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The Induction begins in front of a bar in the English countryside, where the Hostess and the belligerent (and completely drunk) Christopher Sly argue about Sly trashing the tavern.
When Sly threatens to beat the Hostess, she replies that Sly belongs in the "stocks" (a wooden restraining device used to publicly punish and humiliate criminals).
Sly is indignant; he calls her a whore, claims he is the descendant of "Richard the Conqueror" (whoops – he's probably thinking of a William the Conqueror), and refuses to pay for some broken beer mugs. He also misquotes lines from Thomas Kyd's famous play, The Spanish Tragedy (we're not sure which offense is worse).
When the Hostess runs off to fetch the law, Sly continues to talk trash to nobody in particular until he passes out cold.
Along come the Lord and his posse, looking to kick back a few cold beers after a long day of hunting. The Lord and the Huntsmen talk about how awesome their hunting dogs are when they notice Sly asleep on the ground.
The Lord, who basically owns the entire countryside, is totally disgusted. He calls Sly a "monstrous beast" and a "swine" and says he's going to play an elaborate prank to teach Sly a lesson.
The Lord gives his crew orders to take Sly to his fancy country estate, clean him up, and surround him with delicious food, great music, and obedient servants. The plan, he says, is to trick Sly into believing he is a nobleman instead of a drunken beggar.
While walking over to his place, the Lord continues to play director. He tells his crew to pretend Sly is a great lord whose recent illness has his wife super-upset. Everyone agrees that this is an awesome idea – if they play their roles right, Sly will have no choice but to believe he's the person they say he is.
Sly is carried up to a bedroom. Meanwhile, a bunch of actors just happen to show up at the estate. Being a big theater buff, the Lord offers to let them crash for the night in exchange for some entertainment. He tells them he'd like them to put on a play for a fellow "Lord" but there's one small thing: the actors can't laugh at this guy when he acts like a hillbilly who has never seen a play before.
This is no problem for the theater troupe – they are actors after all. Acting, however, is thirsty work, so they wander off to the pantry to get some drinks and to maybe grab a little snack before the private performance.
This is nice for the actors, but the Lord's work isn't quite done – since he still needs someone to pretend to be Sly's wife, he tells one of his lackeys to fetch his best boy servant, Bartholomew, and to dress up Bart like a trophy wife.
The Lord gives all sorts of pointers on how the role of an obedient nobleman's wife should be played – what she should wear, how she should speak and act, and what to do if Bart can't make himself cry on cue (use an onion, of course).
The Lord is psyched about his practical joke and can't wait to see what will happen when Sly sees Bart dressed like a woman. Not wanting his servants to screw things up, the Lord runs off to the bedroom to supervise.