David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose — Act 1, Scenes 2-3

 — 1.2 —

Leonato and Antonio, his older brother, talked together in a room in Leonato’s house.

“Hi, brother,” Leonato said. “Where is my nephew, your son? Did he make the arrangements for the musicians for tonight’s dance?”

“He is working on it,” Antonio said, “But, brother, I can tell you strange news that you do not dream of.”

“Is it good news?”

“Time will tell, but the news appears to be good — very good. Don Pedro and Count Claudio, while walking in a path through thickly branched trees in my garden, were overheard by a servant of mine. Don Pedro revealed to Claudio that he loves my niece — Hero, your daughter — and meant to tell her tonight at the dance, and if he found her willing to marry him, he meant to seize the quickest opportunity to talk with you and get your permission to marry her.”

Leonato was cautious; all too often conversations are misheard or misinterpreted. He asked, “Is the fellow who told you this intelligent and reliable?”

“He is a good sharp fellow,” Antonio said. “I will send for him, and you can question him yourself.”

“No, that will not be necessary,” Leonato said, “but let us regard this as a daydream instead of reality until the marriage proposal has actually been made. Still, we should let Hero know about this so that she will be better prepared to answer if in fact she is asked to consent to marry. Go and tell her.”

Antonio exited.

Antonio’s son entered with musicians, and Leonato spoke to them:

“All of you know what you have to do.

“Pardon me, friend; come with me and help me.

“Good nephew, please work hard and with enthusiasm during this busy time.”

 — 1.3 —

In a room in Leonato’s house, Don John, who was Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother and who had been defeated in battle and then forgiven by him, was speaking with his loyal attendant Conrade.

“My lord, why are you so excessively sad?”

“The things that cause my sadness are excessive and therefore my sadness is excessive,” Don John said. “I am illegitimate — a fact that limited how much I could inherit. I have recently been defeated. I have been forgiven — and not killed — by my victor, but he is keeping a close eye on me.”

“You should listen to reason.”

“And when I have heard it, what blessing will it bring to me?”

“If it will not bring you an immediate remedy for your sadness, then it can at least help you bear your suffering patiently.”

“You and I were both born under the astrological planet Saturn, and so both you and I are moody and melancholy and saturnine,” Don John said. “Therefore, I am surprised that you would attempt to cure my serious sadness with moralizing platitudes. I cannot hide what I am. I must be sad when I have cause and smile at no man’s jests. I must eat when I am hungry and wait for no man’s permission. I must sleep when I am drowsy and be a servant to no man. I must laugh when I am merry and flatter no man. In short, I must do what I want to do when I want to do it without regard for anybody else.”

“True,” Conrade said, “but you must not do all these things just yet. You need to restrain yourself until you can do these things without taking into account your brother, who now has power over you and is watching you. You have recently rebelled against your brother, and he has just now taken you newly into his grace and favor. To stay in his good graces, you need to behave yourself. Now is not the time for you to be your true self.”

“I would prefer to be a noxious weed in a hedge than a cultivated rose in a flower garden,” Don John said. “It better suits my mood to be heartily hated by all than to assume a fake behavior that will gain me unearned affection from anyone. I speak truly. Although I cannot be said to be a flattering, honest man, it must not be denied that I am a plain-dealing villain. I am trusted — as long as I wear a muzzle — and I am allowed my freedom — as long as I am hobbled with a heavy weight. My brother has forgiven me enough not to kill me, but he has placed restrictions on me. I have decided not to sing in my cage. If I had the freedom to use my mouth, I would bite. If I had my liberty, I would do whatever I liked. In the meantime, I want you to let me be what I truly am and seek not to change me.”

“Can you make any use of your discontent?”

“I use it all the time because I am always discontented,” Don John said, and then he looked up and added, “Who is coming toward us?”

Borachio, another of Don John’s loyal attendants, came toward them.

Recognizing him, Don John said, “Do you have any news, Borachio?”

“I have come from a great supper yonder. Leonato is royally entertaining Don Pedro, your brother. I can give you news of an intended marriage.”

“Is there anyway that I can use this information to create trouble?” Don John asked. “Only a fool would get married and so make his life unquiet. Who is this fool?”

“He is your brother’s right hand.”

Speaking with hatred, Don John said, “Who? The most exquisite Claudio?”

“Yes.”

Again speaking with hatred, Don John said, “He is a handsome fellow! And to whom does he wish to be married? Which way does he look to find a wife?”

“His look has fallen on Hero, the daughter and heir of Leonato.”

“She is a very precocious March-chick! This chick is very young. How did you come to learn this?”

“I was being employed as a perfumer,” Borachio said. “To sweeten the air, I was burning sweet-smelling herbs in a musty room when Don Pedro and Claudio came in and talked seriously. I hid behind a wall hanging, and I heard that Don Pedro would woo Hero so that Hero and Claudio could wed.”

“Let us go now,” Don John said. “That may prove to be food for me and my discontent. That young upstart mightily helped defeat me in battle and so won much glory. If I can cross him in any way, I will bless myself in every way. Are you both loyal to me and will you both assist me?”

“To the death, my lord,” Conrade said.

“Let us go to the great feast,” Don John said. “Their happiness is all the greater because I have been defeated. I wish that the cook were of my mind and would poison all of them! Shall we go and find out what we need to do for me to get revenge on Claudio?”

“Lead the way, sir,” Borachio said. “We will follow you.”

***

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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose — Cast of Characters and Act 1, Scene 1

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Male Characters

DON PEDRO, Prince of Arragon.

DON JOHN, his bastard Brother.

CLAUDIO, a young Lord of Florence.

BENEDICK, a young Lord of Padua.

LEONATO, Governor of Messina.

ANTONIO, his Brother.

BALTHAZAR, Servant to Don Pedro.

BORACHIO, CONRADE, followers of Don John.

DOGBERRY, a Constable.

VERGES, a Headborough.

FRIAR FRANCIS.

A Sexton.

A Boy.

Female Characters

HERO, Daughter to Leonato.

BEATRICE, Niece to Leonato.

MARGARET, URSULA, Waiting-gentlewomen attending on Hero.

Minor Characters

Messengers, Watch, Attendants, etc.

Nota Bene

The title Much Ado About Nothingcontains wordplay. A thing is what a man has between his legs. A woman has no thing between her legs, so the title can be interpreted as Much Ado About Pussy. Given that this play is a romantic comedy, that title is correct.

In addition, in Elizabethan England “nothing” and “noting” were pronounced the same way. In the play, a lot of noting occurs — people note what other people say and do. Frequently, they misinterpret what they note, and this leads to complications in the play.

 — 1.1 —

Standing in the garden in front of the house of Leonato, the Governor of Messina, were Leonato himself, his daughter, whose name was Hero, and his niece, whose name was Beatrice. Also present was a messenger sent to Leonato by Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon. The messenger had just given Leonato a letter about a battle fought between the forces of Don Pedro and his illegitimate half-brother, Don John. Don Pedro’s soldiers had won the battle, and afterward, Don Pedro and Don John were reconciled.

“I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Aragon is coming tonight to Messina,” Leonato said.

The messenger replied, “By this time, he is very near. When I left him, he was not nine miles away from Messina.”

“He has just fought a battle,” Leonato said. “How many gentlemen — men of the upper classes — did he lose in the battle?”

“Few of any rank,” the messenger replied, “and none of any great importance.”

“A victory is won twice when the victor brings home alive nearly all of his soldiers,” Leonato said. “I read in this letter that Don Pedro has bestowed much honor on a young Florentine named Claudio.”

“Claudio much deserved the honor, and Don Pedro has properly rewarded him for his actions in the battle. Claudio performed deeds in battle that no one would expect such a young man to do. Despite having the figure of a lamb, he performed the feats of a lion. Claudio indeed exceeded all expectations of him so much that I cannot tell you all that he did.”

“Claudio has an uncle here in Messina who will be very happy to hear of his heroism.”

“I have already carried to Claudio’s uncle letters that made him very happy,” the messenger said. “The uncle felt so much joy that he broke out in emblems of what sometimes expresses bitterness.”

“Did he break out into tears?” Leonato asked.

“In great measure. He cried much.”

“That was a kind overflow of kindness as expressed by kindred. No faces are truer than those that are so washed by tears. How much better it is to weep at joy than to joy at weeping! It is much better to cry with happiness than to rejoice at someone’s unhappiness.”

Beatrice asked, “Please tell me whether Signior Mountanto has returned from the wars or not.”

Beatrice thought, The messenger will not understand my joke, but Hero will. I am referring to Benedick. A montanto is an upward thrust in fencing — it starts low and goes upward — and a stallion mounts a mare. Benedick is a ladies’ man, and he and I have a history.

The messenger replied, “I know none of that name, lady. No one of any rank in the army bears that name.”

“Who is he whom you are asking about, niece?” Leonato asked.

“My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua,” Hero replied for Beatrice.

“Oh,” the messenger said. “He has returned, and he is as pleasant and amusing as he ever was.”

“Benedick once set up public notices here in Messina to announce that he was challenging Cupid to an archery contest,” Beatrice said. “He claimed to be a better lady killer than Cupid. Cupid is blindfolded, but his golden arrows have a great impact when they hit someone — that person instantly falls in love. By claiming to be superior to Cupid in archery, Benedick was claiming that he would never fall in love — and that he would make more women fall in love than Cupid could.

“My uncle’s fool, reading Benedick’s challenge, responded on behalf of Cupid, and competed against him in the archery contest. My uncle’s jester used bird-bolts in the contest — blunt arrows used to stun birds. Bird-bolts are given to children and to fools. My uncle’s fool mocked Benedick.”

She added, “Please tell me how many soldiers has Benedick killed and eaten in these wars? Better, just tell me how many he has killed. Benedick is a braggart who boasts about his prowess in many kinds of hunting, and so I promised to eat all of his killing. I do not think that he is enough of a soldier to kill anyone.”

“Truly, niece,” Leonato said, “you criticize Benedick too much, but he will find a way to get even with you, I am sure. Benedick can give as good as he gets.”

“Benedick has done good service, lady, in these wars,” the messenger said.

“You had stale food, and Benedick has helped to eat it. He is a very hearty eater; he has an excellent stomach.”

“He has an excellent stomach for battle,” the messenger said. “He is a good soldier, too, lady.”

“He is a good soldier compared to a lady, but what is he compared to a lord?” Beatrice asked.

“He is a lord compared to a lord, and a man compared to a man. He is stuffed with all the honorable virtues,” the messenger replied.

“You speak truly, indeed,” Beatrice said. “Benedick is no less than a stuffed man — he is a dummy — but what is he stuffed with? He is full of — shh, I ought not to finish that sentence. We are all mortal.”

“You must not, sir, mistake my niece,” Leonato said to the messenger. “Signior Benedick and she wage a kind of merry war. They never meet without engaging in a skirmish of wit between them.”

