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The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Merry Wives of Windsor Translation Act 2, Scene 1

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Enter MISTRESS PAGE, with a letter

MISTRESS PAGE

What, have I scaped love-letters in the holiday-time of my beauty, and am I now a subject for them?Let me see.

MISTRESS PAGE

How can it happen that I didn't get any love-letters when I was young and beautiful, but I get them now? Let me read it.

Reads

MISTRESS PAGE

'Ask me no reason why I love you; for though Love use Reason for his physician, he admits him not for his counsellor. You are not young, no more am I; go to then, there's sympathy: you are merry, so am I; ha, ha! then there's more sympathy: you love sack, and so do I; would you desire better sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page,—at the least, if the love of soldier can suffice,— that I love thee. I will not say, pity me; 'tis not a soldier-like phrase: but I say, love me. By me, Thine own true knight, By day or night, Or any kind of light, With all his might For thee to fight, JOHN FALSTAFF' What a Herod of Jewry is this! O wicked world! One that is well-nigh worn to pieces with age to show himself a young gallant! What an unweighed behavior hath this Flemish drunkard picked—with the devil's name!—out of my conversation, that he dares in this manner assay me? Why, he hath not been thrice in my company! What should I say to him? I was then frugal of my mirth: Heaven forgive me! Why, I'll exhibit a bill in the parliament for the putting down of men. How shall I be revenged on him? for revenged I will be, as sure as his guts are made of puddings.

MISTRESS PAGE

"Don't ask me why I love you, because even though we use our brains to find reasons for being in love, people in love still don't listen to reason. You aren't young, but I'm not either; well then, we're alike in that way. You're merry, so am I; ha, ha! that's another way we're alike. You love wine, and I do too; could we be any more alike? Let it be enough, Mistress Page—at least, if a soldier's love is enough for you—just to know that I love you. I won't tell you to feel sorry for me, because that isn't something a soldier says, but I do ask you to love me. From me,
Your faithful knight,
By day or night,
Or at any time,
Who will fight for you,
With all his might, JOHN FALSTAFF"
What a bragging scoundrel this man is! What a wicked world we live in! This man who is so old that he is almost falling apart is flirting like a young man! What did this drunkard see me doing that made him think—the devil must have put the idea into his head!—that he dares to write me a letter like this? Why, he hasn't met me more than three times! What should I have said to him? I didn't flirt with him too much. God forgive me! Why, I'll demand that Parliament pass a law to suppress men. How can I get revenge on him? Because I'm going to get revenge on him, as sure his guts are made out of sausages! 

Enter MISTRESS FORD

MISTRESS FORD

Mistress Page! trust me, I was going to your house.

MISTRESS FORD

Mistress Page! Believe me, I was just on my way to see you.

MISTRESS PAGE

And, trust me, I was coming to you. You look veryill.

MISTRESS PAGE

And, believe me, I was just on my way to see you. You look unwell.

MISTRESS FORD

Nay, I'll ne'er believe that; I have to show to the contrary.

MISTRESS FORD

No, I don't think so, I have something to prove that I don't.

MISTRESS PAGE

Faith, but you do, in my mind.

MISTRESS PAGE

But really, I think you do look unwell.

MISTRESS FORD

Well, I do then; yet I say I could show you to thecontrary. O Mistress Page, give me some counsel!

MISTRESS FORD

Fine, I look unwell then, but I still say that I could prove that I don't. O Mistress Page, give me some advice!

MISTRESS PAGE

What's the matter, woman?

MISTRESS PAGE

What's the matter, woman?

MISTRESS FORD

O woman, if it were not for one trifling respect, Icould come to such honour!

MISTRESS FORD

Oh woman, if there weren't one small thing worrying me, I could acquire such a high social status!

MISTRESS PAGE

Hang the trifle, woman! take the honour. What isit? dispense with trifles; what is it?

MISTRESS PAGE

Forget about the one small thing! Take the social status. What is it? Don't worry about small things, what is it? 

MISTRESS FORD

If I would but go to hell for an eternal moment or so,I could be knighted.

MISTRESS FORD

If I could just do something truly terrible, just for a minute, I could have the status of a knight.

MISTRESS PAGE

What? thou liest! Sir Alice Ford! These knightswill hack; and so thou shouldst not alter thearticle of thy gentry.

