The Merry Wives of Windsor

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
Enter Falstaff and Pistol


I will not lend thee a penny.


Why then, the world's mine oyster,

Which I with sword will open. –

I will retort the sum in equipage.
equipage (n.) 2 [unclear meaning] small parts, instalments
retort (v.) 2 repay, pay back, recompense


Not a penny. I have been content, sir, you
content (adj.) 1 agreeable, willing, ready See Topics: Frequency count

should lay my countenance to pawn. I have grated upon
countenance (n.) 5 position, standing, authority
grate on / upon (v.) pester, harass, make heavy demands on
lay (v.) 3 put forward, present, use
pawn (n.) pledge, surety, forfeit

my good friends for three reprieves for you and your

coach-fellow Nym, or else you had looked through the
coach-fellow (n.) [one of a team of horses drawing a coach] companion, mate, partner in crime

grate, like a geminy of baboons. I am damned in hell
geminy (n.) pair, couple, brace
grate (n.) 2 prison bars, grating, cage

for swearing to gentlemen my friends you were good

soldiers and tall fellows. And when Mistress Bridget
tall (adj.) 1 brave, valiant, bold

lost the handle of her fan, I took't upon mine honour thou
take it affirm, swear, take an oath

hadst it not.


Didst thou not share? Hadst thou not fifteen pence?


Reason, you rogue, reason. Thinkest thou

I'll endanger my soul gratis? At a word, hang no more
gratis (adv.) for nothing, without payment

about me – I am no gibbet for you. Go – a short knife

and a throng – to your manor of Pickt-hatch, go. You'll
picked-hatch, pickt-hatch (n.) spiked half-door; house of disrepute, brothel

not bear a letter for me, you rogue? You stand upon
stand upon (v.) 1 make an issue of, insist upon, bother about

your honour! Why, thou unconfinable baseness, it is
baseness (n.) 3 cowardice, degenerateness, degradation
unconfinable (adj.) limitless, boundless, infinite

as much as I can do to keep the terms of my honour

precise. I, I, I myself sometimes, leaving the fear of
leave (v.) 2 abandon, forsake, relinquish
precise (adj.) 2 scrupulously pure, strictly observed, unstained

God on the left hand and hiding mine honour in my

necessity, am fain to shuffle, to hedge, and to lurch; and
fain (adj.) 1 obliged, forced, compelled
hedge (v.) 2 evade, be devious, prevaricate
lurch (v.) rob, cheat
shuffle (v.) 3 behave evasively, act shiftily

yet you, you rogue, will ensconce your rags, your
cat-a-mountain, cat o'mountain (adj./n.) mountain-cat, wildcat, panther
ensconce, insconce (v.) 1 protect, conceal, shelter

cat-a-mountain looks, your red-lattice phrases, and your
red-lattice (adj.) [sign of a] tavern, ale-house

bold-beating oaths, under the shelter of your honour!
beating (adj.) battering, thumping, blow-by-blow

You will not do it? You!


I do relent. What wouldst thou more of man?
relent (v.) yield, give way, give up

Enter Robin


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


Let her approach.

Enter Mistress Quickly
morrow (n.) morning See Topics: Frequency count


Give your worship good morrow.


Good morrow, good wife.
goodwife (n.) mistress of a house, Mrs


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
vouchsafe (v.) 1 allow, permit, grant See Topics: Politeness

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 Caius.


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 – (indicating

Pistol and Robin) mine own people, mine own people.


Are they so? God bless them and

make them his servants!


Well, Mistress Ford – what of her?


Why, sir, she's a good creature.