“Benedick performs poorly in those skirmishes,” Beatrice said. “People have five wits: memory, fantasy, judgment, imagination, and common sense. In our last skirmish, four of his five wits went limping off, and now the whole man is governed by one wit. If he has enough wit to keep himself warm in cold weather, let him know that it is what differentiates him from his horse. Human beings are the only rational creatures, and Benedick’s one wit is what allows him to be known as a reasonable creature.”

She added, “Who is his male friend and companion now? He has every month a new sworn brother for life.”

“Is that possible? You must be exaggerating,” the messenger said.

“No, it is very possible,” Beatrice said. “He pledges his faith to each new friend just like he changes the fashion of the hat he wears. With each change in fashion, he wears a new hat.”

“I see, lady, that the gentleman is not in your good books — he is not in your favor,” the messenger said.

“No, he is not,” Beatrice replied. “If he were, I would burn my library. But please tell me who is his new male friend? Is there no young hooligan now who will make a voyage with him to the devil?”

“He is most often in the company of the right noble Claudio.”

“Benedick will hang upon Claudio like a disease. Benedick is more contagious than the plague, and the catcher of the Benedick illness becomes immediately insane. God help the noble Claudio! If he has caught the Benedick illness, it will cost him a thousand pounds before he can be cured.”

The messenger thought, This lady really is clever. The Benedictine priests are exorcists and attempt to cure madness. She made a good pun on “Benedick.”

“Lady, I will take pains to always be friends with you and so avoid becoming the victim of your tongue,” the messenger said.

“Do so, good friend,” Beatrice replied.

“You will never catch the Benedick disease and run insane, niece,” Leonato said.

“No, not until there is a hot January in Italy,” Beatrice replied.

The messenger heard a noise and looked around. He said, “Don Pedro is coming here now along with some other people.”

Don Pedro and Don John, his illegitimate half-brother, with whom he had recently quarreled but then been reconciled, approached, along with Claudio, Benedick, and Balthasar, a singer and attendant who worked for Don Pedro.

Don Pedro said, “Good Signior Leonato, you are meeting your trouble. The fashion of the world is to avoid expense, but by hosting us you are encountering it.”

“You are never a trouble to me,” Leonato said. “Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace. Trouble being gone, comfort should remain; but when you depart from me, sorrow stays and happiness leaves.”

“You embrace the burden of my visit too eagerly,” Don Pedro said. He nodded at Hero and said, “I think this is your daughter.”

“Her mother has many times told me so,” Leonato said.

“Were you in doubt, sir, that you needed to ask her?” Benedick joked.

Leonato joked back, “Signior Benedick, no. I knew that I was the father of my daughter because when she was born you were only a child. If you had been an adult, I might have had my doubts.”

“Your joke has been answered, Benedick,” Don Pedro said. “All of us know that you are a ladies’ man. But truly the lady fathers herself. All we need to do is to look at Hero to know that Leonato is her father. Be happy, lady, because you resemble your honorable father.”

Don Pedro and Leonato then went aside and spoke privately.

Benedick joked, “Even if Signior Leonato is her father, she would not want to have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she is. Signior Leonato is bearded and has grey hair.”

“I wonder that you are always talking, Signior Benedick,” Beatrice said. “No one is paying attention to you.”

“What, my dear Lady Disdain!” Benedick replied, “Are you still alive? I would have thought that you had died by now.”

“It is impossible for Lady Disdain to die while she has such suitable food to feed it as Signior Benedick,” Beatrice replied. “Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come within her presence.”

“Then courtesy is a traitor,” Benedick said. “But it is certain that I am loved by all ladies, with the exception of only you, and I wish that I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart because, truly, I love no one of the opposite sex.”

“That is a precious piece of good fortune to women; otherwise, they would have been troubled with a pernicious and harmful suitor. I thank God and my cold blood that I am like you in loving no one of the opposite sex. In fact, I prefer to hear my dog bark at a crow than to hear a man swear that he loves me.”

“May God keep your ladyship always like that!” Benedick said. “That way, some gentleman or other shall escape an otherwise predestined scratched face. Anyone who marries you can expect to be scratched.”

“Scratching could not make the gentleman’s face worse, if it were a face such as yours.”

“You are an excellent parrot-teacher,” Benedick said. “You would do well at teaching a parrot because you say the same kind of things over and over.”

“My talking bird is better than your dumb beast,” Beatrice replied. “A bird can say something, but a beast cannot.”

“I wish that my horse had the speed of your tongue, and could gallop as long as you can talk. But keep on talking — I have finished talking.”

“I have known you a long time. You are like a jade — an ill-conditioned horse. You always end with a jade’s trick — you fade and cannot go the distance.”

Having finished their private conversation, Don Pedro said to Leonato, “That is all I have to say,” and they rejoined the others.

Don Pedro said, “Signior Claudio and Signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato has invited both of you to stay with him. I told him that we shall stay here at least a month, and he heartily hopes that some occasion may detain us here longer. I dare to swear that he is no hypocrite, but speaks from his heart.”

“If you swear, my lord, you shall not commit perjury,” Leonato said.

He then said to Don John, “Let me bid you welcome, my lord. Now that you have been reconciled with the Prince your brother, I owe you all my allegiance.”

“I thank you,” Don John said. “I am not a man of many words, but I thank you.”

Leonato said to Don Pedro, “Will it please your grace to lead everyone into my house?”

“Let me have your hand, Leonato,” Don Pedro said. “We will go inside together.”

Everyone went inside except for Benedick and Claudio.

“Benedick, did you notice Hero, the daughter of Signior Leonato?”

“I saw her, but I did not take any special notice of her.”

“Is she not a modest young lady of good conduct?”

“Are you asking me, as an honest man should, for my real and simple and true judgment?” Benedick asked. “Or are you asking for the answer that I, in my persona of a self-confessed enemy to and critic at every opportunity of the female sex, would give?”

“I am asking you for your real and simple and true judgment. Speak seriously and give me your true opinion.”

“Why, I think that she is too low — too short — for a high praise. I think that she is too brown and suntanned for a fair praise of her beauty. I think that she is too little — too small — for a great praise. I can give her only this praise: If she looked different from the way she looks, she would be ugly. Still, because she is a she, I do not like her.”

“You think that I am joking,” Claudio said. “Please tell me truly whether you like her.”

“You are asking a lot of questions about her. Are you thinking of buying her?”

“Can the world buy such a jewel?”

“Yes, and a case to put it into,” Benedick said. He smiled, knowing that a case could mean a jewel-box or a suit of clothing. It also meant a sheath, such as a sword fits into. The word “vagina” means sheath, and Benedick knew that if Claudio were to “buy” Hero by marrying her he would gain a sheath to put his “sword” into.

Benedick asked, “Are you asking me these questions seriously? Or are you being a flouting Jack — a scornful fellow — and trying to tell people that Cupid — who is blind — is good at finding hares and that the blacksmith god Vulcan is an excellent carpenter? Are you serious or satiric? I need to know what key you are in before I can sing in harmony with you.”

“In my eyes, Hero is the sweetest lady whom I have ever seen.”

“I can still see without spectacles, but I cannot see what you see,” Benedick replied. “I look at Hero and at Beatrice, who is possessed by an ancient Greek avenging spirit known as a Fury, and I see that Beatrice is more beautiful than Hero just like the first day of a spring May is more beautiful than the last day of a winter December. But I hope that you have no intention of becoming a husband. Are you thinking of marriage?”

“Even if I had sworn never to marry, I do not think that I would keep that promise if Hero were to agree to become my wife.”

“Has it come to this?” Benedick complained. “In all the world does not even one man exist who need not wear a cap out of suspicion that his wife has been unfaithful and made him sprout horns to provide evidence to the world that he is a cuckold? Shall I never see a 60-year-old bachelor again? But since you want to be married, go ahead and thrust your neck into a yoke and wear its imprint as you sigh on Sundays because you cannot get away from your wife and enjoy bachelor games.”

Benedick looked around and said, “Look, Don Pedro has returned to seek you.”

Don Pedro walked up to them and said, “What secret conversation have you been holding here that has kept you from joining us in Leonato’s house?”

“I wish that your grace would force me to tell you,” Benedick said.

“I order you — who have allegiance to me — to tell me.”

“You heard Don Pedro, Count Claudio,” Benedick said. “I can keep a secret as well as a man who cannot speak — I hope that you know that — but I have pledged my allegiance to Don Pedro and that outweighs other considerations. So, Don Pedro, listen well. Claudio is in love. With whom? I am sure that is the next question you would ask me. The answer is short: He is in love with Hero, Leonato’s short daughter.”

“What Benedick says is correct — assuming it is true,” Claudio said.

“This is like an old tale in which a statement is denied, and is denied again, and is finally revealed to be true,” Benedick said.

“Unless I change the object of my love very quickly,” Claudio said. “I hope that God will forbid me to love someone else.”

“Amen, if you love Hero,” Don Pedro said, “The lady is very well worthy and ought to be loved.”

“You are trying to trick me into admitting that I love her,” Claudio said.

“I am saying only what I truly believe,” Don Pedro said.

“I also said only what I truly believe,” Claudio said.

“By my dual loyalties to you, Don Pedro, and to you, Claudio, I also said only what I truly believe,” Benedick said.

Finally, Claudio admitted the truth: “I feel that I love Hero.”

Don Pedro replied, “I know that she is worthy of your love.”

Benedick said, “In my opinion, I neither feel how Hero should be loved nor know that she is worthy of being loved. That is an opinion that fire cannot melt out of me. If I were to be burned at the stake like a heretic, I would die still holding this opinion.”

“You were always an obstinate heretic when it comes to beauty,” Don Pedro said. “Courtly love is not a religion you follow.”

“You believe what you believe through stubborn determination,” Claudio said.

“That a woman conceived me, I thank her, and that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks,” Benedick said. “However, I intend to avoid having a cuckold’s horns on my forehead — I want to neither display them openly nor try to hide them. Therefore, women will have to pardon me for not wanting to be married. I will not do any women wrong by mistrusting them, but I will do myself right by not trusting any women. The fine for the life I chose is that I must live as a lifelong bachelor, but since I need not spend money to support a wife, I may spend more money on my clothing and so dress finer.”’

“I shall see you, before I die, look pale with love,” Don Pedro said.

“I may look pale, but it will be with anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord, not with love,” Benedick said. “If I ever cease to be a red-blooded man and instead become a pale lover, then use a ballad-writer’s pen to put out my eyes and make me blind and hang me up at the door of a brothel-house in place of the sign showing blind Cupid.”

“Well, if you ever stop your belief in bachelorhood and get married, you will prove to be a notable subject of gossip,” Don Pedro said.

“If that ever happens, then hang me in a wicker basket like a cat and shoot arrows at me,” Benedick said. “Let whoever hits me be clapped on the shoulder, and called Adam after the famous archer Adam Bell.”

“Remember this old saying: ‘In time the savage bull will bear the yoke,’” Don Pedro said.

