Act II - Act II, Scene 2

SCENE 2. A room in the Garter Inn.


I will not lend thee a penny.

Why then, the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.
I will retort the sum in equipage.

Not a penny. I have been content, sir, you should lay my countenance
to pawn; I have grated upon my good friends for three reprieves for
you and your coach-fellow, Nym; or else you had looked through the
grate, like a geminy of baboons. I am damned in hell for swearing
to gentlemen my friends you were good soldiers and tall fellows; and
when Mistress Bridget lost the handle of her fan, I took 't upon
mine honour thou hadst it not.

Didst not thou share? Hadst thou not fifteen pence?

Reason, you rogue, reason. Thinkest thou I'll endanger my soul
gratis? At a word, hang no more about me, I am no gibbet for you:
go: a short knife and a throng!--to your manor of Picht-hatch! go.
You'll not bear a letter for me, you rogue!--you stand upon your
honour!--Why, thou unconfinable baseness, it is as much as I can do
to keep the terms of my honour precise. I, I, I myself sometimes,
leaving the fear of God on the left hand, and hiding mine honour in
my necessity, am fain to shuffle, to hedge, and to lurch; and yet
you, rogue, will ensconce your rags, your cat-a-mountain looks,
your red-lattice phrases, and your bold-beating oaths, under the
shelter of your honour! You will not do it, you!

I do relent; what wouldst thou more of man?

[Enter ROBIN.]

Sir, here's a woman would speak with you.

Let her approach.


Give your worship good morrow.

Good morrow, good wife.

Not so, an't please your worship.

Good maid, then.

I'll be sworn; As my mother was, the first hour I was born.

I do believe the swearer. What with me?

Shall I vouchsafe your worship a word or two?

Two thousand, fair woman; and I'll vouchsafe thee the hearing.

There is one Mistress Ford, sir,--I pray, come a little nearer this
ways:--I myself dwell with Master Doctor Caius.

Well, on: Mistress Ford, you say,--

Your worship says very true;--I pray your worship come a little
nearer this ways.

I warrant thee nobody hears--mine own people, mine own people.

Are they so? God bless them, and make them His servants!

Well: Mistress Ford, what of her?

Why, sir, she's a good creature. Lord, Lord! your worship's a wanton!
Well, heaven forgive you, and all of us, I pray.

Mistress Ford; come, Mistress Ford--

Marry, this is the short and the long of it. You have brought her
into such a canaries as 'tis wonderful: the best courtier of them
all, when the court lay at Windsor, could never have brought her to
such a canary; yet there has been knights, and lords, and gentlemen,
with their coaches; I warrant you, coach after coach, letter after
letter, gift after gift; smelling so sweetly,--all musk, and so
rushling, I warrant you, in silk and gold; and in such alligant
terms; and in such wine and sugar of the best and the fairest, that
would have won any woman's heart; and I warrant you, they could
never get an eye-wink of her. I had myself twenty angels given me
this morning; but I defy all angels, in any such sort, as they say,
but in the way of honesty: and, I warrant you, they could never get
her so much as sip on a cup with the proudest of them all; and yet
there has been earls, nay, which is more, pensioners; but, I warrant
you, all is one with her.

But what says she to me? be brief, my good she-Mercury.

Marry, she hath received your letter; for the which she thanks you
a thousand times; and she gives you to notify that her husband will
be absence from his house between ten and eleven.

Ten and eleven?

Ay, forsooth; and then you may come and see the picture, she says,
that you wot of: Master Ford, her husband, will be from home. Alas!
the sweet woman leads an ill life with him; he's a very jealousy
man; she leads a very frampold life with him, good heart.

Ten and eleven. Woman, commend me to her; I will not fail her.

Why, you say well. But I have another messenger to your worship:
Mistress Page hath her hearty commendations to you too; and let me
tell you in your ear, she's as fartuous a civil modest wife, and
one, I tell you, that will not miss you morning nor evening prayer,
as any is in Windsor, whoe'er be the other; and she bade me tell
your worship that her husband is seldom from home, but she hopes
there will come a time. I never knew a woman so dote upon a man:
surely I think you have charms, la! yes, in truth.

