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The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Merry Wives of Windsor Translation Act 4, Scene 2

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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?

FALSTAFF

Mistress Ford, your sorrow has made the memory of my sufferings disappear. I see that you are devoted to me, and I tell you, I feel exactly the same way. I don't just love you, I also offer you all the trappings, compliments, and gestures that demonstrate love. But are you sure that your husband's away?

MISTRESS FORD

He's a-birding, sweet Sir John.

MISTRESS FORD

He's hunting birds, sweet Sir John.

MISTRESS PAGE

[Within] What, ho, gossip Ford! what, ho!

MISTRESS PAGE

[Offstage] Hey there, my friend Ford! Hey there!

MISTRESS FORD

Step into the chamber, Sir John.

MISTRESS FORD

Go into the room, Sir John.

Exit FALSTAFF

Enter MISTRESS PAGE

MISTRESS PAGE

How now, sweetheart! who's at home besides yourself?

MISTRESS PAGE

Hello there, my dear! Who's at home besides you?

MISTRESS FORD

Why, none but mine own people.

MISTRESS FORD

Why, no one but my servants.

MISTRESS PAGE

Indeed!

MISTRESS PAGE

Really!

MISTRESS FORD

No, certainly. [Aside to her] Speak louder.

MISTRESS FORD

Yes, really.

[To MISTRESS PAGE so that only she can hear] Speak louder.

MISTRESS PAGE

Truly, I am so glad you have nobody here.

MISTRESS PAGE

[Loud enough for FALSTAFF to hear] Really, I'm glad you have no one else here.

MISTRESS FORD

Why?

MISTRESS FORD

Why?

MISTRESS 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'sdaughters, of what complexion soever; and so buffetshimself on the forehead, crying, 'Peer out, peerout!' that any madness I ever yet beheld seemed buttameness, civility and patience, to this hisdistemper he is in now: I am glad the fat knight is nothere.

MISTRESS PAGE

Why, woman, your husband is going crazy again. He's raving to my husband. He rants about all married people. He curses all women, of every kind, and he hits himself on the forehead, crying, "Peep out, peep out," so that all the craziness I've ever seen seems calm, civil, and patient compared to his deranged behavior. I'm glad the fat knight isn't here. 

MISTRESS FORD

Why, does he talk of him?

MISTRESS FORD

Why, does he talk about him?

MISTRESS 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.

MISTRESS PAGE

He talks about nothing but him, and he swears the fat knight was carried out of the house in a basket the last time he looked for him. He tells my husband that the knight is here now, and he's pulled my husband and the rest of their friends away from the hunting to try and prove again that his suspicions are true. But I'm glad the knight isn't here now. Now your husband will see how foolish he is. 

MISTRESS FORD

How near is he, Mistress Page?

MISTRESS FORD

How close is he, Mistress Page? 

MISTRESS PAGE

Hard by; at street end; he will be here anon.

MISTRESS PAGE

Very close, he's at the end of the street. He'll be here soon.

MISTRESS FORD

I am undone! The knight is here.

MISTRESS FORD

I'm ruined! The knight is here. 

MISTRESS PAGE

Why then you are utterly shamed, and he's but a deadman. What a woman are you!—Away with him, awaywith him! better shame than murder.

MISTRESS PAGE

Why, then, you're completely ruined, and the knight is a dead man. What kind of woman are you! Get him out of here, get him out of here! It's better that you be shamed than that he be murdered. 

FORD

Which way should be go? how should I bestow him?Shall I put him into the basket again?

MISTRESS FORD

How can I get him out of here? How can I get rid of him? Should I put him into the basket again?

Re-enter FALSTAFF

FALSTAFF

No, I'll come no more i' the basket. May I not goout ere he come?

FALSTAFF

No, I'm not getting into the basket again. Can't I leave before he gets here?

MISTRESS PAGE

Alas, three of Master Ford's brothers watch the doorwith pistols, that none shall issue out; otherwiseyou might slip away ere he came. But what make you here?