“The savage bull may bear the yoke of a farmer; but if ever the sensible Benedick bears the yoke of marriage, then pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead,” Benedick said. “The horns will show everyone that I have an unfaithful wife. And let a sign be hung around my neck, and in such large letters as they write ‘Here is a good horse for hire,’ let the words on my sign say ‘Here you may see Benedick the married man.’”

“If that should ever happen,” Claudio said, “you would become as mad as a charging bull — you would be horn-mad.”

“If Cupid has not already shot all the arrows in his quiver at the licentious ladies in Venice, he will shoot one at you soon and make you quake with love for a woman,” Don Pedro said.

“I look for an earthquake too, then,” Benedick said. “An earthquake is just as likely.”

“Your resolve not to be married will weaken and become more temperate as time goes on,” Don Pedro said. “In the meantime, good Signior Benedick, go to Leonato, give him my compliments, and tell him I will not fail to show up for supper; for indeed he has gone to great lengths to prepare a feast.”

“I have almost wit enough in me for such a courteous mission,” Benedick said. He then started to use the conclusion of an old-fashioned, conventional, fancy, formal letter: “And so I commit you —”

“To the safe-keeping of God,” Claudio continued the conclusion. “From my house, if I had one —”

Don Pedro finished the conclusion: “The sixth of July. Your loving friend, Benedick.”

“Mock me not, mock me not,” Benedick said, a little peeved that they had taken his joke and had teased him about his lack of courtesy toward women. “Quit fooling around. Your conversation is like a garment that is decorated with odds and ends of cloth, and your decorations are but lightly sewn on. Before you mock the conclusions of old letters — and mock me — examine your conscience. You will see that I am right, and so I leave you.”

He exited.

Now that Claudio was alone with Don Pedro, he spoke seriously to him: “My liege, your highness now may do me good.”

“My friendship for you is such that I am eager to learn how I may do you good,” Don Pedro said. “Even if the lesson will take effort, I am eager to learn it as long as it will help you.”

“Does Leonato have a son, my lord?” Claudio asked. Even though he loved Hero, he was practical and wanted to know if Leonato had a male heir who would inherit Leonato’s property. If Leonato had no male heir, more property would come to Hero.

“He has no child but Hero; she’s his only heir,” Don Pedro said. “Do you love her, Claudio?”

“My lord, when we went onward to fight this war that has just ended in victory for you, I looked upon Hero with the eyes of a soldier. I liked her, but I had a rougher task at hand — I needed to fight rebels, not to turn likeinto love. But now I have returned from war, and now that war-thoughts have departed from my mind, I have room for love-thoughts of soft and delicate desires. These thoughts are all about how beautiful young Hero is and how I liked her before I went to war.”

“You will act like a lover soon and bore your hearers by reciting love poems to them,” Don Pedro said. “If you love fair Hero, enjoy your love-thoughts. I will speak first with her and then with her father, and I shall get her for you — you and she will be married. Isn’t this what you had in mind when you began to speak to me after Benedick left us?”

“You know what I wanted, and you could tell just by looking at me that I am in love,” Claudio said, “but I was worried that you might think that my love for Hero arose too suddenly. I was going to explain my love by telling you a long story.”

“The bridge does not need to be much wider than the river,” Don Pedro said. “You need say no more words than are necessary. In addition, the best gift is whatever is most needed. You want and need to marry Hero, and I will help make that happen. I know that we shall have some entertainment — a dance at which we will wear masks — tonight. I will disguise myself as you, and I will tell fair Hero that I am Claudio. I will tell her privately that I love her and want to marry her. She will agree — she will be taken prisoner because of the force and strong encounter of my amorous words. Then I will go to her father and get his permission for you to marry her. In short, and finally, she will be your wife. Let us put this plan into action immediately.”

They exited in order to get dressed for the masked dance.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: WHY I SUPPORT SAME-SEX CIVIL MARRIAGE

WHY I SUPPORT SAME-SEX CIVIL MARRIAGE

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Two versions follow. One is LONG (2,490 words); one is SHORT (1,100 words).

  • ••

VERSION 1: Long Version

Why I Support Same-Sex Civil Marriage

By David Bruce (2,490 words)

I know some gays and lesbians, and I like them and realize that they are capable of long-term, committed, same-sex relationships. I would not deny them the ability to marry someone they love simply because they love someone of the same sex as themselves. Therefore, I am for same-sex civil marriage.

Arguments For Same-Sex Marriage

My main reason for wanting to allow same-sex couples to be legally joined in a civil marriage is that marriage is a way for committed couples, whether same sex or opposite sex, to show love and commitment to each other. Many same-sex couples have been together for years, are deeply in love, and wish to be married. Kathy Belge tells the story of how she came to be married to Tay, her partner of almost twelve years, in her online article “A Lesbian Marriage: I Wed My True Love.”

In February 2004 she and her partner went to San Francisco in order to be legally married. Ms. Belge was so nervous that she held out the wrong hand for her partner to put the ring on. Ms. Belge had to take the ring off and put it on the correct hand. Ms. Belge writes, “They say every woman dreams of her wedding day. As a child, I never did. But if I had, I don’t think I could have imagined a day with more meaning. It meant so much to be able to share that moment with so many other couples. My wedding day was not just about me and my beloved. It was about making a statement for the rights of people everywhere to be able to love whom they please.”

All adult same-sex couples who wish to be married should have the same right to be married in civil ceremonies as adult opposite-sex couples.

In addition, same-sex couples need to be married to enjoy important rights that heterosexual married couples have. Mary Bonauto, Project Director, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), wrote this on the GLAD Web site on 15 August 2003: “While gayand lesbian families can protect themselves in limited ways by creating wills, health-care proxies and co-parent adoptions, this does not come close to emulating the automatic protections and peace of mind that marriageconfers. People cannot contract their way into changing pension laws, survivorship rights, worker’s-compensation dependency protection or the tax system, to name just a few.”

Evidence for this can be found in the experience of many gay and lesbian couples. For example, Kenneth Jost, whose CQ Researcherarticle “Gay Marriage: Should Same-Sex Unions Be Legally Recognized?” appears online (subscription required), writes about Bill Flanigan and Robert Daniel, a gay couple in San Francisco, who protected themselves as much as possible by registering themselves as domestic partners under a San Francisco law. In addition, Daniel executed a health-care proxy. This proxy allowed Flanigan to make medical decisions for Daniel, who had AIDS.

Unfortunately, on Oct. 16, 2000, Daniel was admitted to the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Because Daniel and Flanigan were not legally married, and despite the health-care proxy that Daniel had executed, Flanigan was not allowed to see Daniel in his hospital room. Not until four hours had passed and Daniel’s mother and sister arrived was Flanigan allowed to see Daniel. By then, Daniel was unconscious, and he died before the two men were able to say goodbye.

Jost also points out that legal marriage gives other rights that unmarried gay and lesbian couples do not enjoy. For example, under the law marital communications are confidential: A spouse cannot be made to testify against his or spouse. Marriage also has important financial and tax benefits. For example, Richard Linnell has a health policy that covers the child whom he and his partner, Gary Chalmers, adopted, but to have Chalmers covered by the policy, Linnell has to pay extra. In addition, Gloria Bailey and Linda Davies, a lesbian couple, will have to pay taxes when they retire and sell their home and joint psychotherapy practice—taxes that a married couple would not have to pay.

Rebuttals of Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage

One argument that is sometimes made against legalizing same-sex marriage is that legalizing same-sex marriage would require churches to marry same-sex couples. This is not true. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In the United States, church and state are separated. If Congress were to pass a law that legalized same-sex marriage, that law would apply only to civil marriages. Churches would still be able to marry whomever they wish, and they would still be able notto marry whomever they wish.

Another argument that is often made against same-sex marriage is that homosexuality is against God’s wishes as revealed in the Bible. However, a Catholic priest who has argued well against this belief is Daniel A. Helminiak, author of “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.” In his “Preface to the Millennium Edition,” Helminiak says that the goal of his book is “to make available in easily readable form a summary of a growing body of scholarly literature on homosexuality in the Bible. Even in 1994, the inevitable conclusion of the scholarly research was already clear. Taken on its own terms and in its own time, the Bible nowhere condemns homosexuality as we know it today.

Helminiak does not advocate a literal interpretation of the Bible in which “a text means whatever it means to somebody reading it today.” Instead, he advocates a historical-critical reading of the Bible in which “a text means whatever it meant to the people who wrote it long ago.” Both ways of reading the Bible agree that the Bible is the Word of God.

Should a text mean whatever it means to people today, or should it mean whatever it meant to the person or people who wrote it? Let’s take a look at a passage from “The Silver Chair,” one of the children’s novels in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, a series of books with Christian themes. The characters Puddleglum, Scrubb, and Jill are among some dangerous giants. Puddleglum wants the children Scrubb and Jill, as well as himself, to pretend to be “[a]s if we hadn’t a care in the world. Frolicsome.” The children agree to the plan, and a little later we read this about Jill: “She made love to everyone—the grooms, the porters, the housemaids, the ladies-in-waiting, and the elderly giant lords whose hunting days were past. She submitted to being kissed and pawed about […].”

How should we interpret the phrase “made love to” in this passage? To today’s readers, “made love to” means “had sex with,” but that hardly seems to be the best way to interpret this passage from a Christian novel for children. What did C.S. Lewis, the author of the passage, intend by the phrase? “The Silver Chair” was first published in 1953, when “to make love to” meant to flirt with someone and be charming. That meaning is obsolete now, but it is the meaning with which Lewis used the phrase. Jill is not having sex with all these characters in the novel; she is simply being charming and making them like her.

Possibly, someone could argue that God will make sure that the words in the Bible have the meaning that He wants them to have. However, this is incorrect. For example, a 1631 edition of the King James Bible contained this remarkable typo: “Thou shalt commit adultery” (its translation of Exodus 20:14). Because of this typo, this edition of the Bible is known as the “Wicked Bible.”

When it comes to understanding what the Bible says about same-sex relationships, we have to understand what the authors of the Bible meant by same-sex relationships. In our modern culture, we know that gay men and lesbians can have loving same-sex relationships. However, what is referred to in the Bible as homosexual acts are not of that kind. For example, in the story of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-19), the men of Sodom wanted to rape the angels to whom Lot was providing hospitality. Here the offense is rape and inhospitality, not a condemnation of homosexuality as we know it today. Helminiak writes, “Not homosexuality but hardheartedness is the offense of Gibeah [see Judges 19] and of Sodom.”

According to Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 states, “If a man lie with a man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.” Here the Bible condemns the penetration of one man sexually by another man, but Helminiak looks at the reasons why this kind of sex is condemned.

The condemnation occurs in what is called the Holiness Code of Leviticus, which is concerned with keeping Israel “holy” in the sight of God. To be holy is to be set apart. The author of Leviticus was concerned with keeping the Jews different from the Gentiles. At the time, some Gentile societies permitted the penetration of one man sexually by another man. Helminiak writes, “The point is that The Holiness Code of Leviticus prohibits male same-sex acts for religious reasons, not for sexual reasons. The concern is to keep Israel distinct from the Gentiles. Homosexual sex is forbidden because it is associated with Gentile identity.”

