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The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Merry Wives of Windsor Translation Act 4, Scene 4

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Enter PAGE, FORD, MISTRESS PAGE, MISTRESS FORD, and SIR HUGH EVANS

SIR HUGH EVANS

'Tis one of the best discretions of a 'oman as everI did look upon.

SIR HUGH EVANS

This is one of the cleverest plots that I've ever known a woman to come up with.

PAGE

And did he send you both these letters at an instant?

PAGE

And he sent you both those letters at the same time?

MISTRESS PAGE

Within a quarter of an hour.

MISTRESS PAGE

Within fifteen minutes of each other. 

FORD

Pardon me, wife. Henceforth do what thou wilt; I rather will suspect the sun with cold Than thee with wantonness: now doth thy honour stand In him that was of late an heretic, As firm as faith.

FORD

Forgive me, wife. From now on, do what you like. I'll sooner suspect that the sun is cold than suspect that you are unfaithful. I used to distrust you, but now I trust you completely.

PAGE

'Tis well, 'tis well; no more: Be not as extreme in submission As in offence. But let our plot go forward: let our wives Yet once again, to make us public sport, Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow, Where we may take him and disgrace him for it.

PAGE

That's enough, that's enough, no more. Don't go overboard in asking forgiveness from your wife the same way you went overboard in offending her. But let's put our plan into action. For a good joke in front of the whole town, let's have our wives make another appointment to meet with this old fat man, so we can catch him and disgrace him.

FORD

There is no better way than that they spoke of.

FORD

There's no better plan than the one they described to us.

PAGE

How? to send him word they'll meet him in the parkat midnight? Fie, fie! he'll never come.

PAGE

What? Tell him him they'll meet him in the park at midnight? No, no! He'll never come. 

SIR HUGH EVANS

You say he has been thrown in the rivers and has been grievously peaten as an old 'oman: methinks there should be terrors in him that he should not come; methinks his flesh is punished, he shall have no desires.

SIR HUGH EVANS

You said he's been thrown into the river and beaten terribly when he was dressed as an old women. I think he'll be so traumatized by now that he won't come. I think his body has suffered so much that he can't have any more sexual desire left in him. 

PAGE

So think I too.

PAGE

I agree.

MISTRESS FORD

Devise but how you'll use him when he comes,And let us two devise to bring him thither.

MISTRESS FORD

Just figure out what you'll do to him when he comes, and let the two of us figure out how to get him there. 

MISTRESS PAGE

There is an old tale goes that Herne the hunter, Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest, Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight, Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns; And there he blasts the tree and takes the cattle And makes milch-kine yield blood and shakes a chain In a most hideous and dreadful manner: You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know The superstitious idle-headed eld Received and did deliver to our age This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.

MISTRESS PAGE

There's an old story that Herne the hunter, who used to be a gamekeeper here in Windsor forest, walks around an oak at the quiet hour of midnight all winter. He has big jagged horns and he strikes the trees with disease and casts spells on the cattle and makes the dairy cows give blood instead of milk and shakes a chain in the most terrible and frightening way. You've heard stories about a spirit like that, and you know very well that superstitious, foolish people in the old days heard this story of Herne the hunter and passed it on to us as a true fact.

PAGE

Why, yet there want not many that do fearIn deep of night to walk by this Herne's oak:But what of this?

PAGE

Why, there are still plenty of people who are afraid to walk by Herne's oak late at night. But what does that matter? 

MISTRESS FORD

Marry, this is our device;That Falstaff at that oak shall meet with us.

MISTRESS FORD

Well, this is our plan—that Falstaff will meet us at the oak.

PAGE

Well, let it not be doubted but he'll come:And in this shape when you have brought him thither,What shall be done with him? what is your plot?

PAGE

Well, let's assume he'll come. And when you've brought Falstaff to the oak disguised as Herne the hunter, what will we do to him? What's your idea?

