What the dickens Introduction
I'm Mistress Page. I like witty banter and practical jokes. My BFF and I have a roaring good time together, and we teach her husband a few lessons along the way. We might be jokesters, but we're honest, too. And you know what I think?
Where had you this pretty weather-cock?
I cannot tell what the dickens his name is that my husband had him of. What do you call your knight's name, sirrah?
Sir John Falstaff. (3.2.16-20)
Who Said It and Where
Shh. We have a secret to tell you about The Merry Wives of Windsor. Mistress Margaret Page and Mistress Alice Ford—the merry wives—are two BFFs. They're hitched to a couple of rich citizens (that would be Master Page and Master Ford, respectively) but they're fiercely independent and refuse to take a backseat to men in their lives. Good for them, we say.
When old Falstaff decides that he wants to woo them and take their money, the two women have something better planned. They let Falstaff believe they're interested in cheating on their husbands so they can lure him into a bunch of humiliating and painful situations that are designed to punish the "filthy knight."
Of course it's all in jest. Except Falstaff doesn't know that. And neither does Master Ford who totally thinks his wife is fooling around behind his back. Uh oh.
In this scene, Falstaff's boy servant (Robin) follows Mistress Page around like a little puppy. They're on their way to see Mistress Ford when they bump into her jealous, insecure husband.
Master Ford makes a snide crack about his wife's friendship with Mistress Page, saying he thinks that they'd marry each other if their husbands were dead. Mistress Page quips back that, sure, they'd get remarried all right… to "two other husbands." Oh, snap.
Ford asks who Robin works for and Mistress Page pretends not to remember the guy's name. (That would be Falstaff and Master Ford knows it.) Now Ford is totally convinced that Falstaff is sleeping with Mistress Page and Mistress Ford—which is probably just the reaction Mistress Page wanted when she denied knowing Falstaff's name.
Before we go any further, the most important thing Shakespeare wants you to know about these women can be summed up in this statement: "Wives may be merry, and yet honest too" (4.2.89). What does that mean? Well, it means that just because the wives are "merry" (fun-loving and willing to play a few practical jokes, and maybe even a teeny bit flirtatious), doesn't mean they're not "honest" (faithful) spouses.