The Merry Wives of Windsor

by William Shakespeare

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ACT II - Scene II

A room in the Garter Inn


I will not lend thee a penny.

I will retort the sum in equipage.

Not a penny.

Why, then the world's mine oyster. Which I with
sword will open.

Not a penny. I have been content, sir, you should
lay my countenance to pawn. I have grated upon my good
friends for three reprieves for you and your coach-fellow,
Nym; or else you had look'd through the grate, like a
geminy of baboons. I am damn'd in hell for swearing to
gentlemen my friends you were good soldiers and tall fellows;
and when Mistress Bridget lost the handle of her fan,
I took 't upon mine honour thou hadst it not.

Didst not thou share? Hadst thou not fifteen pence?

Reason, you rogue, reason. Think'st thou I'll
endanger my soul gratis? At a word, hang no more about me,
I am no gibbet for you. Go-a short knife and a throng!-
to your manor of Pickt-hatch; go. You'll not bear a letter
for me, you rogue! You stand upon your honour! Why,
thou unconfinable baseness, it is as much as I can do to
keep the terms of my honour precise. I, I, I myself
sometimes, leaving the fear of God on the left hand, and hiding
mine honour in my necessity, am fain to shuffle, to hedge,
and to lurch; and yet you, rogue, will ensconce your rags,
your cat-a-mountain looks, your red-lattice phrases, and
your bold-beating oaths, under the shelter of your honour!
You will not do it, you!

I do relent; what would thou more of man?


Sir, here's a woman would speak with you.

Let her approach.


Give your worship good morrow.

Good morrow, good wife.

Not so, an't please your worship.

Good maid, then.

I'll be sworn;
As my mother was, the first hour I was born.

I do believe the swearer. What with me?

Shall I vouchsafe your worship a word or two?

Two thousand, fair woman; and I'll vouchsafe
thee the hearing.

There is one Mistress Ford, sir-I pray, come a little
nearer this ways. I myself dwell with Master Doctor

Well, on: Mistress Ford, you say-

Your worship says very true. I pray your worship
come a little nearer this ways.

I warrant thee nobody hears-mine own people,
mine own people.

Are they so? God bless them, and make them his

Well; Mistress Ford, what of her?

Why, sir, she's a good creature. Lord, Lord, your
worship's a wanton! Well, heaven forgive you, and all of
us, I pray.

Mistress Ford; come, Mistress Ford-

Marry, this is the short and the long of it: you
have brought her into such a canaries as 'tis wonderful.
The best courtier of them all, when the court lay at Windsor,
could never have brought her to such a canary. Yet
there has been knights, and lords, and gentlemen, with
their coaches; I warrant you, coach after coach, letter after
letter, gift after gift; smelling so sweetly, all musk, and so
rushling, I warrant you, in silk and gold; and in such alligant
terms; and in such wine and sugar of the best and the
fairest, that would have won any woman's heart; and I
warrant you, they could never get an eye-wink of her.
I had myself twenty angels given me this morning; but I
defy all angels, in any such sort, as they say, but in the
way of honesty; and, I warrant you, they could never get
her so much as sip on a cup with the proudest of them all;
and yet there has been earls, nay, which is more,
pensioners; but, I warrant you, all is one with her.

But what says she to me? Be brief, my good she-

Marry, she hath receiv'd your letter; for the
which she thanks you a thousand times; and she gives you
to notify that her husband will be absence from his house
between ten and eleven.

Ten and eleven?

Ay, forsooth; and then you may come and see
the picture, she says, that you wot of. Master Ford, her
husband, will be from home. Alas, the sweet woman leads
an ill life with him! He's a very jealousy man; she leads a
very frampold life with him, good heart.

Ten and eleven. Woman, commend me to her; I
will not fail her.

Why, you say well. But I have another messenger
to your worship. Mistress Page hath her hearty commendations
to you too; and let me tell you in your ear, she's as
fartuous a civil modest wife, and one, I tell you, that will
not miss you morning nor evening prayer, as any is in
Windsor, whoe'er be the other; and she bade me tell your
worship that her husband is seldom from home, but she
hopes there will come a time. I never knew a woman so
dote upon a man: surely I think you have charms, la! Yes,
in truth.

Not I, I assure thee; setting the attraction of my
good parts aside, I have no other charms.

Blessing on your heart for 't!

But, I pray thee, tell me this: has Ford's wife and
Page's wife acquainted each other how they love me?

That were a jest indeed! They have not so little
grace, I hope-that were a trick indeed! But Mistress Page
would desire you to send her your little page of all loves.
Her husband has a marvellous infection to the little page;
and truly Master Page is an honest man. Never a wife in
Windsor leads a better life than she does; do what she will,
say what she will, take all, pay all, go to bed when she
list, rise when she list, all is as she will; and truly she
deserves it; for if there be a kind woman in Windsor, she
is one. You must send her your page; no remedy.

Why, I will.

Nay, but do so then; and, look you, he may come
and go between you both; and in any case have a
nay-word, that you may know one another's mind, and the boy
never need to understand any thing; for 'tis not good that
children should know any wickedness. Old folks, you
know, have discretion, as they say, and know the world.

Fare thee well; commend me to them both.
There's my purse; I am yet thy debtor. Boy, go along with
this woman. [Exeunt QUICKLY and ROBIN] This news
distracts me.

[Aside] This punk is one of Cupid's carriers;
Clap on more sails; pursue; up with your fights;
Give fire; she is my prize, or ocean whelm them all!


Say'st thou so, old Jack; go thy ways; I'll make
more of thy old body than I have done. Will they yet look
after thee? Wilt thou, after the expense of so much money,
be now a gainer? Good body, I thank thee. Let them say
'tis grossly done; so it be fairly done, no matter.


Sir John, there's one Master Brook below would
fain speak with you, and be acquainted with you; and hath
sent your worship a moming's draught of sack.

Brook is his name?

Ay, sir.

Call him in. [Exit BARDOLPH] Such Brooks are
welcome to me, that o'erflows such liquor. Ah, ha! Mistress
Ford and Mistress Page, have I encompass'd you? Go to;

Re-enter BARDOLPH, with FORD disguised

Bless you, sir!

And you, sir! Would you speak with me?

I make bold to press with so little preparation upon

You're welcome. What's your will? Give us leave,


Sir, I am a gentleman that have spent much; my name
is Brook.

Good Master Brook, I desire more acquaintance
of you.

Good Sir John, I sue for yours-not to charge you; for I
must let you understand I think myself in better plight for
a lender than you are; the which hath something
embold'ned me to this unseason'd intrusion; for they say, if
money go before, all ways do lie open.

Money is a good soldier, sir, and will on.

Troth, and I have a bag of money here troubles me; if
you will help to bear it, Sir John, take all, or half, for easing
me of the carriage.

Sir, I know not how I may deserve to be your

I will tell you, sir, if you will give me the hearing.

Speak, good Master Brook; I shall be glad to be
your servant.

Sir, I hear you are a scholar-I will be brief with you
-and you have been a man long known to me, though I
had never so good means as desire to make myself acquainted
with you. I shall discover a thing to you, wherein
I must very much lay open mine own imperfection; but,
good Sir John, as you have one eye upon my follies, as you
hear them unfolded, turn another into the register of your
own, that I may pass with a reproof the easier, sith you
yourself know how easy is it to be such an offender.

Very well, sir; proceed.

There is a gentlewoman in this town, her husband's
name is Ford.

Well, sir.

I have long lov'd her, and, I protest to you, bestowed
much on her; followed her with a doting observance;
engross'd opportunities to meet her; fee'd every slight occasion
that could but niggardly give me sight of her; not
only bought many presents to give her, but have given
largely to many to know what she would have given;
briefly, I have pursu'd her as love hath pursued me; which
hath been on the wing of all occasions. But whatsoever I
have merited, either in my mind or in my means, meed, I
am sure, I have received none, unless experience be a jewel;
that I have purchased at an infinite rate, and that hath
taught me to say this:
'Love like a shadow flies when substance love pursues;
Pursuing that that flies, and flying what pursues.'

Have you receiv'd no promise of satisfaction at
her hands?


Have you importun'd her to such a purpose?


Of what quality was your love, then?

Like a fair house built on another man's ground; so
that I have lost my edifice by mistaking the place where
erected it.

To what purpose have you unfolded this to me?

When I have told you that, I have told you all. Some
say that though she appear honest to me, yet in other
places she enlargeth her mirth so far that there is shrewd
construction made of her. Now, Sir John, here is the heart
of my purpose: you are a gentleman of excellent
breeding, admirable discourse, of great admittance, authentic in
your place and person, generally allow'd for your many
war-like, courtlike, and learned preparations.

O, sir!

Believe it, for you know it. There is money; spend it,
spend it; spend more; spend all I have; only give me so
much of your time in exchange of it as to lay an amiable
siege to the honesty of this Ford's wife; use your art of
wooing, win her to consent to you; if any man may, you
may as soon as any.

Would it apply well to the vehemency of your
affection, that I should win what you would enjoy?
Methinks you prescribe to yourself very preposterously.

O, understand my drift. She dwells so securely on the
excellency of her honour that the folly of my soul dares
not present itself; she is too bright to be look'd against.
Now, could I come to her with any detection in my hand,
my desires had instance and argument to commend themselves;
I could drive her then from the ward of her purity,
her reputation, her marriage vow, and a thousand other her
defences, which now are too too strongly embattl'd against
me. What say you to't, Sir John?

Master Brook, I will first make bold with your
money; next, give me your hand; and last, as I am a gentleman,
you shall, if you will, enjoy Ford's wife.

O good sir!

I say you shall.

Want no money, Sir John; you shall want none.

Want no Mistress Ford, Master Brook; you shall
want none. I shall be with her, I may tell you, by her own
appointment; even as you came in to me her assistant, or
go-between, parted from me; I say I shall be with her between
ten and eleven; for at that time the jealous rascally
knave, her husband, will be forth. Come you to me at
night; you shall know how I speed.

I am blest in your acquaintance. Do you know Ford,

Hang him, poor cuckoldly knave! I know him
not; yet I wrong him to call him poor; they say the
jealous wittolly knave hath masses of money; for the which
his wife seems to me well-favour'd. I will use her as the
key of the cuckoldly rogue's coffer; and there's my harvest-home.

I would you knew Ford, sir, that you might avoid him
if you saw him.

Hang him, mechanical salt-butter rogue! I will
stare him out of his wits; I will awe him with my cudgel;
it shall hang like a meteor o'er the cuckold's horns. Master
Brook, thou shalt know I will predominate over the
peasant, and thou shalt lie with his wife. Come to me soon at
night. Ford's a knave, and I will aggravate his style; thou,
Master Brook, shalt know him for knave and cuckold.
Come to me soon at night.


What a damn'd Epicurean rascal is this! My heart is
ready to crack with impatience. Who says this is improvident
jealousy? My wife hath sent to him; the hour is fix'd;
the match is made. Would any man have thought this? See
the hell of having a false woman! My bed shall be abus'd,
my coffers ransack'd, my reputation gnawn at; and I shall
not only receive this villainous wrong, but stand under the
adoption of abominable terms, and by him that does me
this wrong. Terms! names! Amaimon sounds well; Lucifer,
well; Barbason, well; yet they are devils' additions, the names
of fiends. But cuckold! Wittol! Cuckold! the devil himself
hath not such a name. Page is an ass, a secure ass; he will trust
his wife; he will not be jealous; I will rather trust a Fleming
with my butter, Parson Hugh the Welshman with my
cheese, an Irishman with my aqua-vitae bottle, or a thief to
walk my ambling gelding, than my wife with herself. Then
she plots, then she ruminates, then she devises; and what
they think in their hearts they may effect, they will break
their hearts but they will effect. God be prais'd for my
jealousy! Eleven o'clock the hour. I will prevent this, detect
my wife, be reveng'd on Falstaff, and laugh at Page.
I will about it; better three hours too soon than a minute
too late. Fie, fie, fie! cuckold! cuckold! cuckold!


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