ACT II
Scene 1
 

Before PAGE'S house

Enter MISTRESS PAGE, with a letter

MRS. PAGE
What! have I scap'd love-letters in the holiday-time
of my beauty, and am I now a subject for them? Let
me see.

[Reads]

'Ask me no reason why I love you; for though Love use
Reason for his precisian, he admits him not for his counsellor.
You are not young, no more am I; go to, then, there's
sympathy. You are merry, so am I; ha! ha! then there's
more sympathy. You love sack, and so do I; would you
desire better sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page
at the least, if the love of soldier can suffice-that I love
thee. I will not say, Pity me: 'tis not a soldier-like phrase;
but I say, Love me. By me,
Thine own true knight,
By day or night,
Or any kind of light,
With all his might,
For thee to fight,
JOHN FALSTAFF.'
What a Herod of Jewry is this! O wicked, wicked world!
One that is well-nigh worn to pieces with age to show
himself a young gallant! What an unweighed behaviour
hath this Flemish drunkard pick'd-with the devil's name!
-out of my conversation, that he dares in this manner
assay me? Why, he hath not been thrice in my company!
What should I say to him? I was then frugal of my mirth.
Heaven forgive me! Why, I'll exhibit a bill in the parliament
for the putting down of men. How shall I be
reveng'd on him? for reveng'd I will be, as sure as his guts
are made of puddings.

Enter MISTRESS FORD

MRS. FORD
Mistress Page! trust me, I was going to your
house.

MRS. PAGE
And, trust me, I was coming to you. You look
very ill.

MRS. FORD
Nay, I'll ne'er believe that; I have to show to
the contrary.

MRS. PAGE
Faith, but you do, in my mind.

MRS. FORD
Well, I do, then; yet, I say, I could show you to
the contrary. O Mistress Page, give me some counsel.

MRS. PAGE
What's the matter, woman?

MRS. FORD
O woman, if it were not for one trifling respect,
I could come to such honour!

MRS. PAGE
Hang the trifle, woman; take the honour. What
is it? Dispense with trifles; what is it?

MRS. FORD
If I would but go to hell for an eternal moment
or so, I could be knighted.

MRS. PAGE
What? Thou liest. Sir Alice Ford! These knights
will hack; and so thou shouldst not alter the article of thy
gentry.

MRS. FORD
We burn daylight. Here, read, read; perceive
how I might be knighted. I shall think the worse of fat
men as long as I have an eye to make difference of men's
liking. And yet he would not swear; prais'd women's
modesty, and gave such orderly and well-behaved reproof
to all uncomeliness that I would have sworn his disposition
would have gone to the truth of his words; but they do no
more adhere and keep place together than the Hundredth
Psalm to the tune of 'Greensleeves.' What tempest, I trow,
threw this whale, with so many tuns of oil in his belly,
ashore at Windsor? How shall I be revenged on him? I
think the best way were to entertain him with hope, till
the wicked fire of lust have melted him in his own grease.
Did you ever hear the like?

MRS. PAGE
Letter for letter, but that the name of Page and
Ford differs. To thy great comfort in this mystery of ill
opinions, here's the twin-brother of thy letter; but let thine
inherit first, for, I protest, mine never shall. I warrant he
hath a thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for
different names-sure, more!-and these are of the second
edition. He will print them, out of doubt; for he cares not
what he puts into the press when he would put us two. I
had rather be a giantess and lie under Mount Pelion. Well,
I will find you twenty lascivious turtles ere one chaste
man.

MRS. FORD
Why, this is the very same; the very hand, the
very words. What doth he think of us?

MRS. PAGE
Nay, I know not; it makes me almost ready to
wrangle with mine own honesty. I'll entertain myself like
one that I am not acquainted withal; for, sure, unless he
know some strain in me that I know not myself, he would
never have boarded me in this fury.

MRS. FORD
'Boarding' call you it? I'll be sure to keep him
above deck.

MRS. PAGE
So will I; if he come under my hatches, I'll never
to sea again. Let's be reveng'd on him; let's appoint him a
meeting, give him a show of comfort in his suit, and lead
him on with a fine-baited delay, till he hath pawn'd his
horses to mine host of the Garter.

MRS. FORD
Nay, I will consent to act any villainy against
him that may not sully the chariness of our honesty. O
that my husband saw this letter! It would give eternal food
to his jealousy.

MRS. PAGE
Why, look where he comes; and my good man
too; he's as far from jealousy as I am from giving him
cause; and that, I hope, is an unmeasurable distance.

MRS. FORD
You are the happier woman.

MRS. PAGE
Let's consult together against this greasy knight.
Come hither.

[They retire]

Enter FORD with PISTOL, and PAGE with Nym

FORD
Well, I hope it be not so.

PISTOL
Hope is a curtal dog in some affairs.
Sir John affects thy wife.

FORD
Why, sir, my wife is not young.

PISTOL
He woos both high and low, both rich and poor,
Both young and old, one with another, Ford;
He loves the gallimaufry. Ford, perpend.

FORD
Love my wife!

PISTOL
With liver burning hot. Prevent, or go thou,
Like Sir Actaeon he, with Ringwood at thy heels.
O, odious is the name!

FORD
What name, sir?