MISTRESS PAGE

Unfortunately, three of Master Ford's brothers are guarding the door with pistols, so that no one can leave, otherwise you could have snuck out before he got here. But what are you doing here?

FALSTAFF

What shall I do? I'll creep up into the chimney.

FALSTAFF

What will I do? I'll sneak up the chimney.

MISTRESS FORD

There they always use to discharge theirbirding-pieces. Creep into the kiln-hole.

MISTRESS FORD

They always shoot their hunting guns up the chimney to clear them out. Sneak into the entrance to the oven. 

FALSTAFF

Where is it?

FALSTAFF

Where is it? 

MISTRESS 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 thehouse.

MISTRESS FORD

He'll look there, I'm telling you. He has a system for keeping track of every cupboard, box, chest, trunk, hole, and vault, and he goes through them according to his system. We can't hide you in the house.

FALSTAFF

I'll go out then.

FALSTAFF

I'll leave then.

MISTRESS PAGE

If you go out in your own semblance, you die, SirJohn. Unless you go out disguised—

MISTRESS PAGE

If you go out looking like yourself, you'll be killed, Sir John. Unless you leave in disguise—

MISTRESS FORD

How might we disguise him?

MISTRESS FORD

How can we disguise him?

MISTRESS PAGE

Alas the day, I know not! There is no woman's gownbig enough for him otherwise he might put on a hat,a muffler and a kerchief, and so escape.

MISTRESS PAGE

Oh dear, I don't know! We don't have a woman's dress big enough for him, otherwise he could put on a hat, and a scarf over his face, and a kerchief, and escape in disguise.

FALSTAFF

Good hearts, devise something: any extremity ratherthan a mischief.

FALSTAFF

Dear ladies, think of something. Anything at all would be better than a disaster.

MISTRESS FORD

My maid's aunt, the fat woman of Brentford, has agown above.

MISTRESS FORD

My maid's aunt, the fat woman who lives in Brentford, has a dress upstairs.

MISTRESS PAGE

On my word, it will serve him; she's as big as heis: and there's her thrummed hat and her mufflertoo. Run up, Sir John.

MISTRESS PAGE

I'm telling you, that will work. She's as big as he is, and her fringed hat and her muffler are there too. Run upstairs, Sir John.

MISTRESS FORD

Go, go, sweet Sir John: Mistress Page and I willlook some linen for your head.

MISTRESS FORD

Go, go, sweet Sir John. Mistress Page and I will look for some linen to cover your head.

MISTRESS PAGE

Quick, quick! we'll come dress you straight: puton the gown the while.

MISTRESS PAGE

Quick, quick! We'll come dress you right away. Put on the dress in the meantime.

Exit FALSTAFF

MISTRESS FORD

I would my husband would meet him in this shape: he cannot abide the old woman of Brentford; he swears she's a witch; forbade her my house and hath threatened to beat her.

MISTRESS FORD

I hope my husband meets him when he's dressed like this. He can't stand the old woman from Brentford. He swears she's a witch, he said she's not allowed to come to the house, and he's threatened to beat her up.

MISTRESS PAGE

Heaven guide him to thy husband's cudgel, and thedevil guide his cudgel afterwards!

MISTRESS PAGE

I hope that the knight encounters your husband's cudgel, and I hope that your husband uses it forcefully! 

MISTRESS FORD

But is my husband coming?

MISTRESS FORD

But is my husband coming?

MISTRESS PAGE

Ah, in good sadness, is he; and talks of the baskettoo, howsoever he hath had intelligence.

MISTRESS PAGE

Seriously, he is, and he talks about the basket too. I don't know how he found out about that.

MISTRESS FORD

We'll try that; for I'll appoint my men to carry thebasket again, to meet him at the door with it, asthey did last time.

MISTRESS FORD

We'll test him. I'll tell my servants to carry the basket again and run into him outside the door with it, like they did last time. 

MISTRESS PAGE

Nay, but he'll be here presently: let's go dress himlike the witch of Brentford.

