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The clock strikes midnight as Falstaff shows up at the park dressed as "Herne the hunter" and wearing a huge set of horns on his head. (Psst. Check out this snapshot of Falstaff from a Globe Theater production.)
Falstaff compares himself to Jupiter, the god who turned himself into a swan and raped Europa. Gross.
Then he declares that he's a "stag" (male deer) in the middle of "rut-time" (mating season). (Translation: Falstaff really likes his kinky disguise and can't wait to have sex with Mistress Ford. Probably in disguise.)
Go ahead and cover your eyes now if you're creeped out by all this because it only gets worse.
Falstaff tells us he's so excited that he just might "piss [his] tallow," pee his pants or sweat away all his fat, which is what stags were thought to do during mating season).
Mistress Ford show up and Falstaff says "Who comes here? My doe! [...] My doe with the black scut!" ("Scut" meaning "tail" or "pubic hair.")
Falstaff gets really worked up at this point and yells out "Let the sky rain potatoes." Then he grabs Mistress Ford and feels her up. (For some reason, being sexually aroused makes Falstaff think of food. We talk about this in "Symbols.")
When Mistress Page announces that her BFF wants to join in on the fun, Falstaff says he's totally down for a threesome—the women can divide his body in half and each have a "haunch." (Yep. Another creepy deer pun.)
Some loud noises come from the bushes and Mistresses Page and Ford run away in pretend-fear.
Mistress Quickly, Anne Page, Evans, and the little kids jump out of the bushes in their creepy little fairy costumes and start chanting and dancing.
Brain Snack: You're probably thinking this sounds like that little Halloween pageant you were in back in the 4th grade. (We saw the pictures.) That's because the whole episode in the woods is designed to look like a masque. Basically, a masque is a form of entertainment involving fancy costumes, elaborate sets, music, singing, dancing, and acting. Masques were mostly performed at court or at some rich nobleman's house. Shakespeare's monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, was crazy about them.
Falstaff is terrified. (Obviously, these kids aren't dressed like Tinker Bell or the Tooth Fairy.) He thinks he'll die if he speaks to the fairies, so he throws himself on the ground and covers his face. Which actually seems like a good move.
Mistress Quickly (disguised as the "Fairy Queen") starts in on a crazy, rhyming song.
She orders her "elfs" and "oafs" to flit over to Windsor Castle and sprinkle it with "good luck." While they're at it, she wants them to deck it out with flower petals and clean it with flower juice to get it ready for the Order of the Garter. Go to "Symbols" and we'll tell you more about this.
Evans (disguised as a fairy) says he "smells" a mortal man. Uh, oh. Look out Falstaff!
Mistress Quickly tells the kids to burn him with their candles to test whether or not he's got a "corrupted heart."
The children/fairies mob up on Falstaff and proceed to burn him with their candles and pinch him with their little fingers.
Ouch. Little kid pinches are the worst.
During the fray, Doctor Caius rushes out and grabs the fairy dressed in green. Then, Slender pops out of the woods and grabs the fairy dressed in white.
After the scary fairy song, Falstaff gets up and tries to make a run for it but the Pages and the Fords jump out and confront him.
Mistress Page does a little taunting, and Master Ford tells Falstaff that "Brooke" isn't a real person—it was Master Ford in disguise.
And by the way, Ford is going to take Falstaff's horses until Falstaff can pay him back the money he took from him.
Falstaff takes off his horns and admits that he's been made into "an ass."
(Does this sound familiar? In A Midsummer Night's Dream, a mischievous wood sprite literally turns a guy's head into that of an ass, making him the butt of the play's biggest joke.)
Everyone (and we do mean everyone) stands around bagging on Falstaff for acting like such a fraidy cat.
Finally, they take pity on him: Master Page invites Falstaff to his house for a wedding feast (remember, Page thinks Anne is off eloping with Slender.)
Mistress Page snickers to the audience because she thinks Anne is off getting hitched to Doctor Caius, not Slender.
Just then, Slender shows up and declares that he thought he ran off with Anne but when he got to the church, he discovered that his bride was a stable boy.
(Yeah. that's creepy alright. Shakespeare's always making jokes about men who like young boys. Go read about the ending of Twelfth Night if you don't believe us. But remember that the women on stage would be been played by boys anyway, so it might be less creepy and more of a wink at the audience.)
Anyway, Slender assures everyone that he didn't have sex with the kid, whew.
Next, Doctor Caius shows up and announces that he has just married "un garcon, a boy, un paysan [peasant]."
Just as everyone is wondering what the heck happened, Fenton strolls in with Anne on his arm. It's obvious these two crazy kids just got hitched.
Anne is pretty quiet. All she has to say is "Pardon, good father. Good my mother, pardon." (Translation: My bad, Mom and Dad. Teehee.)
Fenton does all the talking. He yells at the Pages for trying to make Anne marry someone she didn't love. He says that even though Anne "disobeyed" her parents, they can't put her on restriction or take away her iPhone, because getting married is "holy."
Since this is a comedy, Master and Mistress Page decide there's nothing left to do but welcome their new son-in-law into the family instead of, oh, slaughtering everyone like they might in a tragedy.
Everyone runs off to the Page house to watch the happy couple smash wedding cake in each others' faces.
Ford wants to have the last word so he looks over at Falstaff and says something like "Just so you know, I'm going to go home tonight and have sex with my wife."