The Merry Wives of Windsor Summary
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor with a side-by-side translation HERE.
Sir John Falstaff has rolled into the town of Windsor, England, with his posse of "cony-catching rascals" and he's at it again. (What's that? You haven't met Falstaff, yet? No problem. Allow us to introduce you. He's the "fat," jolly knight who spends 99% of his time eating, boozing, thieving, "whoring," and causing mayhem in Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2.)
When we catch up with Falstaff in this play, he's completely broke, which has put quite a damper on his rock-star lifestyle. But Falstaff's got a plan. He'll put the moves on a couple of rich housewives named Mistress Ford and Mistress Page (i.e., the "merry wives" of Windsor). The housewives have total access to their husbands' money so Falstaff thinks he can solve all his financial troubles by luring them into bed with a couple of super-steamy (okay, super-cheesy) love notes.
Since Falstaff's such a busy guy, the love notes are identical except that one says "Dear Mistress Page" and the other says "Dear Mistress Ford." There's just one hitch. Mistress Page and Mistress Ford are BFFs, which means they tell each other EVERYTHING. When they find out that Falstaff has sent them identical letters, they're seriously offended that (1) Falstaff just assumes they'll cheat on their husbands and (2) Falstaff has sent them the same, ridiculous letter.
Our "merry wives" hatch a plot to teach Falstaff a lesson he won't forget. They pretend to like him and invite him over for a secret rendezvous with Mistress Ford while her husband is away. To complicate matters, Falstaff's frenemies, Pistol and Nim, have decided to rat out Falstaff to the women's husbands. Master Page trusts his wife and couldn't care less about Falstaff but, Master Ford is crazy jealous.
Ford assumes his wife will get down and dirty with Falstaff since all women are liars and cheats, so he disguises himself as a guy named "Brooke" and becomes Falstaff's newest drinking buddy. When "Brooke" offers Falstaff a boatload of money to help him seduce Mistress Ford, Falstaff takes it and tells "Brooke" that, actually, he's going to hook up with Mistress Ford when her husband's away from home.
Meanwhile, over in the B-plot, the Pages' teenage daughter Anne has three guys (Slender, Caius, and Fenton) falling all over themselves to marry her because she's (1) rich, (2) still a virgin, and (3) smokin' hot. (In that order.)
Back to the main plot. Soon enough, Falstaff shows up at Mistress Ford's house looking to score. When Master Ford comes home, the wives stash the "fat" knight in a basket of stinky laundry that hasn't been washed in months and then dump it—and him—into the Thames River. Punk'd!
It's so much fun that our merry wives lure Falstaff back to the Ford house a second time. When Master Ford shows up (again), the wives disguise Falstaff as a local "witch" named "the old woman of Brentford." Master Ford goes nuts and beats "her" black and blue. The women think this is absolutely hilarious and let their husbands in on their little joke, which makes Master Ford all apologetic.
Now the couples get together to hatch a new plot. The plan is to get Falstaff to wear a silly costume ("Herne the Hunter") and have him meet them at the old haunted oak tree. Then, a bunch of townspeople and local kids dressed up as creepy little fairies will jump out of the bushes and terrorize him.
Got all that? Okay, good. This is where Shakespeare ties in his subplot to the main action of the play. Master Page tells Slender to elope with Anne on the same night, and tell him that's he'll be the "fairy" dressed in white. Mistress Page tells Caius the same thing, except that Anne will be the "fairy" dressed in green. Way to pimp out your daughter, guys.
Everything seems to be going as planned. Falstaff is terrified, and Caius and Slender each run off with green and white fairies. Falstaff tries to run away from the fairies but, before he can get away, Ashton Kutcher runs out and shoves a video camera in Falstaff's face.
Just kidding. The Fords and the Pages run out and confront him. Falstaff knows he's been had so he admits that he's been made into an "ass" and all is forgiven.
Just as we're wondering what happened to Caius and Slender, they both show up with two boys in green and white fairy costumes, griping about almost getting accidentally hitched to a couple of kids. Then Anne and Fenton show up and are all "Fooled you! We're married and there's nothing you can do about it." The Pages have a good-natured laugh about the whole thing and invite everyone back to their house for a wedding feast.
Act 1, Scene 1
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 1 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- On a street in Windsor, England, we meet three guys: (1) Justice Robert Shallow (a man who thinks he's awesome and likes to remind everyone about his social rank, thus earning his name); (2) Shallow's nephew Abraham Slender, who has a habit of strutting around with his nose up in the air; and (3) Sir Hugh Evans, a Welsh clergyman with a seriously thick accent.
- The guys are all standing around talking smack about everyone's favorite disgraced knight, Sir John Falstaff.
- Justice Shallow is all bent out of shape because Falstaff has somehow insulted him. Don't worry. We'll find out what happened in a minute.
- Evans tries to change the subject to something better: girls. Specifically, the local teenage hottie, Anne Page.
- Instead of wasting time worrying about Falstaff, Evans says Slender should try to marry Anne, who is the poster girl for "pretty virginity." (Read: She's the ultimate Elizabethan good girl.)
- Evans is all, "Oh, did I mention that she's rich? Her grandfather left her a boatload of money and when her dad dies, she'll inherit even more. Cha-ching!"
- Slender's response goes something like this: "Oh, yeah. That girl with the brown hair and squeaky voice? She seems alright." (Hmm. That's not exactly the passionate response we'd get from a guy like Romeo but, okay, whatever, this is a different kind of play.)
- Since Slender seems sort of interested, the guys head over to Anne's house to chat up…her dad.