MISTRESS PAGE

What? You're lying! Sir Alice Ford! These knights might go around having sexual affairs, but that still doesn't mean you'd change your social status.

MISTRESS FORD

We burn daylight: here, read, read; perceive how I might be knighted. I shall think the worse of fat men, as long as I have an eye to make difference of men's liking: and yet he would not swear; praised women's modesty; and gave such orderly and well-behaved reproof to all uncomeliness, that I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words; but they do no more adhere and keep place together than the Hundredth Psalm to the tune of 'Green Sleeves.' What tempest, I trow, threw this whale, with so many tuns of oil in his belly, ashore at Windsor? How shall I be revenged on him? I think the best way were to entertain him with hope, till the wicked fire of lust have melted him in his own grease. Did you ever hear the like?

MISTRESS FORD

We're wasting time. Here, read, read, and see how I would be made a knight. I won't like fat men as much as other men, as long I'm able to judge men by their appearances— but still, he didn't swear, he praised the way that women aren't too sexually forward, and he criticized all inappropriate behavior with such careful, well-chosen words, that I would have sworn that his actions would correspond with his words; but they don't correspond at all. How on earth did this fat beast end up in our town? How will I get revenge on him? I think the best thing to do would be to lead him on and make him think that we'll accept his offer, until we can use his sexual desire as a weapon against him. Did you ever hear of anything like this? 

MISTRESS PAGE

Letter for letter, but that the name of Page and Ford differs! To thy great comfort in this mystery of ill opinions, here's the twin-brother of thy letter: but let thine inherit first; for, I protest, mine never shall. I warrant he hath a thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for different names—sure, more,—and these are of the second edition: he will print them, out of doubt; for he cares not what he puts into the press, when he would put us two. I had rather be a giantess, and lie under Mount Pelion. Well, I will find you twenty lascivious turtles ere one chaste man.

MISTRESS PAGE

Word for word, these letters are exactly the same except that one has the name Page on it and the other has the name Ford! To make you feel better about Falstaff thinking, for some mysterious reason, that you are sexually promiscuous, look at my letter, which is exactly the same as yours. But you should accept his offer first, because, I swear, I never will. I bet he has a thousand letters just like this, with a blank space to put in different women's names—no, more than a thousand—and he's probably given them to many women before. He must print them, undoubtedly, because he must not care what he publishes, since he's willing to write these letters to us. I would rather be buried under a mountain than accept his offer. I bet you I could find twenty unfaithful turtledoves before I could find one man who could control his sexual appetite. 

MISTRESS FORD

Why, this is the very same; the very hand, the verywords. What doth he think of us?

MISTRESS FORD

Gosh, these are exactly the same, the same handwriting, the same words. What opinion does he have of us?

MISTRESS PAGE

Nay, I know not: it makes me almost ready to wrangle with mine own honesty. I'll entertain myself like one that I am not acquainted withal; for, sure, unless he know some strain in me, that I know not myself, he would never have boarded me in thisfury.

MISTRESS PAGE

I have no idea. It almost makes me doubt my own chastity. I almost don't know who I am, because unless he knew something about me that I don't know myself, he would never have approached me like this.

MISTRESS FORD

'Boarding,' call you it? I'll be sure to keep himabove deck.

MISTRESS FORD

"Approach you," you say? I'll be sure to keep him far away from me.

MISTRESS PAGE

So will I if he come under my hatches, I'll never to sea again. Let's be revenged on him: let's appoint him a meeting; give him a show of comfort in his suit and lead him on with a fine-baited delay, till he hath pawned his horses to mine host of the Garter.

MISTRESS PAGE

So will I, if he tries to come near me. I'll never put myself in harm's way again. Let's get revenge on him. Let's set up a meeting with him, let's pretend to accept his offer and lead him on by delaying in a way that makes him even more excited, until he's pawned his horses to the host of the Garter Inn to get money to try to win us over.

MISTRESS FORD

Nay, I will consent to act any villany against him, that may not sully the chariness of our honesty. O, that my husband saw this letter! it would give eternal food to his jealousy.

MISTRESS FORD

Believe me, I'll agree to do any bad thing to him as long as it doesn't harm our own ethical integrity. O, if my husband saw this letter! it would make him jealous forever.

MISTRESS PAGE

Why, look where he comes; and my good man too: he's as far from jealousy as I am from giving him cause; and that I hope is an unmeasurable distance.

