The Merry Wives of Windsor By William Shakespeare Act IV: Scenes 2-4

ACT IV. SCENE 2. A room in 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 ho! gossip Ford, what ho!

MRS. FORD.
Step into the 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 seemed 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
searched 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 shamed, 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' the 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 disguised, —

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 thrummed hat, and her muffler too. Run up, Sir John.

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