Study Guide

The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 1, Scene 3

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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.

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