Lord, Lord, your worship's a wanton! Well, God forgive
wanton (n.) 1 libertine, seducer

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
canary, canaries (n.) 3 malapropism, probably for ‘quandary’

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,
canary, canaries (n.) 3 malapropism, probably for ‘quandary’

and gentlemen, with their coaches, I warrant you, coach
warrant (v.) 1 assure, promise, guarantee, confirm See Topics: Frequency count

after coach, letter after letter, gift after gift, smelling so

sweetly – all musk – and so rushling, I warrant you, in
rushling (adj.) rustling, swishing

silk and gold, and in such alligant terms, and in such
alligant (adj.) malapropism for ‘elegant’ or ‘eloquent’

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
defy (v.) 1 reject, despise, disdain, renounce

any such sort, as they say, but in the way of honesty –
sort (n.) 3 way, manner

and, I warrant you, they could never get her so much

as sip on a cup with the proudest of them all, and yet
proudest (n./adj.) eminent, notable, grand

there has been earls – nay, which is more, pensioners –
pensioner (n.) gentleman of the royal bodyguard

but, I warrant you, all is one with her.


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

she-Mercury (n.) woman messenger


Marry, she hath received your

letter, for the which she thanks you a thousand times,

and she gives you to notify that her husband will be
notify (v.) notice, take note, observe

absence from his house between ten and eleven.


Ten and eleven.


Ay, forsooth; and then you may
forsooth (adv.) in truth, certainly, truly, indeed See Topics: Frequency count

come and see the picture, she says, that you wot of.
wot (v.) 1 learn, know, be told See Topics: Frequency count

Master Ford, her husband, will be from home. Alas,

the sweet woman leads an ill life with him – he's a very
ill (adj.) 3 poor, inadequate, miserable

jealousy man – she leads a very frampold life with him,
frampold (adj.) disagreeable, bad-tempered, moody

good heart.


Ten and eleven. Woman, commend me to her.
commend (v.) 1 convey greetings, present kind regards See Topics: Frequency count

I will not fail her.


Why, you say well. But I have

another messenger to your worship. Mistress Page
messenger (n.) 2 malapropism for ‘message’

hath her hearty commendations to you too; and, let me

tell you in your ear, she's as fartuous a civil modest
fartuous (adj.) malapropism for ‘virtuous’

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
charm (n.) 1 magic spell, enchantment



Not I, I assure thee. Setting the attractions of

my good parts aside, I have no other charms.
part (n.) 1 quality, attribute, gift, accomplishment [of mind or body]


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



That were a jest indeed! They have

not so little grace, I hope – that were a trick indeed!
grace (n.) 3 personal duty, sense of propriety

But Mistress Page would desire you to send her your

little page, of all loves. Her husband has a marvellous
loves, of all for love's sake

infection to the little page; and, truly, Master Page is an
infection (n.) 2 malapropism for ‘affection’

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 (v.) 1 wish, like, please

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.
remedy, no no question, no alternative


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
nayword, nay-word (n.) 1 password, watchword

mind, and the boy never need to understand anything;

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.
commend (v.) 1 convey greetings, present kind regards See Topics: Frequency count

There's my purse – I am yet thy debtor. Boy, go along

with this woman.

Exeunt Mistress Quickly and Robin

This news distracts me.
distract (v.) 3 [unclear meaning] perplex, bewilder


carrier (n.) messenger, courier, go-between
punk (n.) harlot, strumpet, whore

This punk is one of Cupid's carriers.

Clap on more sails; pursue; up with your fights;
clap on (v.) activate promptly, put on smartly
fight (n.) screen raised for protecting the crew during a sea-battle

Give fire! She is my prize, or ocean whelm them all!
whelm (v.) overwhelm, drown, sink



Sayest thou so, old Jack? Go thy ways. I'll
ways, go thy / your 1 get along, be off See Topics: Discourse markers

make more of thy old body than I have done. Will they

yet look after thee? Wilt thou, after the expense of so
expense (n.) 1 extravagance, expenditure, spending
look after (v.) 1 follow with the eye, look with favour on

much money, be now a gainer? Good body, I thank

thee. Let them say 'tis grossly done – so it be fairly done,
grossly (adv.) 1 openly, blatantly, brazenly

no matter.

Enter Bardolph


Sir John, there's one Master Brook below

would fain speak with you, and be acquainted with
fain (adv.) gladly, willingly See Topics: Frequency count

you; and hath sent your worship a morning's draught

of sack.
sack (n.) [type of] white wine


Brook is his name?


Ay, sir.


Call him in.