MISTRESS PAGE

That likewise have we thought upon, and thus: Nan Page my daughter and my little son And three or four more of their growth we'll dress Like urchins, ouphes and fairies, green and white, With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads, And rattles in their hands: upon a sudden, As Falstaff, she and I, are newly met, Let them from forth a sawpit rush at once With some diffused song: upon their sight, We two in great amazedness will fly: Then let them all encircle him about And, fairy-like, to-pinch the unclean knight, And ask him why, that hour of fairy revel, In their so sacred paths he dares to tread In shape profane.

MISTRESS PAGE

We've thought about that too, and here's our idea. We'll get my daughter Nan Page and my young son and three or four more children their age, and we'll dress them up in green and white like goblins, elvish children, and elves, with crowns of wax candles on their heads, and rattles in their hands. And right when Mistress Ford and I meet Falstaff, they should immediately rush out of a pit singing some incoherent song. When we see them, we'll run away in fright, and then they should circle the dirty old knight and pinch him the way fairies are supposed to do, and ask him why he dares to intrude his foul body into their sacred paths at the hour when fairies are out dancing

MISTRESS FORD

And till he tell the truth,Let the supposed fairies pinch him soundAnd burn him with their tapers.

MISTRESS FORD

And until he tells the truth, the so-called fairies should pinch him hard and burn him with their candles. 

MISTRESS PAGE

The truth being known,We'll all present ourselves, dis-horn the spirit,And mock him home to Windsor.

MISTRESS PAGE

Then when he's confessed the truth, we'll all reveal ourselves, take off his horns, and make fun of him the whole way home to Windsor. 

FORD

The children mustBe practised well to this, or they'll ne'er do't.

FORD

The children should practice this, or they'll never get it right. 

SIR HUGH EVANS

I will teach the children their behaviors; and Iwill be like a jack-an-apes also, to burn theknight with my taber.

SIR HUGH EVANS

I'll teach the children what to do, and I'll dress up like a mischievous monkey, so I can burn the knight with my candle.

FORD

That will be excellent. I'll go and buy them vizards.

FORD

That's an excellent idea. I'll go and buy them masks.

MISTRESS PAGE

My Nan shall be the queen of all the fairies,Finely attired in a robe of white.

MISTRESS PAGE

My Anne will be the queen of the fairies, finely dressed in a white gown. 

PAGE

That silk will I go buy.

PAGE

I'll go buy the silk for that. 

Aside

PAGE

And in that timeShall Master Slender steal my Nan awayAnd marry her at Eton. Go send to Falstaff straight.

PAGE

And while all this is going on, Master Slender will sneak away with my Nan and marry her at Eton

[To MISTRESS PAGE and MISTRESS FORD]
Go send a message to Falstaff right away. 

FORD

Nay I'll to him again in name of BrookHe'll tell me all his purpose: sure, he'll come.

FORD

No, I'll go see him disguised as Master Brook. He'll tell me all about his plans. I'm sure of it, he'll come. 

MISTRESS PAGE

Fear not you that. Go get us propertiesAnd tricking for our fairies.

MISTRESS PAGE

Don't worry about that. Go get us the props and costumes for our fairies. 

SIR HUGH EVANS

Let us about it: it is admirable pleasures and feryhonest knaveries.

SIR HUGH EVANS

Let's get going. It's an admirable joke and a very well-intentioned trick.

Exeunt PAGE, FORD, and SIR HUGH EVANS

MISTRESS PAGE

Go, Mistress Ford,Send quickly to Sir John, to know his mind.

MISTRESS PAGE

Go, Mistress Ford, send a message to Sir John to find out what he's thinking.

Exit MISTRESS FORD

MISTRESS PAGE

I'll to the doctor: he hath my good will, And none but he, to marry with Nan Page. That Slender, though well landed, is an idiot; And he my husband best of all affects. The doctor is well money'd, and his friends Potent at court: he, none but he, shall have her, Though twenty thousand worthier come to crave her.

MISTRESS PAGE

I'll go see the doctor. He has my support, and I won't let anyone but him marry Nan Page. That man Slender is an idiot, despite the fact that he has a lot of land, and he's the one my husband favors most. The doctor also has a lot of money and powerful friends at court. He, no one but he, will have her, even if twenty thousand worthier people came to ask for her. 

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.