Helminiak uses an analogy here. At one time Catholics did not eat meat on Friday. Of course, most people think that nothing is wrong with eating meat. But the Catholics were concerned with acting like Catholics and with not acting the same way as Protestants. A Catholic who then ate meat on Friday was guilty of an offense against a religious responsibility. Of course, a Catholic who now eats meat on Friday is not guilty of an offense against a religious responsibility.

Leviticus 20:13 advocates the death penalty for gay penetrative sex, and Leviticus 20:9 advocates the death penalty for cursing one’s parents: “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.” Today, we do not advocate putting to death a person who curses his parents, nor do we advocate putting to death a person who is homosexual. The circumstances that led the writer of Leviticus to prescribe the death penalty for these actions have changed.

By the way, the late Monty Python member Graham Chapman once appeared on a TV talk show, in which he discussed his homosexuality. A viewer wrote in to the talk show, enclosing in her letter some prayers for Chapman’s soul, as well as the Biblical injunction that if a man lie with another, he shall be taken out and killed. Python member Eric Idle read the viewer’s letter, then wrote her in reply, “We’ve taken him out and killed him!”

Helminiak examines other Biblical passages that seem to condemn homosexuality; his book is well worth a read. Reading his book can make people much more accepting of gays and lesbians. For example, when gay author Michael Thomas Ford came out to his sister, her response was, “Well, you know I’m okay with it, but God says it’s wrong, so you’re probably going to hell.” If Ford’s sister had read this book, she may not have said to her brother that he would probably go to hell.

An argument that is often made against homosexuality in general is that it is unnatural. However, homosexuality is widely practiced in nature by animals, as scientists are beginning to discover. Joan Roughgarden, a professor of biology at Stanford University, is one of several scientists who have studied homosexual behavior among non-human vertebrates. In the introduction to her book “Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People,” Ms. Roughgarden writes, “Much of this book presents the gee-whiz of vertebrate diversity [including] how species incorporate same-sex courtship, including sexual contact, as regular parts of their social systems.” Ms. Roughgarden believes that sex has more than just the purpose of human reproduction; it can simply be a way to have fun or to create social bonds.

Other scientists have also studied the gay animal kingdom. Bruce Bagemihl spent ten years researching his book titled “Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity.” Part of his book is devoted to showing the reaction of researchers when they realized that the animals that they were studying were gay.

Susan McCarthy, in an online review of Bagemihl’s book in Salon, wrote this: “One unusually candid biologist wrestled with the realization that the bighorn rams he studied frequently had sex with each other, and weren’t just showing nice wholesome aggression. ‘To state that the males had evolved a homosexual society was emotionally beyond me. To conceive of those magnificent beasts as ‘queers’—Oh God!’”

In “Biological Exuberance”Bagemihl writes, “Homosexual behavior occurs in more than 450 different kinds of animals worldwide, and is found in every major geographic region and every major animal group.” The main point here, of course, is that homosexual behavior is found in the natural world. If homosexual behavior is natural for animals, then we can justifiably assume that it is natural for human beings. After all, we are another species of animal, and if it were not natural for some—of course, not all—of us, then we would not see homosexuality among human beings.

Conclusion

I believe that same-sex marriage ought to be legal, and I hope that you agree that it ought to be legal, too. Of course, I am not advocating that churches ought to be forced to marry same-sex couples. I am simply saying that same-sex couples ought to be allowed by the government to have civil marriages. In doing so, same-sex married couples would have all the rights of opposite-sex married couples. In addition, they would be able to express their love and commitment to each other.

All of us should be as accepting of gays and lesbians as country music superstar Garth Brooks, whose sister is lesbian. Brooks made a pro-gay (and pro-freedom-of-religion) statement in his song “We Shall Be Free”: “When we’re free to love anyone we choose,/ When this world’s big enough for all different views,/ When we’re all free to worship from our own kind of pew,/ Then we shall be free.”

Brooks also made a pro-love statement in that song, which celebrates love, whether it is between people of different races or people of the same sex. His sister helped educate Brooks, who is heterosexual, simply by being who she was. Brooks says, “The longer you live with it, the more you realize that it’s just another form of people loving each other.”

David Bruce is a retired English teacher at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

###

VERSION 2: Short Version

Why I Support Same-Sex Civil Marriage

By David Bruce (1,100 words)

I know some gays and lesbians, and I like them and realize that they are capable of long-term, committed, same-sex relationships. I would not deny them the ability to marry someone they love simply because they love someone of the same sex as themselves. Therefore, I am for same-sex civil marriage.

Arguments For Same-Sex Marriage

My main reason for wanting to allow same-sex couples to be legally joined in a civil marriage is that marriage is a way for committed couples, whether same sex or opposite sex, to show love and commitment to each other. Many same-sex couples have been together for years, are deeply in love, and wish to be married. Kathy Belge tells the story of how she came to be married to Tay, her partner of almost twelve years, in her online article “A Lesbian Marriage: I Wed My True Love.”

In February 2004 she and her partner went to San Francisco in order to be legally married. Ms. Belge was so nervous that she held out the wrong hand for her partner to put the ring on. Ms. Belge had to take the ring off and put it on the correct hand. Ms. Belge writes, “They say every woman dreams of her wedding day. As a child, I never did. But if I had, I don’t think I could have imagined a day with more meaning. It meant so much to be able to share that moment with so many other couples. My wedding day was not just about me and my beloved. It was about making a statement for the rights of people everywhere to be able to love whom they please.”

All adult same-sex couples who wish to be married should have the same right to be married in civil ceremonies as adult opposite-sex couples. In addition, same-sex couples need to be married to enjoy important rights that heterosexual married couples have. Mary Bonauto, Project Director, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), wrote this on the GLAD Web site on 15 August 2003: “Whilegayand lesbian families can protect themselves in limited ways by creating wills, health-care proxies and co-parent adoptions, this does not come close to emulating the automatic protections and peace of mind that marriageconfers. People cannot contract their way into changing pension laws, survivorship rights, worker’s-compensation dependency protection or the tax system, to name just a few.”

Evidence for this can be found in the experience of many gay and lesbian couples. For example, Kenneth Jost, whose CQ Researcherarticle “Gay Marriage: Should Same-Sex Unions Be Legally Recognized?” appears online, Bill Flanigan and Robert Daniel, who were a gay couple in San Francisco, protected themselves as much as possible by registering themselves as domestic partners under a San Francisco law. In addition, Daniel executed a health-care proxy. This proxy allowed Flanigan to make medical decisions for Daniel, who had AIDS.

Unfortunately, on Oct. 16, 2000, Daniel was admitted to the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Because Daniel and Flanigan were not legally married, and despite the health-care proxy that Daniel had executed, Flanigan was not allowed to see Daniel in his hospital room. Not until four hours had passed and Daniel’s mother and sister arrived was Flanigan allowed to see Daniel. By then, Daniel was unconscious, and he died before the two men were able to say goodbye.

Jost also points out that legal marriage also gives other rights that gay and lesbian couples do not enjoy. For example, under the law marital communications are confidential: A spouse cannot be made to testify against his or spouse. Marriage also has important financial and tax benefits. For example, Richard Linnell has a health policy that covers the child whom he and his partner, Gary Chalmers, adopted, but to have Chalmers covered by the policy, Linnell has to pay extra. In addition, Gloria Bailey and Linda Davies, a lesbian couple, will have to pay taxes when they retire and sell their home and joint psychotherapy practice—taxes that a married couple would not have to pay.

Rebuttals of an Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage

One argument that is sometimes made against legalizing same-sex marriage is that legalizing same-sex marriage would require churches to marry same-sex couples. This is not true. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In the United States, church and state are separated. If Congress were to pass a law that legalized same-sex marriage, that law would apply only to civil marriages. Churches would still be able to marry whomever they wish, and they would still be able notto marry whomever they wish.

By the way, the late Monty Python member Graham Chapman once appeared on a TV talk show, in which he discussed his homosexuality. A viewer wrote in to the talk show, enclosing in her letter some prayers for Chapman’s soul, as well as the Biblical injunction that if a man lie with another, he shall be taken out and killed. Python member Eric Idle read the viewer’s letter, then wrote her in reply, “We’ve taken him out and killed him!”

Conclusion

I believe that same-sex marriage ought to be legal, and I hope that you agree that it ought to be legal, too. Of course, I am not advocating that churches ought to be forced to marry same-sex couples. I am simply saying that same-sex couples ought to be allowed by the government to have civil marriages. In doing so, same-sex married couples would have all the rights of opposite-sex married couples. In addition, they would be able to express their love and commitment to each other.

All of us should be as accepting of gays and lesbians as country music superstar Garth Brooks, whose sister is lesbian. Brooks made a pro-gay (and pro-freedom-of-religion) statement in his song “We Shall Be Free”: “When we’re free to love anyone we choose,/ When this world’s big enough for all different views,/ When we’re all free to worship from our own kind of pew,/ Then we shall be free.”

Brooks also made a pro-love statement in that song, which celebrates love, whether it is between people of different races or people of the same sex. His sister helped educate Brooks, who is heterosexual, simply by being who she was. Brooks says, “The longer you live with it, the more you realize that it’s just another form of people loving each other.”

David Bruce is a retired English teacher at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

###

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a cry rang out, and on a hot summer night in 1954, Josephine, wife of Carl Bruce, gave birth to a boy — me. Unfortunately, this young married couple allowed Reuben Saturday, Josephine’s brother, to name their first-born. Reuben, aka “The Joker,” decided that Bruce was a nice name, so he decided to name me Bruce Bruce. I have gone by my middle name — David — ever since.

Being named Bruce David Bruce hasn’t been all bad. Bank tellers remember me very quickly, so I don’t often have to show an ID. It can be fun in charades, also. When I was a counselor as a teenager at Camp Echoing Hills in Warsaw, Ohio, a fellow counselor gave the signs for “sounds like” and “two words,” then she pointed to a bruise on her leg twice. Bruise Bruise? Oh yeah, Bruce Bruce is the answer!

Uncle Reuben, by the way, gave me a haircut when I was in kindergarten. He cut my hair short and shaved a small bald spot on the back of my head. My mother wouldn’t let me go to school until the bald spot grew out again.

Of all my brothers and sisters (six in all), I am the only transplant to Athens, Ohio. I was born in Newark, Ohio, and have lived all around Southeastern Ohio. However, I moved to Athens to go to Ohio University and have never left.

At Ohio U, I never could make up my mind whether to major in English or Philosophy, so I got a bachelor’s degree with a double major in both areas, then I added a master’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Philosophy. Currently, and for a long time to come, I publish a weekly humorous column titled “Wise Up!” for The Athens Newsand I am a retired English instructor at Ohio U.

