The Merry Wives of Windsor

About the Book

“Why, then the world’s mine oyster.”
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Eminent Shakespearean scholars Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen provide a fresh new edition of this popular comedy of love, laughter, and merriment—along with more than a hundred pages of exclusive features, including
• an original Introduction to The Merry Wives of Windsor
• incisive scene-by-scene synopsis and analysis with vital facts about the work
• commentary on past and current productions based on interviews with leading directors, actors, and designers
• photographs of key RSC productions
• an overview of Shakespeare’s theatrical career and chronology of his plays
Ideal for students, theater professionals, and general readers, these modern and accessible editions from the Royal Shakespeare Company set a new standard in Shakespearean literature for the twenty-first century.
Read more

Praise for The Merry Wives of Windsor

Praise for William Shakespeare: Complete Works

“Remarkable . . . makes Shakespeare’s extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever.”—James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University, bestselling author of A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599
“A feast of literary and historical information.”—The Wall Street Journal
Read more

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Act 1 Scene 1 running scene 1

Enter Justice 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 Custalorum.
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't, 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.
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.
EVANS It is marring indeed, if he quarter it.
SHALLOW Not a whit.
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 compromises between you.
SHALLOW The Council shall hear it, it is a riot.
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, o'my life, if I were young again, the sword should end it.
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.
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?
EVANS Ay, and her father is make her a petter penny.
SLENDER I know the young gentlewoman: she has good gifts.
EVANS Seven hundred pounds, and possibilities, is goot gifts.
SHALLOW Well, let us see honest Master Page. Is Falstaff there?
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, ho! Got pless your house here! PAGE Who's there? Speaks within and then enters
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 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 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 Aside to
SLENDER/ dog. To Page 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.
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, Nim 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.
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, Nim and Pistol. BARDOLPH You Banbury cheese!
SLENDER Ay, it is no matter. PISTOL How now, Mephostophilus?
SLENDER Ay, it is no matter. NIM Slice, I say! Pauca, pauca. Slice, that's my humour.
SLENDER Where's Simple, my man? Can you tell, cousin?
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.
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.
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?
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. Points to Nim NIM 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.
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 careers.
SLENDER Ay, you spake in Latin then too. But 'tis no matter. I'll ne'er 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.
EVANS So Got 'udge me, that is a virtuous mind. FALSTAFF You hear all these matters denied, gentlemen, you hear it. [Enter Anne, with wine] PAGE Nay, daughter, carry the wine in: we'll drink within. [Exit Anne]
SLENDER O heaven, this is Mistress Anne Page! Aside? [Enter Mistress Ford and Mistress 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 EVANS]

SLENDER I had rather than forty shillings I had my book of Songs and Sonnets here. [Enter Simple] 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 Allhallowmas 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.
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.
EVANS But that is not the question. The question is concerning your marriage.
SHALLOW Ay, there's the point, sir.
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.
EVANS But can you affection the 'oman? 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.
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.
EVANS It is a fery discretion answer. Save the fall is in the 'ord '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. [Enter Anne] Would I were young for your sake, Mistress Anne.
ANNE The dinner is on the table, my father desires your worships' company.
SHALLOW I will wait on him, fair Mistress Anne.
EVANS 'Od's plessèd will! I will not be absence at the grace.

[Exeunt SHALLOW and EVANS]

ANNE Will't please your worship to come in, sir?
SLENDER No, I thank you, forsooth, heartily. I am very well.
ANNE The dinner attends you, sir.
SLENDER I am not a-hungry, I thank you, forsooth.- To Simple Go, sirrah, for all you are my man, go wait upon my cousin Shallow. [Exit Simple] A justice of peace sometime 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 I may not go in without your worship: they will not sit till you come.
SLENDER I'faith, I'll eat nothing. I thank you as much as though I did.
ANNE I pray you, sir, walk in.
SLENDER I had rather walk here, I thank you. I bruised my shin th'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 i'th'town?
ANNE 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 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-favoured rough things. [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 Not I, sir, pray you, keep on.
SLENDER Truly, I will not go first. Truly, la! I will not do you that wrong.
ANNE I pray you, sir.
SLENDER I'll rather be unmannerly than Goes first troublesome. You do yourself wrong, indeed, la!

Exeunt Act 1 Scene 2 running scene 2 Enter EVANS and Simple

EVANS Go your ways, and ask of Doctor Caius' house, which is the way; and there dwells one Mistress Quickly, which is in the manner of his nurse, or his dry nurse, or his cook, or his laundry, his washer and his wringer.
SIMPLE Well, sir.
EVANS Nay, it is petter yet. Give her this letter. Gives letter For it is a 'oman that altogether's acquaintance with Mistress Anne Page. And the letter is to desire and require her to solicit your master's desires to Mistress Anne Page. I pray you, be gone: I will make an end of my dinner, there's pippins and cheese to come.


Modern Library Classics Series

The Voyage Out
The Southern Woman
The Squatter and the Don
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Dark Interval
The Greek Plays
A Place in the Country
The Metamorphosis
Madame Bovary
The Essential Writings of Rousseau
View more

About the Author

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. More by William Shakespeare
Decorative Carat

About the Author

Jonathan Bate
SIR JONATHAN BATE is an academic, broadcaster, critic, novelist, and prize-winning author of biographies of Wordsworth, Keats, and John Clare. He is the Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he holds the title of Professor of English Literature. Until September 2019 he was Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. He was knighted in 2015 for services to literary scholarship and higher education. More by Jonathan Bate
Decorative Carat

About the Author

Eric Rasmussen
Eric Rasmussen, a professor of English at the University of Nevada, is one of today's leading textual experts on Shakespeare. More by Eric Rasmussen
Decorative Carat