See, in Shakespeare's day, marriages were arranged like business contracts between men, which is why nobody says anything about chatting up Anne. Ah, the good old days.
- They arrive at the Page house and proceed to talk to Master Page about his favorite greyhound, who just lost a big race. That's Shakespeare's way of painting a picture of what life is like for folks who live in rural towns like Windsor. Apparently, these people like dog racing. LOL, country folk.
- As it turns out, Falstaff and his low-life pals are also at Master Page's house. You know what that means. Time for a Shakespearean, trash-talking, smack-down!
- Shallow gets all up in Falstaff's face and accuses him of the following crimes: (1) slapping Shallow's men around, (2) poaching deer from his land, and (3) breaking into a building on his property.
- Brain Snack: Some scholars (like Nicholas Rowe) think that Shakespeare based Justice Shallow's character on a real guy named Sir Thomas Lucy who supposedly busted Shakespeare for poaching deer when he was a young man (source).
- Falstaff is all, "Hey—you forgot to mention that I also made out with the daughter of one of your employees. What are you going to do about it? Tattle to the King?" Oh, snap!
- More smack talk ensues. There's a lot of name-calling like, "Banbury cheese!" and "Mephistopheles!" and "cony-catching rascals!" (You get the idea.)
- Before things can calm down, Slender says that Falstaff's posse of hoodlums stole from him.
- By the way, Falstaff's posse is made up of Bardolph, Pistol, and Nim, all old favorites from the Henry plays.
- Evans is the local clergyman so he steps in and tries to break up the fight. He wants the guys settle the dispute quietly and locally without involving any outsiders.
- Of course, Falstaff's buddies deny everything and accuse Slender of drinking too much, blacking out, and not being able to remember what happened to his money. (By the way, if you've read Henry IV Part 1, you already know that it's highly likely that one of Falstaff's pals stole from Slender.)
- All this bickering is interrupted when teen dream Anne Page walks in with a tray of wine.
- Slender says something pretty lame and uninspiring : "O heaven, this is Mistress Anne Page!" By the way, "mistress" doesn't mean she's some married guy's girlfriend. It's a term that was applied to all adult women of Anne's social class. Even though Anne is still a teenager, Slender calls her "Mistress" because she's old enough to marry.
- Then Mistress Page (Anne's mom) and her BFF Mistress Ford show up. Finally! We've been wondering when we'd get to meet the "merry wives" of Windsor.
- Falstaff, who thinks he's a ladies man, runs over to say hello.
- Then he slobbers all over Mistress Ford's hand while Master Ford watches in silence. (Get your highlighters out, kids, because this will be important later.)
- Meanwhile, Slender seems to know that he blew it when Anne walked into the room. He tries to make up lost ground by saying that he wishes he could find his book of love poetry so he could use it to put the moves on her.
- Master Page invites everyone inside for a some tasty "venison pasty," but Slender, Sir Hugh, and Shallow hang back to talk about a potential marriage between Anne and Slender. Slender says he's up for it, if his uncle (Shallow) thinks it's a good idea. Besides, even if they're not in love at the beginning, their affection is sure to grow over time, right?
- Of course, Slender says it kind of backwards, but everyone is pretty sure that's what he means.
- Just about everyone goes inside. Slender and Anne linger outside for a while and have a really, really awkward conversation, during which Anne tries to be polite and Slender bores us to tears and tries to act like a macho man.
We don't want to bore you to tears with the details but, we will say this:
- Slender is absolutely clueless about how to talk to girls, which is why he brings up the subject of bear-baiting.
- Brain Snack: Bear-baiting is an Elizabethan blood sport that involves chaining a bear to a pole and setting a pack of dogs upon it.
- Bear-baiting arenas were in the same neighborhoods as Elizabethan playhouses, which basically explains why Shakespeare's plays contain so many shout-outs to the delightful pastime.
- Anyway, acting like a tough guy, Slender brags that he's seen a bear named "Sackerson" get loose "twenty times."
- Then he claims that he once grabbed the loose bear by his chain. Note to self: Add this to list of worst pick-up lines in Western literature.
- Before Slender can tell us that he once wrestled with a great white shark, Anne's dad comes outside and is all "you two kids should come inside and eat your deer meat before it gets cold."
Act 1, Scene 2
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 1 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- After dinner, Evans sends a servant named Peter Simple to hand-deliver a letter to a woman named Mistress Quickly.
- Since Mistress Quickly is chummy with Anne Page, Evans wants her to talk to Anne about marrying Slender. (Apparently, Windsor is just like junior high school, only with marriages instead of mash notes.)
- We find out that Mistress Quickly is the servant of a guy named Doctor Caius and lives at his house.
- Then Evans decides to let us in on a little gossip: apparently, Mistress Quickly doesn't just do Doctor Caius's laundry and cooking.
- She's also his "oman" (that's how Evans says "woman" with his thick Welsh accent). In other words, Mistress Quickly is probably sleeping with her boss.
- Brain Snack: In Henry IV Part 1, Mistress Quickly isn't a servant—she's the hostess of the Boar's Head Tavern, which is the kind of seedy bar where criminals and prostitutes hang out. Since The Merry Wives of Windsor is basically a spin-off of Henry IV Part 1, Shakespeare would have expected his audience to know all about Mistress Quickly's shady ways.
Act 1, Scene 3
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 1 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Later on, Falstaff and company chill out at the Garter Inn. (Windsor's version of a Holiday Inn/local sports bar.)
- Sir John Falstaff confides to the Host of the Garter Inn that he's completely broke.
- Brain Snack: In Elizabethan England, being a knight didn't necessarily = being a baller. In fact, lots of members of the nobility (aristocrats who didn't work for a living) had very little money. We talk about this more in "Themes: Society and Class."