Exit Bardolph

Such Brooks are welcome to me, that o'erflows such
overflow (v.) 3 pour out, overflow with

liquor. Aha! Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, have I

encompassed you? Go to; via!
encompass (v.) 2 outwit, catch out, get round
via, fia (int.) 1 come / go on, hurry up

Enter Bardolph, with Ford disguised as Brook


Bless you, sir.


And you, sir. Would you speak with me?


I make bold to press with so little preparation upon
bold, be / make presume, venture, take the liberty
preparation (n.) 3 forewarning, prior ceremony



You're welcome. What's your will? (To

Bardolph) Give us leave, drawer.

Exit Bardolph


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
charge (v.) 8 cause expense, burden with a cost
sue (v.) 1 beg, plead, beseech

you – for I must let you understand I think myself in

better plight for a lender than you are, the which hath

something emboldened me to this unseasoned intrusion;
something (adv.) 1 somewhat, rather See Topics: Frequency count
unseasoned (adj.) 1 unseasonable, inopportune, badly timed

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.
carriage (n.) 5 burden, load


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
discover (v.) 1 reveal, show, make known See Topics: Frequency count

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
register (n.) 1 record, catalogue, inventory

with a reproof the easier, sith you yourself know how

easy it is 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 loved her, and, I protest to you,

bestowed much on her, followed her with a doting
observance (n.) 1 proper attention, attentiveness, heed

observance, engrossed opportunities to meet her, fee'd
engross (v.) 1 get together, collect, gather, seize
fee (v.) 2 purchase, procure, secure

every slight occasion that could but niggardly give me
niggardly (adv.) sparingly, grudgingly, slightly

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 pursued 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
meed (n.) 1 reward, prize, recompense

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,
substance (n.) 1 real thing, genuine article

Pursuing that that flies, and flying what pursues.’


Have you received no promise of satisfaction

at her hands?




Have you importuned her to such a purpose?
importune (v.) 1 urge, press
purpose (n.) 3 outcome, result, end




Of what quality was your love, then?
quality (n.) 1 nature, disposition, character


Like a fair house built on another man's ground, so

that I have lost my edifice by mistaking the place where

I erected it.


To what purpose have you unfolded this to me?
unfold (v.) 3 relate, recount, narrate


When I have told you that, I have told you all.

Some say that though she appear honest to me, yet
honest (adj.) 1 chaste, pure, virtuous

in other places she enlargeth her mirth so far that there
enlarge (v.) 1 release, set at large, discharge
mirth (n.) 1 merry-making, pleasure-seeking

is shrewd construction made of her. Now, Sir John,
construction (n.) 1 interpretation, reading, explanation
shrewd (adj.) 3 malicious, nasty, vicious

here is the heart of my purpose: you are a gentleman of
purpose (n.) 1 intention, aim, plan See Topics: Frequency count

excellent breeding, admirable discourse, of great
admirable (adj.) wondrous, marvellous, extraordinary
admittance (n.) 2 entry into society, social presence, admissibility
discourse (n.) 1 conversation, talk, chat

admittance, authentic in your place and person, generally
authentic (adj.) 1 respectable, entitled to esteem
place (n.) 1 position, post, office, rank See Topics: Frequency count

allowed for your many warlike, courtlike, and learned
allow (v.) 3 acknowledge, grant, admit

courtlike (adj.) courtly, elegant, well-mannered
preparation (n.) 4 accomplishment, capacity, achievement


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
amiable (adj.) 1 amorous, loving, tender
honesty (n.) 1 virtue, chastity

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
apply (v.) 1 conform, bend, adapt

affection that I should win what you would enjoy?