Shameless Commerce

Visit David Bruce’s storefront at

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/brucebATohioDOTedu

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/bruceb

By the way, this storefront offers free downloads of collections of my students’ autobiographical essays. For example, one such collection is titled Love and Friendship: Stories About Growing Up. It also has a number of free downloads of collections of good deeds.

If all goes well, I will publish one or two books a year for the rest of my life. (On the other hand, a good way to make God laugh is to tell Her your plans.)

APPENDIX B: OTHER BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR

Author: Discussion Guides Series

Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide

Dante’s Paradise: A Discussion Guide

Dante’s Purgatory: A Discussion Guide

Forrest Carter’s The Education of Little Tree: A Discussion Guide

Homer’s Iliad: A Discussion Guide

Homer’s Odyssey: A Discussion Guide

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: A Discussion Guide

Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee: A Discussion Guide

Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl: A Discussion Guide

Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”: A Discussion Guide

Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron: A Discussion Guide

Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three: A Discussion Guide

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Discussion Guide

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: A Discussion Guide

Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: A Discussion Guide

Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper: A Discussion Guide

Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind: A Discussion Guide

Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember: A Discussion Guide

Virgil’s Aeneid: A Discussion Guide

Virgil’s “The Fall of Troy”: A Discussion Guide

Voltaire’s Candide: A Discussion Guide

William Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV: A Discussion Guide

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Discussion Guide

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Discussion Guide

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: A Discussion Guide

William Sleator’s Oddballs: A Discussion Guide

(Oddballs is an excellent source for teaching how to write autobiographical essays/personal narratives.)

Retellings of a Classic Work of Literature

Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist: A Retelling

Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair: A Retelling

Ben Jonson’s Volpone, or the Fox: A Retelling

Christopher Marlowe’s Complete Plays: Retellings

Christopher Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage: A Retelling

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus: Retellings of the 1604 A-Text and of the 1616 B-Text

Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II: A Retelling

Christopher Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris: A Retelling

Christopher Marlowe’s The Rich Jew of Malta: A Retelling

Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, Parts 1 and 2: Retellings

Dante’s Inferno: A Retelling in Prose

Dante’s Purgatory: A Retelling in Prose

Dante’s Paradise: A Retelling in Prose

Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Retelling in Prose

The Famous Victories of Henry V: A Retelling

From the Iliadto the Odyssey: A Retelling in Prose of Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica

The History of King Leir: A Retelling

Homer’s Iliad: A Retelling in Prose

Homer’s Odyssey: A Retelling in Prose

Jason and the Argonauts: A Retelling in Prose of Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica

John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling

John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore: A Retelling

King Edward III: A Retelling

Tarlton’s Jests: A Retelling

The Trojan War and Its Aftermath: Four Ancient Epic Poems

Virgil’s Aeneid: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 5 Late Romances: Retellings in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 10 Histories: Retellings in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 11 Tragedies: Retellings in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 12 Comedies: Retellings in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 38 Plays: Retellings in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV, aka Henry IV, Part 1: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 2 Henry IV, aka Henry IV, Part 2: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 1 Henry VI, aka Henry VI, Part 1: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 2 Henry VI, aka Henry VI, Part 2: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI, aka Henry VI, Part 3: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s As You Like It: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Henry V: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Henry VIII: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s King John: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s King Lear: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Othello: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Richard II: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Richard III: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen: A Retelling in Prose

William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: A Retelling in Prose

Author: Kindest People Series

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 1

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 2

Author: Kindest People Volumes

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 1

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 2

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 3

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 4

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 5

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 6

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds: Volume 7

The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 1)

The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 2)

The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 3)

The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 4)

The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 5)

The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 6)

The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 7)

The Kindest People: Be Excellent to Each Other (Volume 1)

The Kindest People: Be Excellent to Each Other (Volume 2)

The Kindest People: Be Excellent to Each Other (Volume 3)

Some Other Books by David Bruce

250 Anecdotes About Opera

250 Anecdotes About Religion

250 Anecdotes About Religion: Volume 2

The Coolest People in Art: 250 Anecdotes

The Coolest People in Books: 250 Anecdotes

The Coolest People in Comedy: 250 Anecdotes

Don’t Fear the Reaper: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Art: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Books: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Books, Volume 3: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Comedy: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Dance: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Families: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Families, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Families, Volume 3: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Families, Volume 4: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Families, Volume 5: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Families, Volume 6: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Movies: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Music: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Music, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Neighborhoods: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Relationships: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People Who Live Life: 250 Anecdotes

The Funniest People Who Live Life, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds, Volume 1: 250 Anecdotes

The Kindest People Who Do Good Deeds, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

Maximum Cool: 250 Anecdotes

The Most Interesting People in Movies: 250 Anecdotes

The Most Interesting People in Politics and History: 250 Anecdotes

The Most Interesting People in Politics and History, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

The Most Interesting People in Politics and History, Volume 3: 250 Anecdotes

The Most Interesting People in Religion: 250 Anecdotes

The Most Interesting People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes

The Most Interesting People Who Live Life: 250 Anecdotes

The Most Interesting People Who Live Life, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

Resist Psychic Death: 250 Anecdotes

Seize the Day: 250 Anecdotes and Stories

Children’s Biography

Nadia Comaneci: Perfect Ten

 

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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 1-5 (Conclusion)

— 5.1 —

Falstaff and Mistress Quickly were finishing their conversation.

Falstaff said, “Please, no more prattling; go. I’ll keep my promise. This is the third time I have arranged an assignation; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers. Away I go. They say there is divinity in odd numbers, whether in nativity, chance, or death. Away!”

Some people thought that odd numbers were lucky. It was supposed to be good luck to be born or to die or to undertake a venture on an odd-numbered day.

“I will get a chain for you, and I’ll do what I can to get you a pair of horns,” Mistress Quickly said.

“Away, I say; time is passing,” Falstaff said. “Hold up your head, and mince.”

He meant for Mistress Quickly to walk away like a lady, with her head held high as she took little steps.

Mistress Quickly exited.

Mr. Ford, in disguise as Mr. Brook, entered Falstaff’s room.

Falstaff said, “How are you, Mr. Brook! Mr. Brook, the result of what we have planned will be known tonight, or never. We shall know whether Mr. Ford’s wife will commit adultery. Be in the Park about midnight, at Herne’s Oak, and you shall see wonders.”

“Didn’t you visit her yesterday, sir, as you told me you had arranged?”

“I went to her and visited her, Mr. Brook, as you see me, like a poor old man, but I came from her, Mr. Brook, like a poor old woman. Mr. Brook, that same knave Ford, her husband, had the finest mad Devil fit of jealousy in him that ever governed frenzy. I will tell you what happened: He beat me grievously, when I was in the shape of a woman; for when I am in the shape of man, Mr. Brook, I do not even fear Goliath whose spear shaft was as big as a weaver’s beam; because I also know that life is a shuttle.”

Falstaff had a good knowledge of the Bible.

1 Samuel 17:7 stated, “And the shaft of his [Goliath’s] spear was like a weaver’s beam: and his spear head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.”

Job 7.6 stated, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they are spent without hope.”

Falstaff continued, “I am in haste; go along with me. I’ll tell you everything, Mr. Brook. Since I plucked geese, played truant, and whipped top, I never knew what it was to be beaten until lately.”

Falstaff was saying that he had not been beaten since he was a boy. As a boy, he had done such things as play with tops and pull a feather from a living goose. At school, he had played truant and been whipped for it.

Falstaff continued, “Come with me, and I’ll tell you strange things about this knave Ford, on whom tonight I will be revenged, and I will deliver his wife into your hands. Come with me. Strange things are at hand, Mr. Brook! Come with me.”

— 5.2 —

At Herne’s Oak in Windsor Park, Mr. Page, Justice Shallow, and Slender were talking.

Mr. Page said, “Come, come; we’ll lie hidden in the ditch running alongside Windsor Castle until we see the light of our fairies. Remember, son Slender, my daughter —”

Slender interrupted, “Yes, truly. I have spoken with her and we have a password so we can know one another. She will wear white, I will come to her and cry ‘mum,’ she will reply ‘budget,’ and so we shall know each other.”

A mumbudget is the opposite of a fussbudget. A mumbudget is quiet, while a fussbudget constantly complains.

“That’s good, too,” Justice Shallow said, “but why do you need either your ‘mum’ or her ‘budget?’ She will be the only one wearing white, and so that is enough to know her.”

A clock tolled, and Justice Shallow said, “It is ten o’clock.”

Mr. Page said, “The night is dark; light and spirits will become it well. May Heaven prosper our sport! No man means evil but the Devil, and we shall know him by his horns. Let’s go; follow me.”

— 5.3 —

Mrs. Page, Mrs. Ford, and Doctor Caius talked on a street in Windsor.

Mrs. Page said, “Doctor Caius, my daughter is dressed in green. At the appropriate time, take her by the hand, lead her away to the deanery, and marry her quickly. Go now into the Park. Mrs. Ford and I will go there later, together.”

“I know vat [what] I have to do. Adieu,” Doctor Caius said.

“Fare you well, sir,” Mrs. Page said.

Doctor Caius exited.

Mrs. Page continued, “My husband will not rejoice so much at the abuse of Falstaff as he will chafe at the doctor’s marrying my daughter, but it does not matter; better a little chiding than a great deal of heartbreak.”

Mrs. Ford asked, “Where is Nan now and her troop of fairies, and where is Sir Hugh, who is in costume as a Welsh Devil or evil spirit?”

“They are all lying hidden in a pit near Herne’s Oak, with obscured lights. At the moment when Falstaff and we meet, they will immediately uncover their lights.”

“That will amaze and frighten him,” Mrs. Ford said.

“If he is not frightened, he will be mocked; if he is frightened, he will be mocked even more.”

“We’ll definitely deceive him,” Mrs. Ford said.

“Against such lewdsters and their lechery, those who betray them do no treachery,” Mrs. Page said.

“The hour draws on,” Mrs. Ford said. “It is almost time! To the oak, to the oak!”

— 5.4 —

Sir Hugh Evans and some others entered. Sir Hugh was disguised as a Devil, and the others were disguised as fairies.

“Trib, trib, fairies,” Sir Hugh said. “Come; and remember your parts: be pold [bold], please; follow me into the pit; and when I give the watch-’ords [watch-words], do as I pid [bid] you. Come, come; trib, trib.”

By “trib,” Sir Hugh meant “trip.” To move trippingly is to move lightly and quickly.

— 5.5 —

Falstaff, disguised as Herne the Hunter, stood by himself at Herne’s Oak.

He said to himself, “The Windsor bell has struck twelve o’clock; the moment of my meeting with the Windsor wives draws near. Now, may the hot-blooded gods assist me!Remember, Jove, you turned yourself into a bull so you could sleep with Europa; lovemade you put on your horns. Oh, powerful love! Love, in somerespects, makes a beast a man; in some other respects, love makes a mana beast. You also, Jupiter, turned yourself into a swan because of your loveof Leda. Oh, omnipotent Love! A swan is not all that different from a goose. How nearly the god acquired the temperament of a silly goose!Jove’s fault was done first inthe form of a beast. Oh, Jove, a beastly fault! And then another fault in the semblance of a fowl; think about it, Jove; it was a foul — or fowl — fault! When gods have hotbacks and lusty loins, what shall poor men do? As for me, I am here in this forest in the form of ahorned Windsor stag; and I am the fattest stag, I think, in theforest. Send me a cool rut-time, Jove, or who canblame me if I piss my tallow?”