- Since Falstaff can't afford to pay a bunch of servants, he has to get rid of one of his toadies. He decides to fire Bardolph because the guy's a lousy thief who's always getting caught and making Falstaff look bad.
- The Host is feeling generous so he gives Bardolph a job as a "tapster" at the Inn. (A "tapster" is basically a bartender.)
- Pistol and Nim crack some jokes about how awesome it is that Bardolph's going to be serving cocktails since the guy loves to drink so much. Plus, his parents conceived him when they were rip-roaring drunk, which—TMI, folks.
- Then Pistol and Nim bag on Falstaff for being so fat. (Falstaff is okay with this.)
- Finally, Falstaff gets down to business. It's not enough to fire Bardolph, he's got to "cony-catch" (aka be a con man) if he's going to survive in this tough economy.
- Man, we feel you.
- His plan involves two middle-class housewives—Mistress Page and Mistress Ford. Since both wives have access to their husband's money, Falstaff plans to seduce them both.
- Brain Snack: Remember how we said that in Shakespeare's England, more and more aristocrats like Falstaff were going broke? Well, at the same time, more and more non-aristocrats (like Master Ford and Master Page) were becoming rich by taking advantage of business opportunities (like mercantilism). Historians like to refer to this as the rise of the middle-class.
- By the way, when we say middle-class, we mean people who were somewhere between the nobility and the peasantry on the social scale. That's how it's possible for the Pages and Fords to be both rich and "middle-class" at the same time.
- We find out that Falstaff has channeled his inner 7th grader by writing a couple of cheesy love notes to the wives.
- Falstaff claims that both women have been checking out his sexy "parts" (especially his "portly belly") and undressing him with their eyes.
- He compares Mistress Page to "Guiana, all gold and bounty."
- Translation: Falstaff thinks that his sexual conquest of a rich housewife will be a lot like a New World Conquest. Go to "Symbols" and we'll tell you more about this.
- Pistol and Nim refuse to deliver Falstaff's letters to the wives so Falstaff has his errand boy (Robin) do his dirty work.
- After Falstaff leaves, Pistol and Nim decide to snitch him out to Master Ford and Master Page.
Act 1, Scene 4
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 1 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Over at Doctor Caius's house, the servant Peter Simple has arrived with a letter for Mistress Quickly. (Remember how Evans wrote a letter asking Mistress Quickly to be a go-between?)
- Mistress Quickly asks a servant (John Rugby) to go to the window and be on the lookout for Doctor Caius, since Caius will be crazy angry if he comes home and finds another guy in his house.
- After some discussion about how Slender is the kind of guy who "struts" around with his nose up in the air, Mistress Quickly Rugby runs into the room and is all "Look out! Doctor Caius is home!"
- (Here's where the play starts to look like a modern day TV sitcom. All that's missing is a laugh track.)
- Mistress Quickly stashes Peter Simple in the closet.
- Caius enters the room (babbling to himself in French, like you do) and asks Mistress Quickly to fetch his green box. From the closet.
- Quickly manages to grab the box without Doctor Caius seeing Peter Simple. (Whew. Close call.)
- Then Caius remembers that, hey, he also needs some medicine from the same closet.
- Before Mistress Quickly can stop him, he runs over, flings open the doors, and spots Peter Simple hiding in the closet. (Busted! We told you this was like a wacky sitcom.)
- Before Caius can stab Peter Simple in the guts with his sword, Mistress Quickly intervenes and Simple explains that he was delivering a letter asking Mistress Quickly to put in a good word for Slender with Anne Page.
- Unfortunately, Simple's explanation doesn't help.
- It turns out that Caius also wants to marry Anne and Mistress Quickly has already promised to help him.
- Caius whips out a piece of paper and writes a note to Evans, in which he calls him a "scurvy jackanape priest" and threatens to cut out his '"two stones." Yeah, that probably means what you think it means.
- Mistress Quickly points out that Evans was asking on behalf of a friend, but Caius doesn't care. He'll kill the priest anyway.
- Caius threatens to throw Mistress Quickly out of his house if she doesn't get Anne Page to marry him.
- Then he storms out while Mistress Quickly mutters under her breath about Caius being an "ass-head." Hey, we didn't write it.
- Before we know it, a guy named Master Fenton shows up and we find out that, you guessed it, Mistress Quickly has also agreed to help him pursue Anne Page. Mistress Quickly may have a little too much on her plate, don't you think?
- Quickly tells Fenton what he wants to hear: that Anne is in love with him.
- Seriously, Fenton? Just the other day, you guys spent an hour talking about that sexy wart above your eye. (We're not kidding.)
- Fenton gives Mistress Quickly a bunch of money for helping him and she promises to talk him up the next time she sees Anne.
- Fenton leaves.
- Alone on stage, Quickly confesses to the audience that Fenton's a nice guy but she knows for a fact that "Anne loves him not."
Act 2, Scene 1
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 2 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Over at the Page's house, Mistress Page reads Falstaff's steamy love letter, which sounds a lot like this:
- Dear Mistress Page: I love you, baby. We should get together for the following reasons: (1) We're both old, (2) we both like to have a good time, and (3) we both really like to drink. What do you say? XOXO, Your Knight in Shining Armor
- (We can't prove this, but we're pretty sure Falstaff also sent over a retro mixtape with these songs: "Sexy and I Know It," "Moves Like Jagger," and "Let's Get it On.")
- Mistress Page is outraged that Falstaff thinks he can get her to cheat on her husband, because what is she, some kind of desperate housewife? And she vows to get revenge. Obviously.