Not I, I assure thee; setting the attraction of my good parts aside,
I have no other charms.

Blessing on your heart for 't!

But, I pray thee, tell me this: has Ford's wife and Page's wife
acquainted each other how they love me?

That were a jest indeed! They have not so little grace, I hope: that
were a trick indeed! But Mistress Page would desire you to send
her your little page, of all loves: her husband has a marvellous
infection to the little page; and, truly, Master Page is an honest
man. Never a wife in Windsor leads a better life than she does; do
what she will, say what she will, take all, pay all, go to bed when
she list, rise when she list, all is as she will; and truly she
deserves it; for if there be a kind woman in Windsor, she is one.
You must send her your page; no remedy.

Why, I will.

Nay, but do so then; and, look you, he may come and go between
you both; and in any case have a nay-word, that you may know one
another's mind, and the boy never need to understand any thing; for
'tis not good that children should know any wickedness: old folks,
you know, have discretion, as they say, and know the world.

Fare thee well; commend me to them both. There's my purse; I am yet
thy debtor. Boy, go along with this woman.--


This news distracts me.

This punk is one of Cupid's carriers;
Clap on more sails; pursue; up with your fights;
Give fire; she is my prize, or ocean whelm them all!


Say'st thou so, old Jack? go thy ways; I'll make more of thy old
body than I have done. Will they yet look after thee? Wilt thou,
after the expense of so much money, be now a gainer? Good body,
I thank thee. Let them say 'tis grossly done; so it be fairly done,
no matter.

[Enter BARDOLPH, with a cup of sack.]

Sir John, there's one Master Brook below would fain speak with you
and be acquainted with you: and hath sent your worship a morning's
draught of sack.

Brook is his name?

Ay, sir.

Call him in. [Exit BARDOLPH.] Such Brooks are welcome to me, that
o'erflow such liquor. Ah, ha! Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, have
I encompassed you? Go to; via!

[Re-enter BARDOLPH, with FORD disguised.]

Bless you, sir!

And you, sir; would you speak with me?

I make bold to press with so little preparation upon

You're welcome. What's your will?--Give us leave, drawer.


Sir, I am a gentleman that have spent much: my name is Brook.

Good Master Brook, I desire more acquaintance of you.

Good Sir John, I sue for yours: not to charge you; for I must let
you understand I think myself in better plight for a lender than
you are: the which hath something embold'ned me to this unseasoned
intrusion; for they say, if money go before, all ways do lie open.

Money is a good soldier, sir, and will on.

Troth, and I have a bag of money here troubles me; if you will
help to bear it, Sir John, take all, or half, for easing me of
the carriage.

Sir, I know not how I may deserve to be your porter.

I will tell you, sir, if you will give me the hearing.

Speak, good Master Brook; I shall be glad to be your servant.

Sir, I hear you are a scholar,--I will be brief with you, and
you have been a man long known to me, though I had never so good
means, as desire, to make myself acquainted with you. I shall
discover a thing to you, wherein I must very much lay open mine
own imperfection; but, good Sir John, as you have one eye upon my
follies, as you hear them unfolded, turn another into the register
of your own, that I may pass with a reproof the easier, sith you
yourself know how easy is it to be such an offender.

Very well, sir; proceed.

There is a gentlewoman in this town, her husband's name is Ford.

Well, sir.

I have long loved her, and, I protest to you, bestowed much on her;
followed her with a doting observance; engrossed opportunities to
meet her; fee'd every slight occasion that could but niggardly
give me sight of her; not only bought many presents to give her,
but have given largely to many to know what she would have given;
briefly, I have pursued her as love hath pursued me; which hath
been on the wing of all occasions. But whatsoever I have merited,
either in my mind or in my means, meed, I am sure, I have received
none, unless experience be a jewel that I have purchased at an
infinite rate, and that hath taught me to say this,

Love like a shadow flies when substance love pursues;
Pursuing that that flies, and flying what pursues.

Have you received no promise of satisfaction at her hands?


Have you importuned her to such a purpose?


Of what quality was your love, then?

Like a fair house built on another man's ground; so that I have
lost my edifice by mistaking the place where I erected it.