As a fat man, Falstaff sweat a lot. He was hoping for a cool night in which to perform his lovemaking; that way, he would not excessively sweat. Stags, during rutting time, lose weight as they pursue does with which to mate. People said that the stags lost weight because fat departed their bodies with their urine. Falstaff was worried that he would lose weight through the uncomfortable process of excess sweatingand through peeing fat as well as urine.

He heard a noise and said, “Who comes here? My doe?”

Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page arrived.

Mrs. Ford said, “Sir John! Are you there, my deer? My male deer? My dear?”

“My doe with the black scut!” Falstaff said.

He was being bawdy. A scut is the tail of a deer. Applied to Mrs. Ford, a scut was pubic hair.

Falstaff continued, “Let the sky rain sweet potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of ‘Greensleeves,’ let it hail kissing-comfits and snow eryngoes — let there come a tempest of provocation and lustful stimulation; I will take shelter here.”

Sweet potatoes were thought to be aphrodisiacal, “Greensleeves” was a song about a man whose lady friend was unfaithful to him, kissing-comfits were candies eaten to sweeten the breath, and eryngoes were candied sea holly (also thought to be aphrodisiacal).

The night was dark, so Mrs. Ford said, “Mrs. Page has come with me, sweetheart.”

Falstaff, wearing horns like a stag, said, “Divide me like a bribed buck.”

He was referring to a stag that had been hunted and killed and now was being cut into pieces and distributed. The buck was a bribed buck because the hunters had bribed a gamekeeper to allow them to hunt the buck.

Falstaff said, “Each of you women will get a haunch.”

A haunch is a buttock, useful in the thrusting motion of lovemaking.

He continued, “I will keep my sides for myself, my shoulders for the forester who was bribed, and my horns I bequeath to your husbands. Am I a woodman, ha? Do I speak like Herne the Hunter?”

A woodman was a hunter; what he hunted could be game or women.

Falstaff continued, “Why, Cupid is now a child of conscience; he makes restitution. Twice before I was unsuccessful in my attempts at seduction, but now Cupid will help me succeed! As I am a true spirit, welcome!”

Noises were heard — the “fairies” were shaking their rattles.

Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford pretended to be frightened.

Mrs. Page said, “What was that?”

Mrs. Ford said, “May Heaven forgive us our sins!”

“What’s going on?” Falstaff asked.

Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford screamed and ran away.

“The Devil must be preventing me from committing adultery and being damned to Hell,” Falstaff said. “I think the Devil will not allow me to be damned, lest the oily fat that’s in me should set Hell on fire; otherwise, he would not oppose my desire to sin.”

Sir Hugh Evans, who was disguised as an evil spirit, and some others disguised as fairies — including one person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies — came out of the pit, carrying lit candles.

The person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies said, “Fairies black, grey, green, and white, you moonshine revelers and shades of night, you orphan heirs of fixed destiny, attend to your duties and your professions.

“Crier Hobgoblin, make the fairy oyes.”

Fairies are called orphans because according to tradition they do not have fathers, and they have a fixed destiny because they have duties to perform. The fairy known as Hobgoblin, for example, brings news to the fairies and cries “oyes,” which means “Hear ye” or “Listen up.”

The person disguised as Hobgoblin said, “Elves, listen for your names; silence, you airy toys. To Windsor chimneys shall leap the fairy named Cricket. If you find fires uncared for and hearths unswept, then pinch the maids as blue as blueberries. Our radiant queen hates bad housekeepers and bad housekeeping.”

Falstaff said to himself, “They are fairies; anyone who speaks to them shall die. I’ll close my eyes and lie down; no man their works must eye.”

He lay down upon his face.

The disguised Sir Hugh said, “Where’s Bede? Go you, and where you find a maid who, before she sleeps, has three times her prayers said, cause her to have pleasant dreams; she shall sleep as soundly as a carefree infant. But anyone who sleeps without having prayed for forgiveness of their sins, pinch them — pinch their arms, legs, backs, shoulders, sides, and shins.”

The person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies said,
“Go about your business. Search Windsor Castle, elves, within and out. Strew good luck, elves, on every sacred room so that it may stand until the Judgment Day, in a state as wholesome as in state it is fit, worthy the owner, and the owner it.

“The several chairs of order look you scour with juice of balm and every precious flower. Each fair installment, coat, and different crest, with loyal blazon, evermore be blest!”

In the choir of St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle were 24 stalls, aka places of installment, each devoted to one of the 24 Knights of the Garter. Fixed to the back of each stall was a coat of arms, and on top of each stall was the knight’s helmet and the particular heraldic device that decorated that particular knight’s helmet.

The person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies continued, “And nightly, meadow-fairies, look you sing, similar to the Garter’s circle, in a ring.”

The emblem of the Order of the Garter is a blue ribbon that forms a circle as it is worn above the knee. A garter is a narrow band of clothing that is fastened on the leg and used to keep up stockings.

The person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies continued, “The appearance of the fairy ring pressed on the ground, green let it be, more fertile-fresh than all the field to see.”

Fairy rings are circles on the ground that are a darker green than the other grass.

The person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies continued, “And Honi soit qui mal y pensewrite in emerald branches and flowers purple, blue, and white. Let sapphire, pearl, and rich embroidery be buckled below fair knighthood’s bending knee. Fairies use flowers for their writing.”

Honi soit qui mal y penseis French for “Shame to him who thinks evil.” This is the motto of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which was founded in 1348 by King Edward III. He picked up a lady’s garter that had accidentally fallen on the floor. Other people saw him and laughed, and he said the French words that became the motto of the order.

The person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies continued, “Away; disperse — but until one o’clock we must dance our dance of custom round about the Oak of Herne the Hunter. Let us not forget.”

The disguised Sir Hugh said, “Please, lock hand in hand; yourselves in order set and twenty glow-worms shall our lanterns be, to guide our measure — our dance — round about the tree. But, wait! I smell a man of middle-earth.”

 A man of middle-earth is a mortal male human being. Middle-earth is located between Heaven and Hell.

The “fairies” discovered Falstaff, who said to himself, “Heavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he transform me to a piece of cheese!”

Sir Hugh retained some of his Welsh accent despite making an effort to speak without it. Falstaff, despite being frightened by the fairies, was joking about the stereotype of cheese-loving Welsh people.

The person disguised as Hobgoblin said to Falstaff, “Vile worm, you were looked over and bewitched by the evil eye even during your birth.”

The person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies said, “With trial-fire touch his finger’s end. If he be chaste, the flame will back descend and cause no pain; but if he reacts with pain, his is the flesh of a corrupted heart.”

The person disguised as Hobgoblin said, “Let us have a trial by fire.”

The disguised Sir Hugh said, “Let us see if this wood will catch fire.”

Sir Hugh burned Falstaff’s fingers with his candle.

Falstaff said, “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!”

The person disguised as the Queen of the Fairies said, “He is corrupt — corrupt, and tainted in desire! Go around him, fairies; sing a scornful rhyme; and, as you trip, pinch him in time with your song.”

The “fairies” sang this song:

Down with sinful fantasy!

Down with lust and lechery!

Lust is but a fire in the blood,

Kindled with unchaste desire,

Fed in heart, whose flames aspire

As thoughts do blow them, higher and higher.

Pinch him, all you fairies, painfully;

Pinch him for his villainy;

Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about,

Until candles and starlight and moonshine be out.”

As the “fairies” danced around Falstaff and pinched him, Doctor Caius arrived and led away a “fairy” wearing green, and Slender arrived and led away a “fairy” wearing white. Then Fenton arrived. Anne Page — who was also disguised as a fairy — went to him, and they ran away together. In the midst of all this activity, hunting horns sounded and the other “fairies” ran away a short distance. Falstaff stood up.

Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page, pursued by Mr. Ford and Mr. Page, ran over to Falstaff.

Feigning anger, Mr. Page said to his wife, “No, do not run away from me. I have watched you and caught you in the act. Will no one but Herne the Hunter do for you?”

Mrs. Page replied, “Please, let’s end this jest now.”

She then said, “Now, good Sir John, how do you like the wives of Windsor?”

She added, “Do you see these horns on his head, husband? Aren’t these fair yokes better in the forest than in the town?”

Mr. Ford asked Falstaff, “Now, sir, who’s a cuckold now?”

He showed Falstaff the beard that he had used to disguise himself as Mr. Brook, and then he mimicked Falstaff’s overuse of the two words “Mr. Brook”: “Mr. Brook, Falstaff’s a knave, a cuckoldly knave. Here are his horns, Mr. Brook: and, Mr. Brook, he has enjoyed nothing of Ford’s but his buck-basket, his cudgel, and twenty pounds of money, which must be paid back to Mr. Brook. His horses have been legally seized until the money is paid back, Mr. Brook.”

Mrs. Ford said, “Sir John, we have had ill luck; we could never meet and do anything naughty. I will never take you for my love again, but I will always regard you as my deer.”

“I do begin to perceive that I am made an ass,” Falstaff said.

“True, and an ox too,” Mr. Ford said. “Both the proofs are evident.”

Falstaff had been made an ass — a fool. He had also — in a way — been made an ox, aka cuckold, as shown by the horns he was wearing. The women he wanted to sleep with were sleeping with other men — their husbands.

“These are not fairies,” Falstaff said, looking at some of the children who had pretended to be fairies. “Three or four times I thought they were not fairies, and yet the guiltiness of my mind and the sudden ambush of my wits drove the obviousness of the trickery into a genuine belief — in the teeth of all rhyme and reason — that they were fairies. See now how intelligence may be made a Jack-a-Lent — a puppet for children to throw things at during Lent — when intelligence is used for ill purposes!”

Sir Hugh, who had resumed his heavy Welsh accent now that he was no longer playing a role, said, “Sir John Falstaff, serve Got [God], and leave your desires, and fairies will not pinse [pinch] you.”

“Well said, fairy Hugh,” Falstaff replied.

Sir Hugh said to Mr. Ford, “And leave your jealousies, too, please.”

Mr. Ford replied, “I will never mistrust my wife again until you are able to woo her while using good English.”

Falstaff said, “Have I laid my brain in the Sun and dried it, so that it lacks intelligence to prevent so gross overreaching as this? Am I ridden with a Welsh goat, too? Shall I have a coxcomb of frieze — a fool’s hat made from Welsh woolen fabric? It is time I were choked with a piece of toasted cheese.”

Sir Hugh said, “Seese [Cheese] is not good to give putter [butter]; your belly is all putter.”