- Mistress Ford shows up and she's all worked up into a tizzy. Can you guess why?
- The two besties soon realize that Falstaff has sent them identical letters and merely switched out their names.
- How rude!
- So, they decide to punk Falstaff by pretending to like him so they can humiliate him in public.
- Mistress Ford declares that if her jealous husband saw Falstaff's letter, he'd go nuts. (Do you still have that highlighter, kids? That's important.)
- Mistress Page tells us that, unlike Ford, her husband is never jealous.
- Speaking of jealous husbands, here's Master Ford—along with Master Page, Pistol, and Nim. Get ready, because there's going to be a lot of running around for a few minutes.
- The wives run inside before they're spotted.
- We find out that Pistol and Nim have just tattled to the husbands about Falstaff.
- At first, Ford is in shock. He's all, "Are you sure he wants my wife? She's kind of old." (Boy, that Ford sure is a charmer.)
- Master Page thinks Pistol and Nim are full of baloney and says he doesn't believe a word they say.
- Meanwhile, Ford has had a chance to think things over and decides he's going to confront Falstaff.
- We can practically see the steam coming out of his ears.
- The wives come back and notice that Master Ford seems just a tad bit upset.
- When Ford's wife asks him what's wrong, he snaps that she should just go home. ASAP.
- Mistress Quickly shows up and the "merry wives" decide to use her in their plot to teach Falstaff a lesson. The women go inside the house to work out the details of their evil genius plan.
- Meanwhile, Ford is getting hotter and hotter about Falstaff, which is sort of hilarious since he has no reason to get so worked up.
- Then the Host shows up at Page's house. He's in a good mood so Page thinks he's probably been drinking.
- Shallow shows up, too, and tells us that Caius and Evans are going to throw down at Windsor Park. Fight! Fight!
- The Host is supposed to referee but he's decided to have a little fun with Caius and Evans instead. He's sent each man to a different part of the park so they'll be waiting for hours for the other guy to show up.
- Shallow asks Page to come watch the action with him, and they step aside to talk about it.
- Meanwhile, Ford and the Host also talk privately. Ford says he's going to wear a disguise and show up at the Garter Inn, where he wants the Host to introduce him to Falstaff as a guy named "Brooke." Just for fun. Honest.
- Note: In some editions of the play, the fake name is "Broome," not "Brooke." This might be because "Brooke" was the name of a powerful family in Elizabethan England and they may have pressured the publisher of the 1623 folio edition to change the name (source).
- Left alone on stage, Ford tells us that he's going to find out if his wife's a cheater, and that Page is an idiot for being so trusting.
Act 2, Scene 2
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 2 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Over at the Garter Inn, Falstaff refuses to loan money to Pistol, who, apparently, is always asking Falstaff for spare change.
- Pistol draws his sword and yells "Why then, the world's mine oyster, / which I with sword will open." (Translation: Pistol is penniless so he's going to use his sword to make his fortune in the world.)
- Brain Snack: This is the first time this phrase appears in print so, Shakespeare either invented it or, at the very least, made it popular (source). But not as popular as Chess.
- Falstaff gets up in Pistol's face and says he's tired of always having to bail out Pistol when the guy gets caught stealing.
- Then he orders Pistol to scram and yells at him for refusing to deliver his letter to the "merry wives."
- Pistol backs down. In case you hadn't noticed, Pistol is a hothead (duh, he's named after a firearm), but he's all talk.
- Just in time, Mistress Quickly shows up with messages for Falstaff from Mistress Page and Mistress Ford.
- She takes Falstaff aside and whispers that Mistress Ford is down for a secret rendezvous and that her hubby will be away the next morning between 10 and 11. (Hint, hint.) Falstaff is so totally there.
- Then, Quickly relays a separate message from Mistress Page, who says she wants a steamy hookup with Falstaff but doesn't yet know when her husband will be away.
- Falstaff wants to know if the two housewives know that he's trying to get with both of them.
- Mistress Quickly's all "Of course not! They're totally clueless!" Snicker.
- It's decided that Falstaff's boy servant (Robin) will act as a go-between for Falstaff and the wives.
- Falstaff gives Mistress Quickly a little monetary tip just before she runs off.
- Pistol is not happy that Falstaff just gave Mistress Quickly some money. He calls her a "punk," which is fun Elizabethan slang for "whore," and storms off.
- Bardolph the bartender enters and announces that a guy named "Brooke" is here. (Remember, "Brooke" is Master Ford in disguise.)
- "Brooke" wants to buy Falstaff a "morning draught of sack." ("Sack" is Falstaff's favorite sweet wine and, apparently, it's never too early in the morning for a drink. Hey, they call it an "eye-opener" for a reason.)
- Brooke/Ford enters and offers Falstaff a huge bag of money to help him with a little problem he's having.
- Brooke/Ford says that he's been trying to hook up with Mistress Ford for-e-ver but she's too faithful to cheat on her husband.
- Falstaff's all "Really? Tell me more about this."
- Brooke/Page wants Falstaff to seduce her, paving the way for "Brooke" to have an affair with her.
- Falstaff thinks "Jackpot!" and snatches up the bag of money Brooke/Ford offers.
- And now Falstaff reveals that he's actually just set up an appointment to hop in bed with Mistress Ford so, this assignment's going to be a piece of cake.
- Then Falstaff talks trash about Ford and calls him a "poor cuckoldy knave." (A "cuckold" is a guy whose wife cheats on him and a "knave" is an idiot.)
- Left alone on stage, Master Ford is furious. He delivers a creepy soliloquy about getting revenge against Falstaff and his wife.
