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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 an 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

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