ACT IV
Scene 2
 

FORD'S house

Enter FALSTAFF and MISTRESS FORD

FALSTAFF
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,
complement, 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 hoa, gossip Ford, what hoa!

MRS. FORD
Step into th' chamber, Sir John.

Exit FALSTAFF

Enter MISTRESS PAGE

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 nobody 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 mankind; so curses all Eve's daughters,
of what complexion soever; and so buffets himself on the
forehead, crying 'Peer-out, peer-out!' that any madness I
ever yet beheld seem'd but tameness, civility, and patience,
to this his distemper he is in now. I am glad the fat knight
is not here.

MRS. FORD
Why, does he talk of him?

MRS. PAGE
Of none but him; and swears he was carried out,
the last time he search'd 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 foolery.

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 sham'd, 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

FALSTAFF
No, I'll come no more i' th' basket. May I not go
out ere he come?

MRS. PAGE
Alas, three of Master Ford's brothers watch the
door with pistols, that none shall issue out; otherwise you
might slip away ere he came. But what make you here?

FALSTAFF
What shall I do? I'll creep up into the chimney.

MRS. FORD
There they always use to discharge their
birding-pieces.

MRS. PAGE
Creep into the kiln-hole.

FALSTAFF
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.

FALSTAFF
I'll go out then.

MRS. PAGE
If you go out in your own semblance, you die,
Sir John. Unless you go out disguis'd.

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; otherwise he might put on a
hat, a muffler, and a kerchief, and so escape.

FALSTAFF
Good hearts, devise something; any extremity
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 thrumm'd 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.

Exit FALSTAFF

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
threat'ned to beat her.

MRS. PAGE
Heaven guide him to thy husband's cudgel; and
the devil guide his cudgel afterwards!

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 intelligence.

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.

Exit

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 SERVANT
Come, come, take it up.

SECOND SERVANT
Pray heaven it be not full of knight again.

FIRST SERVANT
I hope not; I had lief as bear so much lead.

Enter FORD, PAGE, SHALLOW, CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS

FORD
Ay, but if it prove true, Master Page, have you any
way then to unfool me again? Set down the basket, villain!
Somebody call my wife. Youth in a basket! O you panderly
rascals, there's a knot, a ging, a pack, a conspiracy
against me. Now shall the devil be sham'd. What, wife, I
say! Come, come forth; behold what honest clothes you
send forth to bleaching.

PAGE
Why, this passes, Master Ford; you are not to go loose
any longer; you must be pinion'd.

EVANS
Why, this is lunatics. This is mad as a mad dog.

SHALLOW
Indeed, Master Ford, this is not well, indeed.

FORD
So say I too, sir.

Re-enter MISTRESS FORD

Come hither, Mistress Ford; Mistress Ford, the honest
woman, the modest wife, the virtuous creature, that hath
the jealous fool to her husband! I suspect without 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.

[Pulling clothes out of the basket]

PAGE
This passes!

MRS. FORD
Are you not asham'd? Let the clothes alone.

FORD
I shall find you anon.

EVANS
'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 a man, there was one convey'd
out of my house yesterday in this basket. Why may not
he be there again? In my house I am sure he is; my
intelligence 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.

SHALLOW
By my fidelity, this is not well, Master Ford; this
wrongs you.

EVANS
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.

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 search'd a hollow walnut for his wife's leman.'
Satisfy me once more; once more search with me.

MRS. FORD
What, hoa, 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 Brainford.

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 th' figure, and such daub'ry 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.

Re-enter FALSTAFF in woman's clothes, and MISTRESS PAGE

MRS. PAGE
Come, Mother Prat; come. give me your hand.

FORD
I'll prat her. [Beating him] Out of my door, you
witch, you hag, you. baggage, you polecat, you ronyon!
Out, out! I'll conjure you, I'll fortune-tell you.

Exit FALSTAFF

MRS. PAGE
Are you not asham'd? I think you have kill'd the
poor woman.

MRS. FORD
Nay, he will do it. 'Tis a goodly credit for you.

FORD
Hang her, witch!

EVANS
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 his muffler.

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.

Exeunt all but MRS. FORD and MRS. PAGE

MRS. PAGE
Trust me, he beat him most pitifully.

MRS. FORD
Nay, by th' mass, that he did not; he beat him
most unpitifully methought.

MRS. PAGE
I'll have the cudgel hallow'd and hung o'er the
altar; it hath done meritorious 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 revenge?

MRS. PAGE
The spirit of wantonness is sure scar'd 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 serv'd
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 unvirtuous fat knight shall be any further
afflicted, we two will still be the ministers.

MRS. FORD
I'll warrant they'll have him publicly sham'd;
and methinks there would be no period to the jest, should
he not be publicly sham'd.

MRS. PAGE
Come, to the forge with it then; shape it. I
would not have things cool.

Exeunt