- Here's a little sample of what he says:
- "See the hell of having a false woman! My bed shall be abused, my coffers ransacked, my reputation gnawn at." Yikes! (By the way, a soliloquy is just a speech that reveals a character's innermost thoughts. Characters like Master Ford and Hamlet are big on soliloquies.)
Act 2, Scene 3
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 2 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Remember that Caius challenged Evans to a duel? Well, they're getting ready to rumble in a field in Windsor Park. Caius is all dramatic.
- He slashes his sword around and declares that Evans is lucky he's a no-show—otherwise, the clergyman would be dog meat by now.
- Here comes someone—but it's not Evans. It's the Host of the Garter Inn, with Master Page, Slender, and Shallow, all there to see the big fight.
- The Host is all "Gee, Caius, where's Evans? Did you kill him already?"
- Caius waves around his sword and talks more trash about Evans in his super thick and super hilarious (if you're a 16th century Englishman) French accent.
- Shallow and Page point out that Doctor Caius is supposed to heal people, not kill them, but who asked them?
- The Host proceeds to insult Caius by using a bunch of English slang that the French doctor doesn't understand.
- At one point, he calls him "Monsieur Mockwater" (translation: a guy who's sterile and also a coward).
- Caius asks "Mockvater? Vat is that?" Oh, you know, just a little English slang for "brave."
- Caius declares that he's got just as much "mockwater" as an Englishman.
- The Host thinks this is absolutely hilarious, but he eventually stops laughing long enough to whisper to his friends that they should go over to Frogmore fields where Evans is waiting.
- He promises to bring Caius there later so they can have some more fun.
- Then, Page, Shallow, and Slender take off for Frogmore.
- The Host tells Caius that Anne Page is having dinner with friends at a farmhouse on the other side of Frogmore fields and that he'll lead the way for Caius to see her.
- Caius is totally psyched to have an opportunity to put the moves on her.
Act 3, Scene 1
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 3 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Over at Frogmore fields, Evans has been waiting for Caius to show up. He's carrying a big sword and a Bible. (They go together like peanut butter and jelly.)
- Simple is there, too, and Evans sends him off to look for Caius.
- Evans whips open his bible and declares "Jeshu pless me" (translation: Jesus, bless me), right before swearing to God that he's going to knock Caius's "urinals about his knave's costard."
- Then, for some reason he starts singing a popular love song. (Is it just us, or is Evans just a bit nervous?)
- Simple shows up with Shallow and Page who proceed to make fun of Evans for holding a bible and sword at the same time.
- Then the Host appears with John Rugby and Doctor Caius.
- Okay, is everyone here? Caius and Evans draw their swords...
- But, before anyone can stab anyone else in the guts, Shallow and Page step in and take away their weapons. (What? This is Windsor, not the mean streets of Verona. No one's dying in this one.)
- The Host says the guys would be better off "hacking our English" instead of hacking into each others' body parts. In other words, the Host can't stand the sound of Caius' and Evans' foreign accents but that doesn't mean he wants them kill each other. Plus, trash talk is more fun than physical violence.
- Caius and Evans both have a "You're so lucky they just took away my sword" kind of moment and act like they actually want to fight.
- Everyone leaves, except for Slender, Caius, and Evans. Evans and Caius whisper to each other that the Host is just messing with them and trying to make them look foolish.
- They agree to be friends and vow to get revenge.
- Meanwhile, Slender has been standing around sighing and carrying on about "sweet Anne Page."
- Hmm. If Slender loves Anne so much, why was he going to let his friend Evans fight over her with Doctor Caius? We call shenanigans.
Act 3, Scene 2
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 3 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- On a street in Windsor, 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 Mistress Ford's 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.
- After Mistress Page and Robin leave, Ford delivers another nasty soliloquy about how he plans to catch Falstaff with his wife so he can (1) "torture" her, (2) make Mistress Page look like a bimbo, and (3) show everyone that Master Page is a chump. He tells us he's going to run home so he can catch Falstaff and his wife together.
- Then Page, Shallow, Slender, the Host, Evans, John Rugby, and Caius show up. Great!
- Now Ford will have an audience when he confronts his wife.
- He invites the guys back to his house and promises them a good time. Slender and Shallow can't make it.
- They're on their way to the Page house to have dinner with Anne. Slender's hoping to win her over with his best moves. Yeah, good luck with that.
- Page tells everyone that he wants his daughter to marry Slender, but her mom wants her to get hitched to Doctor Caius. What does Anne want? Ha! That's apparently the last question on anyone's mind.
- The Host chimes in that Fenton seems like a good candidate—he's young, likes to dance, writes poetry, always smells good, and knows how to talk to girls. Page is all "ABSOLUTELY NOT!"
- Apparently, Master Fenton is broke. Plus, he's an aristocrat and Page doesn't want his daughter marrying someone outside her social class. (Uncap those highlighters, again, Shmoopers, because this is going to define, oh, the next 300 years of political and social anxieties in England: poor aristocrats marrying rich commoners.)
- Page says that Fenton just wants Anne for her money and points out that he used to hang out with hoodlums like the Prince of Wales and a loser named Poins.
- Brain Snack: This is a shout-out to Henry IV Part 1, where wild Prince Hal and his low-life pals (Ned Poins, Falstaff, and Bardolph) raised hell all throughout Eastcheap London. Even though Fenton never appeared in Henry IV Part 1, we get Shakespeare's point—the guy used to be a spoiled, wild child.
- Ford convinces Page, Caius, and Evans to go home with him for some "cheer" (read: drinking) and "sport" (read: catching his wife in bed with Falstaff). Let the good times roll!