He meant that it was not healthy for Falstaff to put cheese in his belly because his belly was made of butter — butter creates a fat belly — and it is not healthy to eat too much butter and too much cheese.

“‘Seese’ and ‘putter’!” Falstaff said. “Have I lived to stand and be taunted by one who makes fritters of English?”

Fritters are fried pieces of dough. Inside the dough are pieces of chopped-up foods such as meat or fruit.

Falstaff continued, “This is enough to be the decay of lust and late-walking for immoral purposes through the realm.”

“Why, Sir John,” Mrs. Page asked, “do you think that even if we would have thrust the virtue out of our hearts by the head and shoulders and have given ourselves without scruple to Hell, that the Devil ever could have made youour delight?”

Mr. Ford asked, “Could yoube their delight? Could they delight in a sausage made out of numerous ingredients? Could they delight in a bulky bag of flax?”

Mrs. Page asked, “Could we delight in a puffed-up fat man?”

Mr. Page asked, “Could they delight in an old, cold, withered man who is made of intolerable fat guts.”

Mr. Ford asked, “Could they delight in a man who is as slanderous as Satan?”

Mr. Page asked, “Could they delight in a man who is as poor as Job?”

Mr. Ford asked, “Could they delight in a man who is as wicked as Job’s wife?”

Sir Hugh asked, “Could they delight in a man who is given to fornications, and to taverns and sack and wine and metheglins [spiced Welsh mead], and to drinkings and swearings and starings, pribbles and prabbles [bribbles, aka quibbles, and brabbles, aka trivial disputes]?”

“Well, I am the theme of your mockery,” Falstaff said. “You have the better of me; I am dejected; I am not able to answer the Welsh flannel who is Sir Hugh. Ignorance itself is a plummet over me. I have been so ignorant that ignorance itself is less ignorant than I am. Therefore, treat me as you will.”

Mr. Ford said, “Indeed, sir, we’ll bring you to Windsor, to one Mr. Brook, whom you have cheated of money, to whom you would have been a pander. Over and above what you have already suffered, I think to repay that money will be a biting affliction to you.”

Mr. Page added, “Yet be cheerful, knight. You shall eat a posset tonight at my house.”

A posset is a drink to be drunk and is not normally regarded as a food to be eaten; however, a posset can be regarded as a food for invalids.

Mr. Page added, “In my home I will want you to laugh at my wife, who now is laughing at you. Tell her that Mr. Slender has married her daughter.”

Mrs. Page thought, Doctors doubt that. If Anne Page is my daughter, she is, by this time, Doctor Caius’ wife.

“Doctors doubt that” meant “scholars disagree.” Of course, Mrs. Page thought that Doctor Caius would doubt that Anne Page had married Slender since by this time he — Doctor Caius — should have married Anne Page.

Slender walked up to the group and said, “Hey, father Page!”

By “father,” he meant “father-in-law,” but that was not an accurate title.

My. Page said, “Son, hello! Hello, son! Have you completed the business you wanted to complete tonight?”

By “son,” he meant “son-in-law,” but that was not an accurate title.

Slender said, “Completed the business! I’ll make the best people in Gloucestershire know what has happened about that business. I wish that I would be hanged if I do not.”

“What has happened about that business, son?” Mr. Page asked. He was referring to the business of Slender marrying Mr. Page’s daughter, Anne Page.

Slender replied, “I went yonder to the village of Eton to marry Miss Anne Page, and I found out that the person I thought was Miss Anne Page was actually a big clumsy boy. If we had not been in the church, I would have beaten him, or he would have beaten me. If I did not think it had been Anne Page, I wish I would go to sleep and never wake up again! I thought it was Anne Page, and here it was a postmaster’s boy!”

The postmaster was in charge of post horses — horses that could be ridden from one town to another for a fee. The postmaster’s boy — servant — helped take care of the horses.

“Upon my life, then, you took the wrong fairy,” Mr. Page said.

“You don’t need to tell me that,” Slender said. “I do in fact think that I took the wrong fairy; after all, I took a boy and not a girl. I swear that if I had been married to him, I would not have had him even though he was wearing women’s apparel.”

Mr. Page said, “Why, this is your own folly. Didn’t I tell you how you should know my daughter — by the color of her garments?”

Slender replied, “I went to the ‘fairy’ wearing white, and I said, ‘Mum,’ and ‘she’ said, ‘Budget,’ as Anne and I had arranged; and yet it was not Anne, but a postmaster’s boy.”

Mrs. Page said, “Good George, do not be angry. I knew about your plan to have Slender marry Anne, and so I had my daughter dress in green; and, indeed, she is now with Doctor Caius at the deanery, and there they have been married.”

Doctors doubt that.

Doctor Caius now arrived and said, “Vere [Where] is Miss Page? By gar [God], I am cozened [cheated]! I ha’ [have] married un garcon, a boy; un paysan[peasant], by gar, a boy! It is not Anne Page! By gar, I am cozened!”

Mrs. Page asked, “Didn’t you run away with the ‘fairy’ wearing green?”

“Yes, by gar, and it is a boy,” Doctor Caius said. “By gar, I’ll wake up everybody in Windsor.”

He exited.

“This is strange,” Mr. Ford said. “Who has gotten the right Anne?”

“My heart troubles me,” Mr. Page said. “Look. Here comes Mr. Fenton.”

Fenton and Anne Page walked up to the group.

Mr. Page said, “Hello, Mr. Fenton.”

“Pardon me, good father!” Anne Page said. “My good mother, pardon me!”

Mr. Page asked, “How did it happen that you did not go with Mr. Slender?”

Mrs. Page asked, “How did it happen that you did not go with Doctor Caius?”

Fenton replied for Anne Page: “You are overwhelming her. Hear the truth about what happened.You would have married her most shamefully; in the marriages you proposed for her there was no love.The truth is that she and I have been in love for a long time and have been engaged to marry each other. We are now entirely sure that nothing can dissolve the union between us because we are legally married.The offence that she has committed is holy. Her deceit cannot be called crafty,disobedient, or unduteous because by marrying me she has avoided and shunned the thousand irreligious cursed hours that a forced and loveless marriage would have brought upon her.”

Mr. Ford said to the Pages, “Do not stand here shocked. What’s done is done. When it comes to love, the Heavens themselves do rule. Money buys land, but not wives, who are acquired through the workings of fate.”

Falstaff said, “I am glad that although you took a special stand tostrike at me, your arrow has glanced off me. I am not the only one wounded tonight.”

Mr. Page said, “Well, what can I do? Fenton, may Heaven give you joy!What cannot be avoided must be embraced.”

Falstaff observed, “When dogs run at night, all sorts of deer are chased.”

Mrs. Page said, “Well, I will grumble no further. Mr. Fenton, may Heaven give you many, many merry days!”

She added, “Good husband, let all of us — including Sir John — go to our home, and laugh at tonight’s doings over a country fire.”

“Good idea,” Mr. Ford said.

He added, “Sir John, to Mr. Brook you yet shall keep your word for he tonight shall lie with Mrs. Ford.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 4-6

— 4.4 —

Mr. and Mrs. Page, Mr. and Mrs. Ford, and Sir Hugh were talking together in a room in the Fords’ house. Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page had shown their husbands the letters that Falstaff had written to them.

“It is one of the best discretions of a ’oman as ever I did look upon,” Sir Hugh said.

He meant that Mrs. Ford was one of the most sensible and discreet women that he had ever seen.

Mr. Page asked, “And did he send you both these letters at the same time?”

Mrs. Page replied, “Within a quarter of an hour.”

“Pardon me, wife,” Mr. Ford said. “Henceforth do what you will; I will suspect the Sun of being cold before I will suspect you of being wanton and unfaithful. Now my honor stands in me as firm as faith, although recently I was a heretic.”

“This is good,” Mr. Page said. “This is good, but no more, please. Be not as extreme in apologizing for an offense as you were in committing the offense.

“But let our plot go forward. Let our wives once more, to make public entertainment for us, appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow at a place where we may find him and disgrace him for what he has wanted to do.”

“There is no better way or plan than the one they spoke of,” Mr. Ford said.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Page said. “They will send him word that they’ll meet him in the park at midnight? Nonsense! He’ll never come.”

“You say he has been thrown in the rivers and has been grievously peaten [beaten] as an old ’oman,” Sir Hugh said. “I think there should be terrors in him that he should not come; methinks that since his flesh is punished, he shall have no desires to come.”

“I think so, too,” Mr. Page said.

“Plan how you’ll treat Falstaff when he comes,” Mrs. Ford said, “and let us two devise how to bring him there.”

Mrs. Page said, “There is an old tale that Herne the Hunter, who was once a forester here in Windsor Forest, all throughout the winter, at midnight, walks round about an oak while wearing great jagged horns, and there he blights the tree and takes the cattle and makes milk cows yield blood and shakes a chain in a most hideous and dreadful manner.

“You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know the superstitious idle-headed elders of long ago learned and passed down to our times this tale of Herne the Hunter as a true tale.”

“Why, even now many people are afraid in the deep of night to walk by Herne’s Oak,” Mr. Page said. “But what about this?”

“We have a plan,” Mrs. Ford said. “We want to entice Falstaff to meet us at that oak. He will be disguised as Herne and have huge horns on his head.”

“Well, let us suppose that he shows up,” Mr. Page said. “Let us also suppose that he is disguised as Herne the Hunter with horns on his head. Once he is there, what shall be done with and to him? What is your plot?”

“We have thought about that, too,” Mrs. Page said. “Nan Page my daughter and my little son and three or four more of their age and size we’ll dress like elves, the children of elves, and fairies with rounds of waxen candles on their heads, and rattles in their hands. Suddenly, as Falstaff, Mrs. Ford, and I are newly met, let them come out of a sawpit where timber is sawed and rush at us as they sing some wild and confused song. When we see them, Mrs. Ford and I in great amazedness will run away. Then they will all encircle him round about and, fairy-like, pinch the unclean knight, and ask him why, at that hour of fairy revel, in their so sacred paths he dares to tread in such a profane shape.”

“And until he tells the truth,” Mrs. Ford said, “the pretend fairies will pinch him without stopping and burn him with their candles.”

“Once the truth is known,” Mrs. Page said, “we’ll all present ourselves, take off his horns, and laugh at him all the way back home to Windsor.”

Mr. Ford said, “The children must be taught well how to do this, and they must practice, or they won’t be able to do it.”

“I will teach the children their behaviors,” Sir Hugh said, “and I will be like a jack-an-apes — an evil spirit — also, to burn the knight with my candle.”

“That will be excellent,” Mr. Ford said. “I’ll go and buy them masks.”

Mrs. Page said, “My Nan shall be the Fairy Queen, and she will be finely attired in a robe of white.”

“I will go and buy white silk,” Mr. Page said.

He thought, I also have formed a plan. During the night, Mr. Slender will steal away with Nan, my daughter, and take her to the nearby village of Eton and marry her.