MISTRESS PAGE

No, he'll be here right away. Let's go dress Falstaff like the witch from Brentford.

MISTRESS FORD

I'll first direct my men what they shall do with thebasket. Go up; I'll bring linen for him straight.

MISTRESS FORD

First I'll tell my men what to do with the basket. Go up, I'll bring linen for him right away.

Exit

MISTRESS PAGE

Hang him, dishonest varlet! we cannot misuse him enough. We'll leave a proof, by that which we will do, Wives may be merry, and yet honest too: We do not act that often jest and laugh; 'Tis old, but true, Still swine eat all the draff.

MISTRESS PAGE

To hell with him, that dishonest scoundrel! We can't abuse him too much. We'll prove by our actions that wives can be merry and honest at the same time. The people who joke and laugh aren't the people who go on to behave dishonestly. It's an old saying, but it's true, "Still waters run deep. "

Exit

Re-enter MISTRESS FORD with two Servants

MISTRESS FORD

Go, sirs, take the basket again on your shoulders:your master is hard at door; if he bid you set itdown, obey him: quickly, dispatch.

MISTRESS FORD

Go, young men, take the basket on your shoulders again. Your master is right outside the door. If he tells you to, obey him and put the basket down. Quickly, get going.

Exit

FIRST SERVANT

Come, come, take it up.

FIRST SERVANT

Come on, come on, pick it up.

SECOND SERVANT

Pray heaven it be not full of knight again.

SECOND SERVANT

I hope it doesn't have a knight in it this time.

FIRST SERVANT

I hope not; I had as lief bear so much lead.

FIRST SERVANT

I hope not. I'd rather carry a basket full of lead.

Enter FORD, PAGE, SHALLOW, DOCTOR CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS

FORD

Ay, but if it prove true, Master Page, have you any way then to unfool me again? Set down the basket, villain! Somebody call my wife. Youth in a basket! O you panderly rascals! there's a knot, a ging, a pack, a conspiracy against me: now shall the devil be shamed. What, wife, I say! Come, come forth! Behold what honest clothes you send forth to bleaching!

FORD

Yes, but if it turns out to be true, Master Page, and he has made a fool out of me, do you have any way to fix that? Put down the basket, you lowlife! Somebody call my wife. What a lucky lover! Oh you pandering rascals! There's a group, a gang, a pack, a plot against me—now the devil will be shamed. Hey there, wife, I'm talking to you! Come out, come out! Let's see what innocent clothes you were sending to the laundry! 

PAGE

Why, this passes, Master Ford; you are not to goloose any longer; you must be pinioned.

PAGE

Why, this goes beyond all the limits of acceptable behavior, Master Ford. You can't be allowed to run around loose any longer, you should be put in a straitjacket. 

SIR HUGH EVANS

Why, this is lunatics! this is mad as a mad dog!

SIR HUGH EVANS

Why, this is crazy! He's as mad as a mad dog!

SHALLOW

Indeed, Master Ford, this is not well, indeed.

SHALLOW

Really, Master Ford, this isn't acceptable, it really isn't.

FORD

So say I too, sir.

FORD

I agree, sir, it's not. 

Re-enter MISTRESS FORD

FORD

Come hither, Mistress Ford; Mistress Ford the honestwoman, the modest wife, the virtuous creature, thathath the jealous fool to her husband! I suspectwithout cause, mistress, do I?

FORD

Come here, Mistress Ford. Mistress Ford the honest wife, the modest wife, the virtuous person, whose husband is a jealous fool! I'm suspicious for no good reason, mistress, am I? 

MISTRESS FORD

Heaven be my witness you do, if you suspect me inany dishonesty.

MISTRESS FORD

I swear to God that you are, if you suspect that I'm unfaithful.

FORD

Well said, brazen-face! hold it out. Come forth, sirrah!

FORD

Well said, you brazen women, you stick to your story! Come out, sir!

Pulling clothes out of the basket

PAGE

This passes!

PAGE

This goes beyond all limits of good behavior!