Act 3, Scene 3
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 3 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Over at Ford's house, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page get ready to punk Falstaff and Master Ford.
- Falstaff's going to show up any minute, so they order the servants to set up a "buck-basket" (a.k.a. laundry basket) in the room.
- Mistress Ford tells the servants to wait for her signal and then carry the buck-basket down to the river and dump its contents in the water.
- Ooh, this sounds like it's going to be good.
- Robin shows up and announces that Falstaff has arrived but totally has no idea what the wives are up to.
- Mistress Page hides.
- Falstaff swaggers into the room, thinking he's about to get his swerve on.
- Not wasting any time, he calls Mistress Ford a "heavenly jewel," and says he wishes her husband were dead. Then he tells her she's got eyes like "diamonds," and a very sexy forehead. (We couldn't make this up.)
- Mistress Page doesn't seem impressed, so Falstaff switches gears and tries a new approach.
- He says something like, "Look, honey, I'm not young, and I'm not the kind of guy who gets dressed up or wears cologne when I show up at a woman's house. Also, I'm not going to compare your beauty to this, that, or the other thing. (Even though he just did.) I'll just come straight out and tell you I love you."
- Mistress Page bats her eyelashes and is all, "I'll bet you say that to all the housewives. In fact, didn't you just tell my best friend that you love her, too?"
- Just as Falstaff denies wanting anything to do with Mistress Page, Robin runs into the room and says… that Mistress Page is at the door.
- Falstaff is a coward so, naturally, he hides behind an arras (a screen) just as Mistress Page pretend-storms into the room.
- Mistress Page and Mistress Ford proceed to have a pretend fight about who gets to be with Falstaff.
- Mistress Page pretend-warns her friend that Master Ford is on his way home and knows all about her torrid affair with the knight.
- And then Mistress Page for real suggests that Falstaff should hide under a pile of dirty laundry in the "buck-basket" but Mistress Ford says she thinks he's too big.
- Falstaff doesn't want to get caught by a jealous husband so he jumps out from his hiding spot and crams himself into the stinky laundry basket.
- (As we know, the Elizabethans didn't exactly have great hygiene standards. They rarely bathed and washed their clothes and bed linens even less. So, let your imaginations work with that.)
- Mistress Ford calls in her servants (John and Robert) and orders them to carry the buck-basket outside and down to the river.
- Master Ford and his pals (Page, Caius, and Evans) burst into the room. Perfect timing!
- Ford asks the servants where the heck they think they're going with the laundry basket.
- Mistress Ford speaks up and asks her husband why he cares about "buck-washing."
- Ford flips out and starts yelling "Buck, buck, buck? Ay, warrant you, buck."
- Brain snack: "Buck-washing" is just laundry that needs to be bleached with lye, but when Ford hears the word "buck," he immediately thinks of a male deer with horns. (Horns being the universal symbol for cuckolds in Shakespeare's day. A "cuckold" is just another word for a guy whose wife cheats on him. We talk more about this in "Symbols.")
- The servants leave with the "buck-basket" and Ford runs around locking all the doors so Falstaff can't escape. (Whoops. Too late.)
- Then he orders his friends to help him search the house for his wife's secret lover.
- Page, Evans, and Caius are a little embarrassed by their lunatic friend, but they follow Ford around the house anyway.
- Mistress Ford and Mistress Page can't decide which is better—tricking Falstaff or watching jealous Master Ford make a fool of himself.
- Mistress Ford snickers that she thinks Falstaff peed his pants in fear, so it's a good thing he's getting tossed in the river along with all her dirty laundry.
- The ladies decide to engage Mistress Quickly again and play another trick on Falstaff.
- Meanwhile, Master Ford is still running around like a cuckoo looking for Falstaff.
- Ford finally gives up the search and apologizes to his wife and buddies, who are still laughing about it behind his back.
- Master Ford wants to make things up to his pals. He invites them in for the dinner he promised and begs everyone's forgiveness again.
- Before going in for dinner, Master Page conspires with Doctor Caius and Evans, saying they'll mock Ford yet.
- Then he invites all the fellas over for breakfast and birding in the morning.
- Then, Evans and Caius plot against the Host.
- Let the madcap shenanigans continue.
Act 3, Scene 4
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 3 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Outside Master Page's house, Anne and dreamy Fenton get cozy and talk about their future together.
- Fenton is bummed out that Anne's dad hates him and won't let him marry his daughter.
- Fenton tells Anne that her dad doesn't like him because he thinks he's a spoiled brat who wasted all his money and wants to marry Anne because she's rich. Plus, Master Page isn't crazy about Fenton's misspent youth.
- Hmm, Master Page might have a point.
- Fenton confesses that, yeah, at first, he only wanted Anne for her dough but now that he's gotten to know her, he's fallen in love.
- Fenton swears up and down that he loves Anne for herself and thinks she's worth much more than a giant bag of "gold."
- Anne encourages Fenton to take another crack at her dad. Who knows? Maybe Master Page will change his mind. (Yeah, right.)
- Just then, Slender, Shallow, and Mistress Quickly show up: Slender wants to talk to Anne.
- We find out that Master Page wants Anne to marry Slender because Slender's loaded.
- Mistress Quickly distracts Fenton as Slender tries to flirt with Anne.
- Slender has zero game with the ladies, so Shallow tries to help him out. He says Anne will be living large if she marries Slender.
- Plus, if he dies, she gets a big widow's pension.
- Anne is not impressed. She warns Shallow that he should let Slender "woo for himself."
- Fed up, Anne confronts Slender and asks him what he wants from her.