MISTRESS PAGE

Look, he's coming, and my husband's coming too. He's never jealous, just like I never give him any reason to be jealous, and I hope that will always be true.

MISTRESS FORD

You are the happier woman.

MISTRESS FORD

You're luckier than I am.

MISTRESS PAGE

Let's consult together against this greasy knight.Come hither.

MISTRESS PAGE

Let's come up with a plan together to get the better of this fat knight. Come over here.

They retire

Enter FORD with PISTOL, and PAGE with NYM

FORD

Well, I hope it be not so.

FORD

Well, I hope it isn't true.

PISTOL

Hope is a curtal dog in some affairs:Sir John affects thy wife.

PISTOL

Then your hope misleads you. Sir John wants to seduce your wife.

FORD

Why, sir, my wife is not young.

FORD

Why, sir, my wife isn't young.

PISTOL

He wooes both high and low, both rich and poor, Both young and old, one with another, Ford; He loves the gallimaufry: Ford, perpend.

PISTOL

He goes after women with high social status and with low social status, both rich women and poor women. He wants both young women and old women, he doesn't care which, Ford. He loves all kinds of women. Ford, think about this carefully. 

FORD

Love my wife!

FORD

He loves my wife!

PISTOL

With liver burning hot. Prevent, or go thou,Like Sir Actaeon he, with Ringwood at thy heels:O, odious is the name!

PISTOL

He loves her with a strong appetite. You need to stop him, or else you'll be a cuckold, and he'll be attacking you: oh, it's terrible to be called a cuckold!

FORD

What name, sir?

FORD

To be called what?

PISTOL

The horn, I say. Farewell. Take heed, have open eye, for thieves do foot by night: Take heed, ere summer comes or cuckoo-birds do sing. Away, Sir Corporal Nym! Believe it, Page; he speaks sense.

PISTOL

A cuckold. Goodbye. Be careful, look out, because villains will take your property when you're not looking. Take care, before someone seduces your wife. Let's go, Sir Corporal Nym! Believe it, Page; he's speaking the truth.

Exit

FORD

[Aside] I will be patient; I will find out this.

FORD

[To himself] I'll be patient, I'll investigate this.

NYM

[To PAGE] And this is true; I like not the humour of lying. He hath wronged me in some humours: I should have borne the humoured letter to her; but I have a sword and it shall bite upon my necessity. He loves your wife; there's the short and the long. My name is Corporal Nym; I speak and I avouch; 'tis true: my name is Nym and Falstaff loves your wife. Adieu. I love not the humour of bread and cheese, and there's the humour of it. Adieu.

NYM

[To PAGE] What I said is true. I'm not in the habit of lying. Falstaff has mistreated me in certain ways. I was supposed to bring the letter to your wife, but I have ways of getting back at my enemies, and I'll use them when I have to. Falstaff wants to seduce your wife, that's the long and the short of it. My name is Corporal Nym. I'm saying this and I promise that it's true. My name is Nym and Falstaff is after your wife. Goodbye. I don't like how little food I have now, and that's how I feel about it. Goodbye. 

Exit

PAGE

'The humour of it,' quoth a'! here's a fellowfrights English out of his wits.

PAGE

"How I feel about it," he said! That's a man who can hardly speak English.

FORD

I will seek out Falstaff.

FORD

I'm going to go look for Falstaff.

PAGE

I never heard such a drawling, affecting rogue.

PAGE

I've never heard anyone speak so slowly and so pretentiously. 

FORD

If I do find it: well.

FORD

If I find out that what he says is true: well, then we'll see.

PAGE

I will not believe such a Cataian, though the priesto' the town commended him for a true man.

PAGE

I wouldn't believe anything that scoundrel said, not even if the town priest told me he was an honest man.

FORD

'Twas a good sensible fellow: well.

FORD

He was an honest intelligent person. Well, we'll see.

PAGE

How now, Meg!

PAGE

Hey there, Meg!

MISTRESS PAGE and MISTRESS FORD come forward

MISTRESS PAGE

Whither go you, George? Hark you.

MISTRESS PAGE

What are you up to, George? 

MISTRESS FORD

How now, sweet Frank! why art thou melancholy?

MISTRESS FORD

How are you doing, sweet Frank! Why do you look sad?