MISTRESS FORD

Are you not ashamed? let the clothes alone.

MISTRESS FORD

Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Leave the clothes alone.

FORD

I shall find you anon.

FORD

I'll find you soon.

SIR HUGH EVANS

'Tis unreasonable! Will you take up your wife'sclothes? Come away.

SIR HUGH EVANS

This is unreasonable! Will you go through your wife's clothes? Cut it out. 

FORD

Empty the basket, I say!

FORD

I demand you empty the basket!

MISTRESS FORD

Why, man, why?

MISTRESS FORD

Why, man, why?

FORD

Master Page, as I am a man, there was one conveyed out of my house yesterday in this basket: why may not he be there again? In my house I am sure he is: my intelligence is true; my jealousy is reasonable. Pluck me out all the linen.

FORD

Master Page, as sure as I'm a man, I'm sure that someone was carried out of my house yesterday in this basket. Why shouldn't he be in there again? I know that he's in my house, my information is accurate. It's reasonable of me to be jealous. Pull out all the linen. 

MISTRESS FORD

If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death.

MISTRESS FORD

Anyone hiding in there must be really tiny. 

PAGE

Here's no man.

PAGE

There's no one in here.

SHALLOW

By my fidelity, this is not well, Master Ford; thiswrongs you.

SHALLOW

By my faith, this isn't acceptable, Master Ford. Your behavior reflects very badly on you. 

SIR HUGH EVANS

Master Ford, you must pray, and not follow theimaginations of your own heart: this is jealousies.

SIR HUGH EVANS

Master Ford, you should pray and ignore the fantasies in your brain. This is just jealousy. 

FORD

Well, he's not here I seek for.

FORD

Well, the person I'm looking for isn't here. 

PAGE

No, nor nowhere else but in your brain.

PAGE

No, and he's not anywhere else except in your brain. 

FORD

Help to search my house this one time. If I find not what I seek, show no colour for my extremity; let me for ever be your table-sport; let them say of me, 'As jealous as Ford, that searched a hollow walnut for his wife's leman.' Satisfy me once more; once more search with me.

FORD

Help me search the house one more time. If I don't find what I'm looking for, if I don't give you any evidence for why I should be so passionately jealous, then let me be a laughing-stock for you forever. Let them say things like, "Since he was as jealous as Ford, that looked for his wife's lover in a hollow walnut." Bear with me one more time, search the house with me one more time. 

MISTRESS FORD

What, ho, Mistress Page! come you and the old womandown; my husband will come into the chamber.

MISTRESS FORD

Hey there, Mistress Page! You and the old woman should come downstairs, my husband is coming into the bedroom. 

FORD

Old woman! what old woman's that?

FORD

Old woman! Who is that old woman?

MISTRESS FORD

Nay, it is my maid's aunt of Brentford.

MISTRESS FORD

It's my maid's aunt from Brentford.

FORD

A witch, a quean, an old cozening quean! Have I not forbid her my house? She comes of errands, does she? We are simple men; we do not know what's brought to pass under the profession of fortune-telling. She works by charms, by spells, by the figure, and such daubery as this is, beyond our element we know nothing. Come down, you witch, you hag, you; come down, I say!

FORD

A witch, a hussy, an old cheating hussy! Haven't I forbid her to come into my house? She comes on an errand, does she? We're just foolish men, we don't know what women get up to when they pretend to be telling fortunes. She uses charms, spells, voodoo dolls, and other tricks that we can't understand and don't know anything about. Come downstairs, you witch, you hag, you. Come downstairs, I say! 

MISTRESS FORD

Nay, good, sweet husband! Good gentlemen, let himnot strike the old woman.

MISTRESS FORD

No, good, sweet husband! Good gentlemen, don't let him hit the old woman. 

Re-enter FALSTAFF in woman's clothes, and MISTRESS PAGE

MISTRESS PAGE

Come, Mother Prat; come, give me your hand.

MISTRESS PAGE

Come on, Mother Prat.  Come, give me your hand. 