- Slender says "I would little or nothing with you" (translation: he doesn't actually want anything from her), and points out that Anne's dad and his uncle are the ones who want him to marry her.
- See? We told you Slender's got no game.
- Master and Mistress Page show up and get mad when they see Fenton.
- Master Page tells Fenton to scram and says he'll never let Anne marry him.
- When Master Page leaves, Mistress Quickly tells Fenton to talk to Anne's mom.
- He does, telling her how much he loves her daughter, and Anne pipes in with "Please don't marry me off to a fool." (That would be Slender).
- Mistress Page says she won't. She has her eye on Doctor Caius.
- Anne says she'd rather be buried alive than marry that guy.
- Mistress Page orders Fenton to go home and takes Anne inside the house, promising to ask who she does want to marry.
- Mistress Quickly gives us a little aside that she likes Fenton the best, but she's still going to help out all of Anne's suitors.
- Because why? Oh, why not. She's probably getting money and trinkets from them all.
- Then Mistress Quickly runs off to relay a message to Falstaff from Mistress Ford and Mistress Page.
Act 3, Scene 5
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 3 Scene 5 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At the garter Inn, Falstaff orders Bardolph to "fetch" him a "quart of sack" (a.k.a. a lot of sweet wine) with a piece of toast in it.
- Hey, wine and toast: actually totally a thing, especially if you call the toast a "rusk" and think of it like a biscotti.
- Falstaff complains to anyone who will listen about being dumped in the Thames river with a bunch of nasty, stinky laundry.
- Mistress Quickly shows up just as Falstaff chugs two big cups of sack and orders another round of drinks.
- Bardolph wants to know if Falstaff wants eggs in his wine this time and Falstaff yells that, no, he doesn't want any chicken "sperms" in his drink.
- (1) Gross. (2) Biology, dude. We think you maybe slept through life sciences.
- Falstaff complains (again) about being dumped in the river by Mistress Page's servants.
- Mistress Quickly tries to defend Mistress Page by saying that the woman's servants mistook their "erection" from her.
- Haha LOL. Mistress Quickly is trying to say that the servants mistook their "directions" from Mistress Page but she ends up cracking a dirty joke without realizing what she's done. Mistress Quickly does this a lot. So much that we're not sure she's not doing it on purpose.
- Falstaff can't resist. He says, "So did I mine, to build upon a foolish woman's promise." (Translation: Falstaff regrets being sexually aroused by Mistress Page's promise to have an affair with him. Oh, that Falstaff.)
- Mistress Quickly says her friend feels really bad about the mix-up and wants Falstaff to come back to her house tomorrow between "eight and nine" when her husband's away.
- As Quickly exits the stage, Master Ford shows up at the Garter Inn disguised as "Brooke."
- Notice how people are always coming in and out of doors in this play? Just one more reason why so many audiences and literary critics compare the play to modern day TV sitcoms.
- "Brooke" sits down at the bar next to Falstaff and pretends to be Falstaff's BFF/newest drinking buddy.
- Falstaff tells "Brooke" about what happened to him earlier at the Ford house.
- "Brooke" (a.k.a. Ford) is livid but tries to keep a straight face.
- After Falstaff leaves, Brooke/Ford rages about how all wives inevitably cheat on their husbands. He vows to catch Falstaff at his house and declares that he'll be "horn-mad."
- Brain Snack: Ford isn't the only Shakespearean character who thinks all wives cheat. In As You Like It, Touchstone gives a big speech about cheating wives and a bunch of guys even sing a song about it.
Act 4, Scene 1
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 4 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Mistress Page chats with Mistress Quickly as she attempts to drop off her son at school.
- Evans shows up and announces that school has been canceled that day.
- Mistress Page complains that her little boy (William) is having a hard time with his Latin grammar, and she asks Evans to give him a mini-tutorial.
- Evans proceeds to give little Willy a Latin grammar lesson while Mistress Page and Mistress Quickly stand by and watch.
- Mistress Quickly knows zero Latin and winds up misinterpreting the whole lesson, and so she accuses Evans of teaching little William a bunch of dirty words.
- Evans finishes the lesson and calls Mistress Quickly a "lunatic."
- Brain snack: Most literary critics think that this scene is designed so William Shakespeare can give a shout-out to his own experiences as a young schoolboy. 'Cause, yeah, otherwise we're really not sure what this scene is doing here.
Act 4, Scene 2
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 4 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- 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 chimney.
- 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. He even grabs a cudgel to hit her with when he sees her. (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.
Act 4, Scene 3
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 4 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At the Garter Inn, Bardolph chats with the Host.
- Bardolph wants to know if a group of German guests can borrow some horses so they can meet the German Duke at Windsor Castle. (This seems out of place, we know, but it will make sense soon. Promise.)
- The Host agrees but he's not happy about, it since the Germans guests have been at the Inn for a week and haven't paid any of their bills. So he's going to over-charge them. Obviously.
Act 4, Scene 4
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 4 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Back at the Ford's house, the married couples have a good laugh about the pranks that have been played on Falstaff.
- Ford apologizes to his wife and vows never to mistrust her again.
- They all agree that the "merry wives" should punk Falstaff again, just to make sure he's learned his lesson about preying on honest housewives.
- Mistress Page remembers an old folktale about "Herne the hunter," a spooky ghost that haunts Windsor Forest at night during the winter.
- Apparently, "Herne the hunter" walks around an old oak tree at midnight, rattling his chains, bewitching the local cattle, and scaring the you-know-what out of the locals—especially old people who still believe in ghosts.