FORD

I melancholy! I am not melancholy. Get you home, go.

FORD

Me, sad! I'm not sad. Go home, get going.

MISTRESS FORD

Faith, thou hast some crotchets in thy head. Now,will you go, Mistress Page?

MISTRESS FORD

My goodness, you have some strange idea in your head. Hey, will you come with me, Mistress Page?

MISTRESS PAGE

Have with you. You'll come to dinner, George.

MISTRESS PAGE

I'm coming. You'll come to dinner, George.

Aside to MISTRESS FORD

MISTRESS PAGE

Look who comes yonder: she shall be our messengerto this paltry knight.

MISTRESS PAGE

Look who's coming. She'll take our message to that worthless knight.

MISTRESS FORD

[Aside to MISTRESS PAGE] Trust me, I thought on her:she'll fit it.

MISTRESS FORD

[To MISTRESS PAGE so that only she can hear] Believe me, I thought of that too. She'll be just right for that.

Enter MISTRESS QUICKLY

MISTRESS PAGE

You are come to see my daughter Anne?

MISTRESS PAGE

You're here to see my daughter Anne?

MISTRESS QUICKLY

Ay, forsooth; and, I pray, how does good Mistress Anne?

MISTRESS QUICKLY

Yes; and, tell me, how is good Mistress Anne doing?

MISTRESS PAGE

Go in with us and see: we have an hour's talk withyou.

MISTRESS PAGE

Come with us and see. We'll talk to you for a while.

Exeunt MISTRESS PAGE, MISTRESS FORD, and MISTRESS QUICKLY

PAGE

How now, Master Ford!

PAGE

What's going on with you, Master Ford?

FORD

You heard what this knave told me, did you not?

FORD

You heard what that scoundrel told me, didn't you?

PAGE

Yes: and you heard what the other told me?

PAGE

Yes, and you heard what the other man told me?

FORD

Do you think there is truth in them?

FORD

Do you think they were telling the truth?

PAGE

Hang 'em, slaves! I do not think the knight would offer it: but these that accuse him in his intent towards our wives are a yoke of his discarded men; very rogues, now they be out of service.

PAGE

Forget about them, those scoundrels! I don't think the knight would try anything like that: but the men that told us about his plan are a pair of men that he just fired. They're acting like scoundrels, now that they don't have work anymore.

FORD

Were they his men?

FORD

They used to work for him?

PAGE

Marry, were they.

PAGE

Indeed, they did.

FORD

I like it never the better for that. Does he lie atthe Garter?

FORD

That doesn't make me feel any better. Is Falstaff staying at the Garter Inn?

PAGE

Ay, marry, does he. If he should intend this voyage towards my wife, I would turn her loose to him; and what he gets more of her than sharp words, let it lie on my head.

PAGE

Yes, he is. If he tried to seduce my wife, I would set her loose on him, and if she did anything other than scold him harshly, then I'd take responsibility for it. 

FORD

I do not misdoubt my wife; but I would be loath to turn them together. A man may be too confident: I would have nothing lie on my head: I cannot be thus satisfied.

FORD

I don't mistrust my wife, but I still wouldn't want to let them be alone together. A man can trust his wife too much. I don't want to be made a cuckold. I can't feel as calm about it as you can.

PAGE

Look where my ranting host of the Garter comes: there is either liquor in his pate or money in his purse when he looks so merrily.

PAGE

Look, here comes the talkative host of the Garter Inn. Either he's had something to drink or he's gotten some money, he looks so cheerful.

Enter Host

PAGE

How now, mine host!

PAGE

How are you doing, my host?

HOST

How now, bully-rook! thou'rt a gentleman.Cavaleiro-justice, I say!

HOST

How are you doing, my fine fellow? You are a gentlemen. Oh, gallant Justice, I'm calling you!

Enter SHALLOW

SHALLOW

I follow, mine host, I follow. Good even and twenty, good Master Page! Master Page, will you go with us? we have sport in hand.

SHALLOW

I'm here, my host. Good evening and I hope it will be twenty times as good, good Master Page! Master Page, will you come with us? We're about to see something entertaining.

HOST

Tell him, cavaleiro-justice; tell him, bully-rook.

HOST

Tell him about it, gallant Justice. Tell him, my fine fellow.

SHALLOW

Sir, there is a fray to be fought between Sir Hughthe Welsh priest and Caius the French doctor.

