What a taking was he in when your husband
ask'd who was in the basket!

MRS. FORD
I am half afraid he will have need of washing; so
throwing him into the water will do him a benefit.

MRS. PAGE
Hang him, dishonest rascal! I would all of the
same strain were in the same distress.

MRS. FORD
I think my husband hath some special suspicion
of Falstaff's being here, for I never saw him so gross in his
jealousy till now.

MRS. PAGE
I Will lay a plot to try that, and we will yet have
more tricks with Falstaff. His dissolute disease will scarce
obey this medicine.

MRS. FORD
Shall we send that foolish carrion, Mistress
Quickly, to him, and excuse his throwing into the water,
and give him another hope, to betray him to another
punishment?

MRS. PAGE
We will do it; let him be sent for to-morrow
eight o'clock, to have amends.

Re-enter FORD, PAGE, CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS

FORD
I cannot find him; may be the knave bragg'd of that
he could not compass.

MRS. PAGE
[Aside to MRS. FORD] Heard you that?

MRS. FORD
You use me well, Master Ford, do you?

FORD
Ay, I do so.

MRS. FORD
Heaven make you better than your thoughts!

FORD
Amen.

MRS. PAGE
You do yourself mighty wrong, Master Ford.

FORD
Ay, ay; I must bear it.

EVANS
If there be any pody in the house, and in the
chambers, and in the coffers, and in the presses, heaven forgive
my sins at the day of judgment!

CAIUS
Be gar, nor I too; there is no bodies.

PAGE
Fie, fie, Master Ford, are you not asham'd? What
spirit, what devil suggests this imagination? I would not ha'
your distemper in this kind for the wealth of Windsor
Castle.

FORD
'Tis my fault, Master Page; I suffer for it.

EVANS
You suffer for a pad conscience. Your wife is as
honest a omans as I will desires among five thousand, and five
hundred too.

CAIUS
By gar, I see 'tis an honest woman.

FORD
Well, I promis'd you a dinner. Come, come, walk in
the Park. I pray you pardon me; I will hereafter make
known to you why I have done this. Come, wife, come,
Mistress Page; I pray you pardon me; pray heartly,
pardon me.

PAGE
Let's go in, gentlemen; but, trust me, we'll mock him.
I do invite you to-morrow morning to my house to breakfast;
after, we'll a-birding together; I have a fine hawk for
the bush. Shall it be so?

FORD
Any thing.

EVANS
If there is one, I shall make two in the company.

CAIUS
If there be one or two, I shall make-a the turd.

FORD
Pray you go, Master Page.

EVANS
I pray you now, remembrance to-morrow on the
lousy knave, mine host.

CAIUS
Dat is good; by gar, with all my heart.

EVANS
A lousy knave, to have his gibes and his mockeries!

Exeunt