- Mistress Ford suggests that they get Falstaff to wear a set of horns on his head (like "Herne the hunter") and meet them at the old haunted oak at midnight. (We have no idea why Falstaff would want to do that but, we just have to go along with Shakespeare on this one.)
- Mistress Page says she'll get her son and daughter and a bunch of little kids to dress up like "urchins, oafs, and fairies" to scare Falstaff by singing some crazy song and pinching him until he confesses that he's been trying to seduce Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. Falstaff will be totally humiliated in front of EVERYONE. Good times!
- Evans volunteers to be the children's drama coach and runs off to help them get ready.
- Meanwhile, Ford runs off to buy costumes and masks for the kids.
- Page is totally psyched. He makes plans to use the prank as an opportunity to help Slender elope with Anne during all the confusion. Mistress Page has a similar idea.
- Since Anne will be wearing a disguise during the prank, she thinks it's the perfect time for Caius to run away with her without anybody noticing.
- This is going to work out well.
Act 4, Scene 5
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 4 Scene 5 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Simple shows up at the Garter Inn looking to deliver a message to Falstaff from his master, Slender.
- The Host tries to send him up to Falstaff's room but Simple's afraid to go up because he thinks Falstaff is up there getting busy with "the old woman of Brentford."
- It turns out that Simple and Slender want to talk to "the old woman" because she's supposedly a witch with secret powers and knowledge.
- So, what does Slender want to know? The winning lotto numbers? The secret to the universe?
- Nope. He wants to know if Nim stole his gold chain and whether or not the guy still has it.
- Falstaff is all, "Oh yeah, I talked to the old woman about that and she said that, yep, Nim definitely has it." Also, Slender is totally going to end up marrying Anne Page.
- Simple runs back to his master with the good news just as Bardolph runs in covered in mud.
- Bardolph's all "Whoa! Some German thieves just ran off with the horses that belong to the Host!"
- Then Evans runs in and is all, "Hey, did you guys hear about the three Germans who have been stealing from hosts all over the English countryside?"
- Caius comes in right on cue and tells the Host that there's no Duke of Germany coming to town, and someone has swindled the Host out of a few horses.
- Punk'd! Looks like Caius and Evans got their revenge on the Host.
- Naturally, the Host runs off to try to get his horses back.
- Falstaff is left alone on stage, but not for long: just as Falstaff complains to us that he's also been punk'd, just like the Host, Mistress Quickly rushes in with a message from the merry wives.
- At first, Falstaff's not interested, but Mistress Quickly fibs to him that Mistress Ford has suffered as much, if not more, than he has in all of this. Not only has she been denied Falstaff's company, but her husband beat her pretty soundly.
- Falstaff points out that he's been beaten, too, and he had to dress up like an old witch and risk being seen that way.
- Finally, Mistress Quickly convinces Falstaff to talk with her in private—in his chamber—so she can really explain everything. She whips out a letter from the merry wives, promising Falstaff that its contents will make him very happy.
- Falstaff bites, and up they go to his chamber.
Act 4, Scene 6
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 4 Scene 6 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- The Host returns to the Garter Inn after trying to chase down the guys who stole his horses.
- He's super bummed but cheers up right away when Fenton offers him some gold if he'll help him elope with Anne.The Host loves money so, naturally, he takes it.
- Fenton's got a plan that involves the wives' plot to punk Falstaff that night in the woods at the haunted oak.
- Anne has promised both her parents that she'll run off that night and elope with the guy of their choosing.
- But! Instead of marrying one of those two chumps, Anne's going to run off and marry Fenton during all the confusion of the Falstaff prank.
- Fenton wants the Host to arrange for a "vicar" (a.k.a., priest) to meet these two crazy kids at the church so they can get hitched while everyone's busy humiliating Falstaff.
- The Host agrees and Fenton promises to give him some more money afterward.
Act 5, Scene 1
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 5 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At the Garter Inn, Falstaff chats with Mistress Quickly, who promises to help him put together his "Herne the Hunter" costume.
- Ford shows up in his "Brooke" disguise, and Falstaff tells him all about being beaten by that crazy guy Master Ford.
- Falstaff admits he's never been beaten so badly in his life, not even when he was a snot-nosed kid who went around causing mischief and playing hooky from school. So, that's saying something.
- Finally, Falstaff vows to get back at Ford by hooking up with his wife in the woods that night.
Act 5, Scene 2
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 5 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Later that night, Page, Shallow, and Slender walk near Windsor Park.
- Slender says he and Anne have worked out code words to help them recognize one another.
- Shallow reminds him Anne's going to be wearing all white, so there's no need for code words.
- Master Page says it's a dark night, which will help them with their plan, and the three continue into the woods, excited.
Act 5, Scene 3
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 5 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Mistress Page, Mistress Ford, and Doctor Caius also meet up near the park.
- Mistress Page tells Caius that Anne's going to be dressed in green that night and that he should grab her and run off to get married when he has the chance.
- Say it with us: ugh, mom.
- We find out that Anne and the other "fairies" are waiting for Falstaff to show up at Herne's Oak, so everyone runs off to watch the fun.
Act 5, Scene 4
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 5 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Evans, Page, and a bunch of little kids dressed as fairies show up at the park.
- For some reason, Evans is dressed as a satyr. FYI: A satyr is a mythological, sex-crazed creature that's half man and half goat.
- By the way, our favorite moody teenager (that would be Hamlet) is famous for calling his stepdad/uncle a "satyr" in Act 1, scene 2 of Hamlet.
Act 5, Scene 5
Read the full text of The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 5 Scene 5 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- 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. Meanwhile, Fenton grabs Anne and they run off.
- 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."
- The end.
- What? You want more? Fine. Go read "What's Up With the Ending."