To what purpose have you unfolded this to me?

When I have told you that, I have told you all. Some say that though
she appear honest to me, yet in other places she enlargeth her mirth
so far that there is shrewd construction made of her. Now, Sir John,
here is the heart of my purpose: you are a gentleman of excellent
breeding, admirable discourse, of great admittance, authentic in
your place and person, generally allowed for your many war-like,
court-like, and learned preparations.

O, sir!

Believe it, for you know it. There is money; spend it, spend it;
spend more; spend all I have; only give me so much of your time in
exchange of it as to lay an amiable siege to the honesty of this
Ford's wife: use your art of wooing, win her to consent to you;
if any man may, you may as soon as any.

Would it apply well to the vehemency of your affection, that I
should win what you would enjoy? Methinks you prescribe to yourself
very preposterously.

O, understand my drift. She dwells so securely on the excellency
of her honour that the folly of my soul dares not present itself;
she is too bright to be looked against. Now, could I come to her
with any detection in my hand, my desires had instance and argument
to commend themselves; I could drive her then from the ward of her
purity, her reputation, her marriage-vow, and a thousand other her
defences, which now are too too strongly embattled against me.
What say you to't, Sir John?

Master Brook, I will first make bold with your money; next, give me
your hand; and last, as I am a gentleman, you shall, if you will,
enjoy Ford's wife.

O good sir!

I say you shall.

Want no money, Sir John; you shall want none.

Want no Mistress Ford, Master Brook; you shall want none. I shall
be with her, I may tell you, by her own appointment; even as you
came in to me her assistant or go-between parted from me: I say
I shall be with her between ten and eleven; for at that time the
jealous rascally knave, her husband, will be forth. Come you to
me at night; you shall know how I speed.

I am blest in your acquaintance. Do you know Ford, sir?

Hang him, poor cuckoldly knave! I know him not; yet I wrong him to
call him poor; they say the jealous wittolly knave hath masses of
money; for the which his wife seems to me well-favoured. I will
use her as the key of the cuckoldly rogue's coffer; and there's my

I would you knew Ford, sir, that you might avoid him if you saw him.

Hang him, mechanical salt-butter rogue! I will stare him out of his
wits; I will awe him with my cudgel; it shall hang like a meteor
o'er the cuckold's horns. Master Brook, thou shalt know I will
predominate over the peasant, and thou shalt lie with his wife.
Come to me soon at night. Ford's a knave, and I will aggravate his
style; thou, Master Brook, shalt know him for knave and cuckold.
Come to me soon at night.


What a damned Epicurean rascal is this! My heart is ready to crack
with impatience. Who says this is improvident jealousy? My wife hath
sent to him; the hour is fixed; the match is made. Would any man
have thought this? See the hell of having a false woman! My bed
shall be abused, my coffers ransacked, my reputation gnawn at; and
I shall not only receive this villanous wrong, but stand under the
adoption of abominable terms, and by him that does me this wrong.
Terms! names! Amaimon sounds well; Lucifer, well; Barbason, well;
yet they are devils' additions, the names of fiends. But Cuckold!
Wittol!--Cuckold! the devil himself hath not such a name. Page is
an ass, a secure ass; he will trust his wife; he will not be
jealous; I will rather trust a Fleming with my butter, Parson Hugh
the Welshman with my cheese, an Irishman with my aqua-vitae bottle,
or a thief to walk my ambling gelding, than my wife with herself;
then she plots, then she ruminates, then she devises; and what
they think in their hearts they may effect, they will break their
hearts but they will effect. God be praised for my jealousy!
Eleven o'clock the hour. I will prevent this, detect my wife, be
revenged on Falstaff, and laugh at Page. I will about it; better
three hours too soon than a minute too late. Fie, fie, fie!
cuckold! cuckold! cuckold!



  1. Today if we use this expression, we are making a claim that the world's riches are ours for the taking. However, the ensign Pistol here uses the phrase more as a threat. Since Falstaff refuses to give Pistol any money, Pistol says he'll use his sword to pry money out of other helpless victims. The thievish intentions behind this phrase have mostly been forgotten, having become a vain pronouncement of opportunity.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor