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The Merry Wives of Windsor

Act I, Scene 1

Windsor. Before PAGE's house.]
 
[Enter SHALLOW, SLENDER, and SIR HUGH EVANS]
 
SHALLOW
Sir Hugh, persuade me not; I will make a Star-chamber matter of it: if he were twenty Sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.
 
SLENDER
In the county of Gloucester, justice of peace and Coram.
 
SHALLOW
Ay, cousin Slender, and Custalourum.
 
SLENDER
Ay, and Rato-lorum too; and a gentleman born, master parson; who writes himself Armigero, in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, Armigero.
 
SHALLOW
Ay, that I do; and have done any time these three hundred years.
 
SLENDER
All his successors gone before him hath done it; and all his ancestors that come after him may: they may give the dozen white luces in their coat.
 
SHALLOW
It is an old coat.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
The dozen white louses do become an old coat well; it agrees well, passant; it is a familiar beast to man, and signifies love.
 
SHALLOW
The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old coat.
 
SLENDER
I may quarter, coz.
 
SHALLOW
You may, by marrying.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
It is marring indeed, if he quarter it.
 
SHALLOW
Not a whit.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Yes, py'r lady; if he has a quarter of your coat, there is but three skirts for yourself, in my simple conjectures: but that is all one. If Sir John Falstaff have committed disparagements unto you, I am of the church, and will be glad to do my benevolence to make atonements and compremises between you.
 
SHALLOW
The council shall bear it; it is a riot.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
It is not meet the council hear a riot; there is no fear of Got in a riot: the council, look you, shall desire to hear the fear of Got, and not to hear a riot; take your vizaments in that.
 
SHALLOW
Ha! On my life, if I were young again, the sword should end it.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
It is petter that friends is the sword, and end it: and there is also another device in my prain, which peradventure prings goot discretions with it: there is Anne Page, which is daughter to Master Thomas Page, which is pretty virginity.
 
SLENDER
Mistress Anne Page? She has brown hair, and speaks small like a woman.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
It is that fery person for all the orld, as just as you will desire; and seven hundred pounds of moneys, and gold and silver, is her grandsire upon his death's-bed--Got deliver to a joyful resurrections! --give, when she is able to overtake seventeen years old: it were a goot motion if we leave our pribbles and prabbles, and desire a marriage between Master Abraham and Mistress Anne Page.
 
SLENDER
Did her grandsire leave her seven hundred pound?
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Ay, and her father is make her a petter penny.
 
SLENDER
I know the young gentlewoman; she has good gifts.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Seven hundred pounds and possibilities is goot gifts.
 
SHALLOW
Well, let us see honest Master Page. Is Falstaff there?
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Shall I tell you a lie? I do despise a liar as I do despise one that is false, or as I despise one that is not true. The knight, Sir John, is there; and, I beseech you, be ruled by your well-willers. I will peat the door for Master Page.
 
Knocks
What, hoa! Got pless your house here!
 
PAGE [Within]
Who's there?
 
[Enter PAGE]
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Here is Got's plessing, and your friend, and Justice Shallow; and here young Master Slender, that peradventures shall tell you another tale, if matters grow to your likings.
 
PAGE
I am glad to see your worships well. I thank you for my venison, Master Shallow.
 
SHALLOW
Master Page, I am glad to see you: much good do it your good heart! I wished your venison better; it was ill killed. How doth good Mistress Page?--and I thank you always with my heart, la! with my heart.
 
PAGE
Sir, I thank you.
 
SHALLOW
Sir, I thank you; by yea and no, I do.
 
PAGE
I am glad to see you, good Master Slender.
 
SLENDER
How does your fallow greyhound, sir? I heard say he was outrun on Cotsall.
 
PAGE
It could not be judged, sir.
 
SLENDER
You'll not confess, you'll not confess.
 
SHALLOW
That he will not. 'Tis your fault, 'tis your fault; 'tis a good dog.
 
PAGE
A cur, sir.
 
SHALLOW
Sir, he's a good dog, and a fair dog: can there be more said? he is good and fair. Is Sir John Falstaff here?
 
PAGE
Sir, he is within; and I would I could do a good office between you.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
It is spoke as a Christians ought to speak.
 
SHALLOW
He hath wronged me, Master Page.
 
PAGE
Sir, he doth in some sort confess it.
 
SHALLOW
If it be confessed, it is not redressed: is not that so, Master Page? He hath wronged me; indeed he hath, at a word, he hath, believe me: Robert Shallow, esquire, saith, he is wronged.
 
PAGE
Here comes Sir John.
 
[Enter FALSTAFF, BARDOLPH, NYM, and PISTOL]
 
FALSTAFF
Now, Master Shallow, you'll complain of me to the king?
 
SHALLOW
Knight, you have beaten my men, killed my deer, and broke open my lodge.
 
FALSTAFF
But not kissed your keeper's daughter?
 
SHALLOW
Tut, a pin! this shall be answered.
 
FALSTAFF
I will answer it straight; I have done all this. That is now answered.
 
SHALLOW
The council shall know this.
 
FALSTAFF
'Twere better for you if it were known in counsel: you'll be laughed at.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Pauca verba, Sir John; goot worts.
 
FALSTAFF
Good worts! good cabbage. Slender, I broke your head: what matter have you against me?
 
SLENDER
Marry, sir, I have matter in my head against you; and against your cony-catching rascals, Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol.
 
BARDOLPH
You Banbury cheese!
 
SLENDER
Ay, it is no matter.
 
PISTOL
How now, Mephostophilus!
 
SLENDER
Ay, it is no matter.
 
NYM
Slice, I say! pauca, pauca: slice! that's my humour.
 
SLENDER
Where's Simple, my man? Can you tell, cousin?
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Peace, I pray you. Now let us understand. There is three umpires in this matter, as I understand; that is, Master Page, fidelicet Master Page; and there is myself, fidelicet myself; and the three party is, lastly and finally, mine host of the Garter.
 
PAGE
We three, to hear it and end it between them.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Fery goot: I will make a prief of it in my note- book; and we will afterwards ork upon the cause with as great discreetly as we can.
 
FALSTAFF
Pistol!
 
PISTOL
He hears with ears.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
The tevil and his tam! what phrase is this, He hears with ear? why, it is affectations.
 
FALSTAFF
Pistol, did you pick Master Slender's purse?
 
SLENDER
Ay, by these gloves, did he, or I would I might never come in mine own great chamber again else, of seven groats in mill-sixpences, and two Edward shovel-boards, that cost me two shilling and two pence apiece of Yead Miller, by these gloves.
 
FALSTAFF
Is this true, Pistol?
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
No; it is false, if it is a pick-purse.
 
PISTOL
Ha, thou mountain-foreigner! Sir John and Master mine, I combat challenge of this latten bilbo. Word of denial in thy labras here! Word of denial: froth and scum, thou liest!
 
SLENDER
By these gloves, then, 'twas he.
 
NYM
Be avised, sir, and pass good humours: I will say 'marry trap' with you, if you run the nuthook's humour on me; that is the very note of it.
 
SLENDER
By this hat, then, he in the red face had it; for though I cannot remember what I did when you made me drunk, yet I am not altogether an ass.
 
FALSTAFF
What say you, Scarlet and John?
 
BARDOLPH
Why, sir, for my part I say the gentleman had drunk himself out of his five sentences.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
It is his five senses: fie, what the ignorance is!
 
BARDOLPH
And being fap, sir, was, as they say, cashiered; and so conclusions passed the careires.
 
SLENDER
Ay, you spake in Latin then too; but 'tis no matter: I'll nere be drunk whilst I live again, but in honest, civil, godly company, for this trick: if I be drunk, I'll be drunk with those that have the fear of God, and not with drunken knaves.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
So Got udge me, that is a virtuous mind.
 
FALSTAFF
You hear all these matters denied, gentlemen; you hear it.
 
[Enter ANNE PAGE, with wine; MISTRESS FORD and MISTRESS PAGE, following]
 
PAGE
Nay, daughter, carry the wine in; we'll drink within.
 
[Exit ANNE PAGE]
 
SLENDER
O heaven! this is Mistress Anne Page.
 
PAGE
How now, Mistress Ford!
 
FALSTAFF
Mistress Ford, by my troth, you are very well met: by your leave, good mistress.
 
[Kisses her]
 
PAGE
Wife, bid these gentlemen welcome. Come, we have a hot venison pasty to dinner: come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.
 
[Exeunt all except SHALLOW, SLENDER, and SIR HUGH EVANS]
 
SLENDER
I had rather than forty shillings I had my Book of Songs and Sonnets here. How now, Simple! where have you been? I must wait on myself, must I? You have not the Book of Riddles about you, have you?
 
SIMPLE
Book of Riddles! why, did you not lend it to Alice Shortcake upon All-hallowmas last, a fortnight afore Michaelmas?
 
SHALLOW
Come, coz; come, coz; we stay for you. A word with you, coz; marry, this, coz: there is, as 'twere, a tender, a kind of tender, made afar off by Sir Hugh here. Do you understand me?
 
SLENDER
Ay, sir, you shall find me reasonable; if it be so, I shall do that that is reason.
 
SHALLOW
Nay, but understand me.
 
SLENDER
So I do, sir.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Give ear to his motions, Master Slender: I will description the matter to you, if you be capacity of it.
 
SLENDER
Nay, I will do as my cousin Shallow says: I pray you, pardon me; he's a justice of peace in his country, simple though I stand here.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
But that is not the question: the question is concerning your marriage.
 
SHALLOW
Ay, there's the point, sir.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Marry, is it; the very point of it; to Mistress Anne Page.
 
SLENDER
Why, if it be so, I will marry her upon any reasonable demands.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
But can you affection the woman? Let us command to know that of your mouth or of your lips; for divers philosophers hold that the lips is parcel of the mouth. Therefore, precisely, can you carry your good will to the maid?
 
SHALLOW
Cousin Abraham Slender, can you love her?
 
SLENDER
I hope, sir, I will do as it shall become one that would do reason.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Nay, Got's lords and his ladies! you must speak possitable, if you can carry her your desires towards her.
 
SHALLOW
That you must. Will you, upon good dowry, marry her?
 
SLENDER
I will do a greater thing than that, upon your request, cousin, in any reason.
 
SHALLOW
Nay, conceive me, conceive me, sweet coz: what I do is to pleasure you, coz. Can you love the maid?
 
SLENDER
I will marry her, sir, at your request: but if there be no great love in the beginning, yet heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance, when we are married and have more occasion to know one another; I hope, upon familiarity will grow more contempt: but if you say, Marry her, I will marry her; that I am freely dissolved, and dissolutely.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
It is a fery discretion answer; save the fall is in the ort dissolutely: the ort is, according to our meaning, resolutely: his meaning is good.
 
SHALLOW
Ay, I think my cousin meant well.
 
SLENDER
Ay, or else I would I might be hanged, la!
 
SHALLOW
Here comes fair Mistress Anne. Would I were young for your sake, Mistress Anne!
 
ANNE PAGE
The dinner is on the table; my father desires your worships' company.
 
SHALLOW
I will wait on him, fair Mistress Anne.
 
SIR HUGH EVANS
Od's plessed will! I will not be absence at the grace.
 
[Exeunt SHALLOW and SIR HUGH EVANS]
 
ANNE PAGE
Will it please your worship to come in, sir?
 
SLENDER
No, I thank you, forsooth, heartily; I am very well.
 
ANNE PAGE
The dinner attends you, sir.
 
SLENDER
I am not a-hungry, I thank you, forsooth. Go, sirrah, for all you are my man, go wait upon my cousin Shallow. A justice of peace sometimes may be beholding to his friend for a man. I keep but three men and a boy yet, till my mother be dead: but what though? Yet I live like a poor gentleman born.
 
ANNE PAGE
I may not go in without your worship: they will not sit till you come.
 
SLENDER
In faith, I'll eat nothing; I thank you as much as though I did.
 
ANNE PAGE
I pray you, sir, walk in.
 
SLENDER
I had rather walk here, I thank you. I bruised my shin the other day with playing at sword and dagger with a master of fence; three veneys for a dish of stewed prunes; and, by my troth, I cannot abide the smell of hot meat since. Why do your dogs bark so? be there bears in the town?
 
ANNE PAGE
I think there are, sir; I heard them talked of.
 
SLENDER
I love the sport well but I shall as soon quarrel at it as any man in England. You are afraid, if you see the bear loose, are you not?
 
ANNE PAGE
Ay, indeed, sir.
 
SLENDER
That's meat and drink to me, now. I have seen Sackerson loose twenty times, and have taken him by the chain; but, I warrant you, the women have so cried and shrieked at it, that it passed: but women, indeed, cannot abide 'em; they are very ill-favored rough things.
 
[Re-enter PAGE]
 
PAGE
Come, gentle Master Slender, come; we stay for you.
 
SLENDER
I'll eat nothing, I thank you, sir.
 
PAGE
By cock and pie, you shall not choose, sir! come, come.
 
SLENDER
Nay, pray you, lead the way.
 
PAGE
Come on, sir.
 
SLENDER
Mistress Anne, yourself shall go first.
 
ANNE PAGE
Not I, sir; pray you, keep on.
 
SLENDER
I'll rather be unmannerly than troublesome. You do yourself wrong, indeed, la!
 
[Exeunt]

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