The Merry Wives of Windsor

by William Shakespeare

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ACT III - Scene V

The Garter Inn


Bardolph, I say!

Here, sir.

Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in 't.


Have I liv'd to be carried in a basket, like a barrow of
butcher's offal, and to be thrown in the Thames? Well, if
I be serv'd such another trick, I'll have my brains ta'en out
and butter'd, and give them to a dog for a new-year's gift.
The rogues slighted me into the river with as little remorse
as they would have drown'd a blind bitch's puppies, fifteen
i' th' litter; and you may know by my size that I have
a kind of alacrity in sinking; if the bottom were as deep as
hell I should down. I had been drown'd but that the shore
was shelvy and shallow-a death that I abhor; for the water
swells a man; and what a thing should I have been when
had been swell'd! I should have been a mountain of

Re-enter BARDOLPH, with sack

Here's Mistress Quickly, sir, to speak with you

Come, let me pour in some sack to the Thames
water; for my belly's as cold as if I had swallow'd
snowballs for pills to cool the reins. Call her in.

Come in, woman.


By your leave; I cry you mercy. Give your
worship good morrow.

Take away these chalices. Go, brew me a pottle
of sack finely.

With eggs, sir?

Simple of itself; I'll no pullet-sperm in my
brewage. [Exit BARDOLPH] How now!

Marry, sir, I come to your worship from Mistress

Mistress Ford! I have had ford enough; I was
thrown into the ford; I have my belly full of ford.

Alas the day, good heart, that was not her fault!
She does so take on with her men; they mistook their

So did I mine, to build upon a foolish woman's

Well, she laments, sir, for it, that it would yearn
your heart to see it. Her husband goes this morning
a-birding; she desires you once more to come to her between
eight and nine; I must carry her word quickly. She'll make
you amends, I warrant you.

Well, I Will visit her. Tell her so; and bid her
think what a man is. Let her consider his frailty, and then
judge of my merit.

I will tell her.

Do so. Between nine and ten, say'st thou?

Eight and nine, sir.

Well, be gone; I will not miss her.

Peace be with you, sir.


I marvel I hear not of Master Brook; he sent me
word to stay within. I like his money well. O, here he

Enter FORD disguised

Bless you, sir!

Now, Master Brook, you come to know what
hath pass'd between me and Ford's wife?

That, indeed, Sir John, is my business.

Master Brook, I will not lie to you; I was at her
house the hour she appointed me.

And sped you, sir?

Very ill-favouredly, Master Brook.

How so, sir; did she change her determination?

No. Master Brook; but the peaking cornuto her
husband, Master Brook, dwelling in a continual 'larum of
jealousy, comes me in the instant of our, encounter, after
we had embrac'd, kiss'd, protested, and, as it were, spoke
the prologue of our comedy; and at his heels a rabble of his
companions, thither provoked and instigated by his
distemper, and, forsooth, to search his house for his wife's

What, while you were there?

While I was there.

And did he search for you, and could not find you?

You shall hear. As good luck would have it, comes
in one Mistress Page, gives intelligence of Ford's approach;
and, in her invention and Ford's wife's distraction, they
convey'd me into a buck-basket.

A buck-basket!

By the Lord, a buck-basket! Ramm'd me in with
foul shirts and smocks, socks, foul stockings, greasy
napkins, that, Master Brook, there was the rankest compound
of villainous smell that ever offended nostril.

And how long lay you there?

Nay, you shall hear, Master Brook, what I have
suffer'd to bring this woman to evil for your good. Being
thus cramm'd in the basket, a couple of Ford's knaves, his
hinds, were call'd forth by their mistress to carry me in
the name of foul clothes to Datchet Lane; they took me on
their shoulders; met the jealous knave their master in the
door; who ask'd them once or twice what they had in their
basket. I quak'd for fear lest the lunatic knave would have
search'd it; but Fate, ordaining he should be a cuckold,
held his hand. Well, on went he for a search, and away
went I for foul clothes. But mark the sequel, Master
Brook-I suffered the pangs of three several deaths: first,
an intolerable fright to be detected with a jealous rotten
bell-wether; next, to be compass'd like a good bilbo in the
circumference of a peck, hilt to point, heel to head; and
then, to be stopp'd in, like a strong distillation, with
stinking clothes that fretted in their own grease. Think of that
-a man of my kidney. Think of that-that am as subject to
heat as butter; a man of continual dissolution and thaw. It
was a miracle to scape suffocation. And in the height of
this bath, when I was more than half-stew'd in grease, like
a Dutch dish, to be thrown into the Thames, and cool'd,
glowing hot, in that surge, like a horse-shoe; think of that
-hissing hot. Think of that, Master Brook.

In good sadness, sir, I am sorry that for my sake you
have suffer'd all this. My suit, then, is desperate;
you'll undertake her no more.

Master Brook, I will be thrown into Etna, as I
have been into Thames, ere I will leave her thus. Her
husband is this morning gone a-birding; I have received from
her another embassy of meeting; 'twixt eight and nine is
the hour, Master Brook.

'Tis past eight already, sir.

Is it? I Will then address me to my appointment.
Come to me at your convenient leisure, and you shall
know how I speed; and the conclusion shall be crowned
with your enjoying her. Adieu. You shall have her, Master
Brook; Master Brook, you shall cuckold Ford.


Hum! ha! Is this a vision? Is this a dream? Do I sleep?
Master Ford, awake; awake, Master Ford. There's a hole
made in your best coat, Master Ford. This 'tis to be
married; this 'tis to have linen and buck-baskets! Well, I will
proclaim myself what I am; I will now take the lecher; he
is at my house. He cannot scape me; 'tis impossible he
should; he cannot creep into a halfpenny purse nor into
a pepper box. But, lest the devil that guides him should aid
him, I will search impossible places. Though what I am I
cannot avoid, yet to be what I would not shall not make
me tame. If I have horns to make one mad, let the proverb
go with me-I'll be horn mad.


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