PISTOL
The horn, I say. Farewell.
Take heed, have open eye, for thieves do foot by night;
Take heed, ere summer comes, or cuckoo birds do sing.
Away, Sir Corporal Nym.
Believe it, Page; he speaks sense.

Exit PISTOL

FORD
[Aside] I will be patient; I will find out this.

NYM
[To PAGE] And this is true; I like not the humour of
lying. He hath wronged me in some humours; I should
have borne the humour'd letter to her; but I have a sword,
and it shall bite upon my necessity. He loves your wife;
there's the short and the long.
My name is Corporal Nym; I speak, and I avouch;
'Tis true. My name is Nym, and Falstaff loves your wife.
Adieu! I love not the humour of bread and cheese; and
there's the humour of it. Adieu.

Exit Nym

PAGE
'The humour of it,' quoth 'a! Here's a fellow frights
English out of his wits.

FORD
I will seek out Falstaff.

PAGE
I never heard such a drawling, affecting rogue.

FORD
If I do find it-well.

PAGE
I will not believe such a Cataian though the priest o'
th' town commended him for a true man.

FORD
'Twas a good sensible fellow. Well.

MISTRESS PAGE and MISTRESS FORD come forward

PAGE
How now, Meg!

MRS. PAGE
Whither go you, George? Hark you.

MRS. FORD
How now, sweet Frank, why art thou melancholy?

FORD
I melancholy! I am not melancholy. Get you home;
go.

MRS. FORD
Faith, thou hast some crotchets in thy head now.
Will you go, Mistress Page?

Enter MISTRESS QUICKLY

MRS. PAGE
Have with you. You'll come to dinner, George?
[Aside to MRS. FORD] Look who comes yonder; she shall
be our messenger to this paltry knight.

MRS. FORD
[Aside to MRS. PAGE] Trust me, I thought on
her; she'll fit it.

MRS. PAGE
You are come to see my daughter Anne?

QUICKLY
Ay, forsooth; and, I pray, how does good Mistress Anne?

MRS. PAGE
Go in with us and see; we have an hour's talk
with you.

Exeunt MISTRESS PAGE, MISTRESS FORD, and MISTRESS QUICKLY

PAGE
How now, Master Ford!

FORD
You heard what this knave told me, did you not?

PAGE
Yes; and you heard what the other told me?

FORD
Do you think there is truth in them?

PAGE
Hang 'em, slaves! I do not think the knight would offer it;
but these that accuse him in his intent towards our
wives are a yoke of his discarded men; very rogues, now
they be out of service.

FORD
Were they his men?

PAGE
Marry, were they.

FORD
I like it never the better for that. Does he lie at the
Garter?

PAGE
Ay, marry, does he. If he should intend this voyage
toward my wife, I would turn her loose to him; and what
he gets more of her than sharp words, let it lie on my head.

FORD
I do not misdoubt my wife; but I would be loath to
turn them together. A man may be too confident. I would
have nothing lie on my head. I cannot be thus satisfied.

Enter HOST

PAGE
Look where my ranting host of the Garter comes.
There is either liquor in his pate or money in his purse
when he looks so merrily. How now, mine host!

HOST
How now, bully rook! Thou'rt a gentleman. [To
SHALLOW following]
Cavaleiro Justice, I say.

Enter SHALLOW

SHALLOW
I follow, mine host, I follow. Good even and
twenty, good Master Page! Master Page, will you go with
us? We have sport in hand.

HOST
Tell him, Cavaleiro Justice; tell him, bully rook.

SHALLOW
Sir, there is a fray to be fought between Sir Hugh
the Welsh priest and Caius the French doctor.

FORD
Good mine host o' th' Garter, a word with you.

HOST
What say'st thou, my bully rook?

[They go aside]

SHALLOW
[To PAGE] Will you go with us to behold it? My
merry host hath had the measuring of their weapons; and,
I think, hath appointed them contrary places; for, believe
me, I hear the parson is no jester. Hark, I will tell you
what our sport shall be.

[They converse apart]

HOST
Hast thou no suit against my knight, my guest-cavaleiro.

FORD
None, I protest; but I'll give you a pottle of burnt
sack to give me recourse to him, and tell him my name is
Brook-only for a jest.

HOST
My hand, bully; thou shalt have egress and regress-
said I well?-and thy name shall be Brook. It is a merry
knight. Will you go, Mynheers?

SHALLOW
Have with you, mine host.

PAGE
I have heard the Frenchman hath good skill in his
rapier.

SHALLOW
Tut, sir, I could have told you more. In these
times you stand on distance, your passes, stoccadoes, and
I know not what. 'Tis the heart, Master Page; 'tis here,
'tis here. I have seen the time with my long sword I would
have made you four tall fellows skip like rats.

HOST
Here, boys, here, here! Shall we wag?

PAGE
Have with you. I had rather hear them scold than
fight.

Exeunt all but FORD

FORD
Though Page be a secure fool, and stands so firmly on
his wife's frailty, yet I cannot put off my opinion so
easily. She was in his company at Page's house, and what
they made there I know not. Well, I will look further into
't, and I have a disguise to sound Falstaff. If I find her
honest, I lose not my labour; if she be otherwise, 'tis labour
well bestowed.

Exit