FORD

I'll prat her.

FORD

I'll prat her.

Beating him

FORD

Out of my door, you witch, you hag, you baggage, youpolecat, you runyon! out, out! I'll conjure you,I'll fortune-tell you.

FORD

Get out the door, you witch, you hag, you old bag, you hussy, you lying old woman! Out, out! I'll cast spells on you, I'll tell your fortune.

Exit FALSTAFF

MISTRESS PAGE

Are you not ashamed? I think you have killed thepoor woman.

MISTRESS PAGE

Aren't you ashamed of yourself? I think you have killed the old woman. 

MISTRESS FORD

Nay, he will do it. 'Tis a goodly credit for you.

MISTRESS FORD

No, he's going to kill her. 

[To FORD]
 Well, this certainly makes you look good!

FORD

Hang her, witch!

FORD

To hell with this witch!

SIR HUGH EVANS

By the yea and no, I think the 'oman is a witchindeed: I like not when a 'oman has a great peard;I spy a great peard under his muffler.

SIR HUGH EVANS

I swear, I think the woman is really a witch. I don't like it when women have large beards. I see a large beard under his muffler.

FORD

Will you follow, gentlemen? I beseech you, follow;see but the issue of my jealousy: if I cry out thusupon no trail, never trust me when I open again.

FORD

Will you come with me, gentlemen? I ask you, please come with me. See what the outcome of my jealousy is. If it turns out that there's no reason for me to be jealous, never listen to me again. 

PAGE

Let's obey his humour a little further: come,gentlemen.

PAGE

Let's humor him a little longer. Come on, gentlemen.

Exeunt FORD, PAGE, SHALLOW, DOCTOR CAIUS, and SIR HUGH EVANS

MISTRESS PAGE

Trust me, he beat him most pitifully.

MISTRESS PAGE

Good lord, it was pitiful how much he beat him up. 

MISTRESS FORD

Nay, by the mass, that he did not; he beat him mostunpitifully, methought.

MISTRESS FORD

No, I swear, it wasn't. He didn't have any pity, in my opinion. 

MISTRESS PAGE

I'll have the cudgel hallowed and hung o'er thealtar; it hath done meritorious service.

MISTRESS PAGE

I'll take his stick, hallow it out, and hang it over the altar. It has done excellent work. 

MISTRESS FORD

What think you? may we, with the warrant ofwomanhood and the witness of a good conscience,pursue him with any further revenge?

MISTRESS FORD

What do you think? Since we are women and we have a clear conscience, is it permissible for us to take any more revenge on him? 

MISTRESS PAGE

The spirit of wantonness is, sure, scared out of him: if the devil have him not in fee-simple, with fine and recovery, he will never, I think, in the way of waste, attempt us again.

MISTRESS PAGE

I'm sure that his lust has been driven out of him by now. Unless the devil has completely possessed him, he won't ever try to ruin us again. 

MISTRESS FORD

Shall we tell our husbands how we have served him?

MISTRESS FORD

Should we tell our husbands about the tricks we played on him?

MISTRESS PAGE

Yes, by all means; if it be but to scrape the figures out of your husband's brains. If they can find in their hearts the poor unvirtuous fat knight shall be any further afflicted, we two will still be the ministers.

MISTRESS PAGE

Yes, by all means—at the very least, to get rid of your husband's jealous suspicions. If they want to torment the poor badly-behaved fat knight any more, we'll still help them do it. 

MISTRESS FORD

I'll warrant they'll have him publicly shamed: andmethinks there would be no period to the jest,should he not be publicly shamed.

MISTRESS FORD

I bet they'll want him humiliated in public, and I think there wouldn't be a fitting conclusion to this plot unless he were publicly humiliated. 

MISTRESS PAGE

Come, to the forge with it then; shape it: I wouldnot have things cool.

MISTRESS PAGE

Come on, let's put our minds to it then, let's come up with an idea. I don't want to let our momentum die down.

Exeunt

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.