Methinks you prescribe to yourself very preposterously.
preposterously (adv.) out of the normal course of events, unnaturally, perversely


O, understand my drift. She dwells so securely on
dwell on / upon 1 preserve, maintain, pay attention to
securely (adv.) 1 confidently, without misgiving, fearlessly

the excellency of her honour that the folly of my soul
folly (n.) wantonness, lewdness

dares not present itself. She is too bright to be looked
look against (v.) look at directly

against. Now, could I come to her with any detection in
detection (n.) exposure, revelation, evidence of unfaithfulness

my hand, my desires had instance and argument to
argument (n.) 6 proof, evidence, demonstration
instance (n.) 1 sign, evidence, proof

commend themselves. I could drive her then from the
commend (v.) 3 present, introduce, bring [for favourable acceptance]

ward of her purity, her reputation, her marriage-vow,
ward (n.) 2 guard, protection, defence

and a thousand other her defences, which now are too

too strongly embattled against me. What say you to't,
embattle (v.) deploy, draw up, marshal

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 (v.) 1 lack, need, be without See Topics: Frequency count


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.
knave (n.) 1 scoundrel, rascal, rogue See Topics: Frequency count

Come you to me at night, you shall know how I speed.
speed (v.) 2 fare, manage, get on


I am blest in your acquaintance. Do you know

Ford, sir?


Hang him, poor cuckoldy knave! I know him
cuckoldy (adj.) cuckolded
knave (n.) 1 scoundrel, rascal, rogue See Topics: Frequency count

not. Yet I wrong him to call him poor. They say the

jealous wittolly knave hath masses of money, for the
wittolly (adj.) cuckoldy; also: half-witted

which his wife seems to me well-favoured. I will use
well-favoured (adj.) good-looking, attractive in appearance

her as the key of the cuckoldy rogue's coffer – and

there's my harvest-home.
harvest-home (n.) 2 gathering-in, moment of success


I would you knew Ford, sir, that you might avoid

him if you saw him.


Hang him, mechanical salt-butter rogue! I will
mechanical (adj.) common, servile, menial
salt-butter (adj.) cheap-living, mean, avaricious

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.
cuckold (n.) [mocking name] man with an unfaithful wife See Topics: Frequency count

Master Brook, thou shalt know I will predominate over
predominate (v.) 1 [astrology] be in the ascendancy, exert a controlling influence

the peasant, and thou shalt lie with his wife. Come to

me soon at night. Ford's a knave, and I will aggravate
aggravate (v.) 1 add weight to, magnify, increase
knave (n.) 1 scoundrel, rascal, rogue See Topics: Frequency count
night, at at nightfall, this evening

his style. Thou, Master Brook, shalt know him for
style (n.) 1 mode of address, formal title

knave and cuckold. Come to me soon at night.



What a damned Epicurean rascal is this! My heart
Epicurean (adj.) 1 sensual, lecherous, pleasure-seeking

is ready to crack with impatience. Who says this is

improvident jealousy? My wife hath sent to him, the
improvident (adj.) shortsighted, lacking foresight, careless

hour is fixed, the match is made. Would any man have

thought this? See the hell of having a false woman! My
false (adj.) 2 disloyal, faithless, inconstant, unfaithful

bed shall be abused, my coffers ransacked, my reputation
abuse (v.) 2 misuse, maltreat, treat badly, wrong

gnawn at; and I shall not only receive this villainous

wrong, but stand under the adoption of abominable
stand under (v.) suffer, endure, bear the weight of

terms, and by him that does me this wrong.
term (n.) 2 names, labels

Terms! Names! Amaimon sounds well; Lucifer, well;

Barbason, well. Yet they are devils' additions, the names
addition (n.) 1 title, name

of fiends. But Cuckold! Wittol! – Cuckold! The devil
cuckold (n.) [mocking name] man with an unfaithful wife See Topics: Frequency count
wittol (n.) compliant cuckold, man who accepts his wife's infidelity

himself hath not such a name. Page is an ass, a secure
secure (adj.) 2 over-confident, unsuspecting, too self-confident

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,
aqua-vitae (n.) spirits, alcohol, strong drink, brandy
gelding (n.) castrated horse; horse that is placid in temperament
walk (v.) 1 exercise, take out walking

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 praised for my

jealousy! Eleven o'clock the hour. I will prevent this,

detect my wife, be revenged on Falstaff, and laugh at
detect (v.) 1 expose, unmask, uncover

Page. I will about it. Better three hours too soon than a

minute too late. Fie, fie, fie! Cuckold, cuckold, cuckold!


  Previous scene     Next scene