SHALLOW

Sir, there's going to be a fight between Sir Hugh the Welsh priest and Caius the French doctor.

FORD

Good mine host o' the Garter, a word with you.

FORD

Good host of the Garter, let me talk to you for a minute.

Drawing him aside

HOST

What sayest thou, my bully-rook?

HOST

What do you want to talk about, my fine fellow?

SHALLOW

[To PAGE] Will you go with us to behold it? My merry host hath had the measuring of their weapons; and, I think, hath appointed them contrary places; for, believe me, I hear the parson is no jester. Hark, I will tell you what our sport shall be.

SHALLOW

[To PAGE] Will you go with us to watch the fight? The host will be the referee, and I think he's told them each a different place to meet—because, believe me, I hear the parson isn't a lightweight in a fight. Listen, I'll tell you what our trick is going to be. 

They converse apart

HOST

Hast thou no suit against my knight, myguest-cavaleire?

HOST

Are you sure you don't have any complaint to make about the knight staying with me, my gallant friend?

FORD

None, I protest: but I'll give you a pottle ofburnt sack to give me recourse to him and tell himmy name is Brook; only for a jest.

FORD

None, I promise, but I'll give you two quarts of mulled wine if you'll bring me to him and tell him my name is Brook, just for a joke. 

HOST

My hand, bully; thou shalt have egress and regress; —said I well?—and thy name shall be Brook. It is a merry knight. Will you go, An-heires?

HOST

[Giving FORD his hand to shake] I promise, my fine fellow. You'll be able to go out and come back again—are those the right words to use?—and I'll say your name is Brook. Falstaff is a merry knight. Will you go with me, gentlemen? 

SHALLOW

Have with you, mine host.

SHALLOW

We'll come with you, my host.

PAGE

I have heard the Frenchman hath good skill inhis rapier.

PAGE

I heard the Frenchman is good at sword-fighting.

SHALLOW

Tut, sir, I could have told you more. In these times you stand on distance, your passes, stoccadoes, and I know not what: 'tis the heart, Master Page; 'tis here, 'tis here. I have seen the time, with my long sword I would have made you four tall fellows skip likerats.

SHALLOW

That's nothing, sir, I could have told you more than that. These days, fighters in a duel rely on having distance between them, they use lunges, thrusts, and I don't know what else. That's the essential part of fighting, Master Page; it's done like this, like this. [He gestures] I remember when I could use my long sword to make you four brave men jump like rats.

HOST

Here, boys, here, here! shall we wag?

HOST

Here, boys, here, here! Shall we go?

PAGE

Have with you. I would rather hear them scold than fight.

PAGE

Oh, if you want. I would rather hear them scold each other than have a real fight.

Exeunt Host, SHALLOW, and PAGE

FORD

Though Page be a secure fool, an stands so firmly on his wife's frailty, yet I cannot put off my opinion so easily: she was in his company at Page's house; and what they made there, I know not. Well, I will look further into't: and I have a disguise to sound Falstaff. If I find her honest, I lose not my labour; if she be otherwise, 'tis labour well bestowed.

FORD

Even though Page is a fool who trusts his wife too much, and is so confident about his wife's unreliable nature, still, I can't overcome my worries so easily. My wife spent time with Falstaff at Page's house; and I don't know what they got up to together there. Well, I'll investigate it more: and I have a disguise that I'll use to interrogate Falstaff. If I find out that my wife is faithful, I'm not wasting my time; if she's not faithful, then my efforts were put to good use. 

Exit

The merry wives of windsor
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Maria devlin
About the Translator: Maria Devlin

Maria Devlin received her Ph.D. in English Literature from Harvard University, where she specialized in Renaissance drama. She has worked as a bibliographical and editorial assistant for The Norton Anthology of English Literature and for The Norton Shakespeare. She is currently working with Stephen Greenblatt to design online courses on Shakespeare, including the modules "Hamlet's Ghost" and "Shylock's Bond" offered through HarvardX. She is writing a book on Renaissance comedy.

Maria Devlin wishes to credit the following sources, which she consulted extensively in composing her translations and annotations:

William Shakespeare. The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition. Eds. Gary Taylor et al. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

William Shakespeare. The Norton Shakespeare, 3rd ed. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt et al. New York: W.W. Norton& Company, Inc., 2016.