The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 4, Scene 2 Summary
- Falstaff show up at the Ford house and starts to sweet talk Mistress Ford.
- He's worried that her husband will show up, so Mistress Ford promises him that her husband's out bird hunting with his pals.
- Then Mistress Page shows up (as planned) and Falstaff hides in the next room.
- Mistress Page acts like she doesn't know Falstaff is hiding and pretend-warns her friend that Master Ford is on his way home to catch his wife cheating.
- Mistress Ford is all "Oh, no! Falstaff is here. What are we going to do?!"
- Falstaff wants to run away, but Mistress Page says that Ford's brothers are guarding the doors with pistols—there's no escape.
- Falstaff refuses to climb back inside the stinky "buck-basket" and offers to hide in the oven.
- Instead, the housewives convince Falstaff that he should put on a bunch of women's clothes and pretend to be the "fat woman of Brentford."
- Brain Snack: Gillian of Brentford (aka "the old woman of Brentford") is a popular English folk figure who appears in a lot of comedies. She's most famous for leaving her friends "a score of farts" in her will (source).
- Mistress Page declares that they'll teach Falstaff and Ford a lesson they won't soon forget. Then she utters the most famous lines in the play: "wives may be merry and yet honest, too." (Translation: Housewives can be fun-loving, practical jokers—and maybe even flirt a little—but that doesn't mean they're not faithful to their husbands.)
- Ford bursts into the room like a maniac and screams at the servants to drop the "buck-basket."
- While he riffles through the dirty laundry, his friends urge him to stop acting like a total psycho.
- Mistress Ford sweetly tells her husband that her maid's aunt (the "old woman of Brentford") is visiting.
- Ford flips out and screams that he's forbidden that old "witch" from entering his home. (Hmm. Starting to wonder why Ford hates women so much? Go to "Themes: Gender" for more on this.)
- Falstaff comes down the stairs in his old woman disguise. (Think Tyler Perry as "Madea.")
- Ford goes nuts, beats the "old woman," calls "her" a bunch of names, and chases "her" out the door.
- Ford's friends don't know the "old woman" is actually Falstaff but they stand around and watch anyway. (This usually gets a big laugh from audiences but we have to confess that's we're a little freaked out when Ford beats up someone he thinks is an old lady.)
- Mistress Page and Mistress Ford think it's hilarious that Falstaff was beaten "most pitifully," and they decide to 'fess us to their husbands.