The Merry Wives of Windsor By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act I: Scenes 2-3

Summary

Evans sends Slender's servant, Simple, with a message to Mistress Quickly "to desire and require her to solicit your master's desires to Mistress Anne Page."

Falstaff, meanwhile, conspires with his men at the Garter Inn to "make love to Ford's wife" because "the report goes she has all the rule of her husband's purse." He sends Nym and Pistol with love letters to Mistress Page and to Mistress Ford, then exits. With Falstaff out of the room, his confederates prepare to betray him:

Nym: I will discuss the humour of his love to
Page [Mistress Page's husband].
Pistol: And I to Ford shall eke unfold
How Falstaff, varlet vile,
His dove will prove, his gold will hold,
And his soft couch defile. (104-08)

Analysis

Falstaff is a knight "almost out at heels," and therefore, he sees as his natural prey the well-off middle class. Since he fancies himself a lover — "Page's wife . . . gave me good eyes too" — it is this talent which he will exploit to make money. The language which he uses to describe the woman whom he plans to woo is replete with references to the great age of the English merchant-adventurers:

She bears the purse too. She is a region in Guiana, all gold and bounty. I will be cheaters [both
financial Warder and "cheat," in the modern sense] to them both, and they shall be exchequers to
me. They shall be my East and West Indies, and I will trade to them both. (75-79)

To see this "cheater" cheated — that is, Falstaff — will be one of the chief pleasures in the play, and Pistol and Nym's quick decision to betray their captain anticipates the fun.

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