He said out loud, “Send a message to Falstaff right away.”

Mr. Ford said, “I will disguise myself again as Brook and go to him. He will tell me what he intends to do. I am sure that he will come.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” Mrs. Page said. “Go and get us everything we need for our fairies.”

“Let us get going,” Sir Hugh said. “It is admirable pleasures and fery [very] honest knaveries.”

Mr. Page, Mr. Ford, and Sir Hugh exited.

Mrs. Page said, “Go, Mrs. Ford. Send a message quickly to Sir John, so that we know what he plans to do.”

Mrs. Ford exited.

Mrs. Page said to herself, “I’ll go to Doctor Caius. He has my good will, and I want no one but him to marry my daughter, Nan Page. That Slender, although he owns lots of land, is an idiot; my husband likes Slender best of all my daughter’s suitors.

“Doctor Caius is well moneyed, and his friends are powerful at court. He, none but he, shall marry my daughter even though twenty thousand men worthier than him should want to marry her.”

— 4.5 —

In a room in the Garter Inn, the Host was talking with Simple, Slender’s servant. The Host was in a good mood and using extravagant language. He was also willing to have fun at the expense of Simple.

“What would you have, boor?” the Host asked. “What, thick-skin! Speak, breathe, discuss; brief, short, quick, snap.”

“Sir, I have come to speak with Sir John Falstaff,” Simple said. “Master Slender has sent me to speak to Sir John.”

The Host pointed upstairs and said, “There’s his chamber, his house, his castle, his standing-bed and the truckle-bed that can be stored under it. Falstaff’s room has been freshly and newly painted with the story of the Prodigal Son. Go knock and call him. May Hell speak like an Anthropophaginian to you. Knock, I say.”

An Anthropophaginian is a cannibal, aka man-eater. The Host was joking that Falstaff, if he were irritated by being interrupted, might bite Simple’s head off.

“There’s an old woman, a fat woman, gone up into Falstaff’s bedchamber,” Simple said. “I’ll be so bold as to stay, sir, until she come down; indeed, I come to speak with her, not him.”

“Ha! A fat woman!” the Host said. “The knight may be robbed — I’ll call for him.”

He shouted, “Bully knight! Bully Sir John! Speak from your lungs military. Are you there? It is your Host, your Ephesian, who is calling for you.”

By “Ephesian,” the Host meant “jolly companion.”

“How are you, my Host?” Falstaff called from upstairs.

“Here’s a Bohemian-Tartar who is waiting until the fat woman with you comes down,” the Host replied. “Let her descend, bully, let her descend; my chambers are honorable. Do not expect privacy in which to do immoral acts here.”

A Bohemian-Tartar is a Tartar from Bohemia — the Host’s humorous way of referring to Simple.

Falstaff walked down the stairs and said, “There was, my Host, an old fat woman just now with me; but she’s gone.”

“Please, sir,” Simple said, “wasn’t she the wise woman of Brentford?”

A wise woman is a woman who is skilled in occult matters.

“Suppose it was, mussel shell,” Falstaff said.

Simple’s mouth was habitually open, and his mind was habitually empty; these two characteristics also apply to one mussel shell.

Falstaff continued, “What do you want with her?”

“My master, sir, Master Slender, seeing her walking through the streets, sent me to her to learn, sir, whether one Nym, sir, who cheated him out of a necklace, still had the necklace or not.”

“I spoke with the old woman about it,” Falstaff said.

“And what did she say, please, sir?”

“She says that the very same man who cheated Master Slender of his chain cozened him of it.”

“Cozened” is a word that means “cheated.”

“I wish that I could have spoken with the woman herself,” Simple said. “I had other things that my master, Master Slender, wanted me to speak to her about.”

“What are they?” Falstaff asked. “Let us know.”

“Yes,” the Host said. “Answer quickly.”

“I may not conceal them, sir,” Simple replied. He meant “reveal,” not “conceal,” but the Host joked, “Conceal them, or you die.”

“Why, sir, they were only about Miss Anne Page,” Simple said. “My master wanted to know if it is his fortune to have her or not.”

“It is,” Falstaff said. “It is his fortune.”

“To what, sir?” Simple asked.

“To have her, or not,” Falstaff replied. “Go; tell Slender the fat woman told me that.”

“May I be so bold as to say so, sir?” Simple asked.

“Yes, sir,” Falstaff said, “as if anyone could be more bold.”

“I thank your worship,” Simple replied. “I shall make my master glad with these tidings.”

Simple exited.

“You are clerkly, you are clerkly, Sir John,” the Host replied. “You are a scholar. Was there a wise woman with you?”

“Yes, there was, my Host,” Falstaff replied. “She was one who taught me more wit than ever I learned before in my life, and I paid nothing for it neither, but was paid for my learning.”

Falstaff was saying that he had learned something from the recent escapade in which he had dressed as a woman. Mr. Ford had paid Falstaff to learn — blows were Falstaff’s payment.

Bardolph entered the room and said, “Out, alas, sir! Cozenage, mere cozenage! Cheating, and nothing but cheating!”

Bardolph had ridden with the three Germans who were supposed to be using the Host’s horses to ride to the court. He had been riding on a pillion: a cushion behind a saddle for an additional rider.

“Where are my horses?” the Host asked. “Speak well of them, varletto.”

Varlettowas the Host’s Italianized word for “varlet.” The Host did not want Bardolph to say that the thieves, aka cozeners, had run off with the horses.

“The horses have run away with the cozeners,” Bardolph replied. “As soon as we arrived beyond Eton, they threw me off from behind one of them, in a slough of mire; and they used their spurs and rode quickly away, like three German Devils, three Doctor Faustuses.”

“They have gone only to meet the Duke, villain,” the Host said. “Do not say that they have fled; Germans are honest men.”

Sir Hugh entered the room and asked, “Where is the Host?”

“What is the matter, sir?” the Host asked.

“Have a care of your entertainments,” Sir Hugh said.

By “entertainments,” he meant “those whom you entertain, aka guests in the inn.

Sir Hugh continued, “There is a friend of mine come to town tells me there is three cozen-Germans that has cozened all the hosts of Reading, of Maidenhead, of Colebrook, of horses and money. I tell you for good will, look you: You are wise and full of gibes and vlouting-stocks [flouting-stocks, aka laughing-stocks], and it is not convenient you should be cozened. Fare you well.”

“Cozen” meant both “cousin, aka kinsmen or relatives” and “cozening, aka cheating.”

Sir Hugh exited the room, and Doctor Caius entered it.

He asked, “Vere [Where] is mine [my] Host de Jarteer [Garter]?”

“Here, Mister Doctor,” the Host replied, “in perplexity and doubtful dilemma.”

“I cannot tell vat is dat,” Doctor Caius said, “but it is tell-a me dat you make grand preparation for a duke de Jamany [from Germany]. By my trot [Truly], dere is no duke dat the court is know to come. I tell you for good vill [will]. Adieu.”

He exited.

The Host ordered Bardolph, “Raise the hue and cry, villain, and we will go after the thieves! Assist me, knight. I am undone! Fly, run, hue and cry, villain! I am undone!”

The Host and Bardolph exited.

Falstaff said to himself, “I wish that all the world might be cheated because I have been cheated — and beaten, too. If it should come to the ear of the court how I have been transformed and how my transformation has been washed when I hid in the buck-basket and cudgeled when I disguised myself as a fat woman, they would melt me out of my fat drop by drop and liquor fishermen’s boots with me so that the boots would be waterproof. I bet that they would whip me with their fine wits until I were as crest-fallen as a dried pear. I have not prospered ever since I cheated at the card game primero, got caught, and lied about cheating. Well, if my wind were but long enough to say my prayers, I would repent.”

Mistress Quickly entered the room.

Falstaff asked, “From where have you come?”

“From the two parties, truly,” Mistress Quickly replied.

Of course, she meant that Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford had sent her to Falstaff.

“The Devil take one party and his dam — his mother — the other!” Falstaff said, “and so they shall be both bestowed. I have suffered more for their sakes, more than the villainous inconstancy of man’s disposition — the weakness of man — is able to bear.”

“And haven’t they suffered?” Mistress Quickly said. “Yes, indeed they have — speciously [Mistress Quickly meant “especially”] one of them. Mrs. Ford, good heart, has been beaten black and blue — you cannot see a white spot on her skin.”

“Why are telling you me about black and blue?” Falstaff asked. “I was beaten myself into all the colors of the rainbow; and I was almost arrested as the witch of Brentford. If my admirable dexterity of wit, my counterfeiting the movements of an old woman, had not saved me, the knave constable would have set me in the stocks — in the common stocks — as a witch.”

“Sir, let me speak with you in your bedchamber,” Mistress Quickly said. “You shall hear how things go; and, I promise you, you will be content. Here is a letter that will help explain things. Good hearts, what trouble it is to bring you together! Surely, one of you has not served Heaven well, or else you would not be so crossed.”

“Come up into my bedchamber,” Falstaff said.

— 4.6 —

Fenton and the Host talked together in a room of the Garter Inn.

The Host, who was normally a jovial fellow, was depressed. He said, “Mr. Fenton, don’t talk to me; my mind is heavy. I will give up trying to help you marry Anne Page.”

“Listen to me for a moment,” Fenton said. “Assist me and help me marry Anne Page, and I will give you a hundred pounds in gold more than you lost when the three Germans stole your horses.”

“I will listen to you, Mr. Fenton,” the Host said, “and I will at the least keep secret what you tell me.”

“From time to time I have acquainted you with the dear love I have for fair Anne Page, who has returned my affection as much as she has been allowed to. Her love for me makes me happy. I have a letter from her with such content as will make you wonder. It has mirth that is so intermixed with my desire to marry her that mirth and important matter cannot be separated. Fat Falstaff will take a big role in a great scene: I will reveal to you what that role and scene are — it will be a great jest.

“Listen, my good Host. Tonight at Herne’s Oak, between twelve and one o’clock, my sweet Nan is supposed to play the role of the Fairy Queen. The reason why is here in this letter. While she is in this disguise, and while other jests are abundantly going on, her father has commanded her to slip away with Slender and go with him to Eton where they shall be immediately married. She has told her father that she will obey him.

“But, sir, her mother, ever strongly against Slender marrying Miss Anne, and always strongly for Doctor Caius marrying Miss Anne, has arranged that Doctor Caius will spirit her away while other entertainments are keeping everyone busy. There at the deanery, where a priest attends, Doctor Caius is supposed to immediately marry her. Anne has pretended to consent to her mother’s plot and has told Doctor Caius that she will marry him.

“This is the way things stand now. Anne’s father intends for her to be the only one dressed in white, and at the appropriate time Slender will take her by the hand and tell her to go with him, and they shall leave to be married.

“Anne’s mother intends for her to be the only one dressed in green. The colors are important because everyone will be wearing masks and costumes. Doctor Caius will recognize her by the green gown she is wearing. She will also have ribbons hanging from her head and blowing in the wind. At the appropriate time Doctor Caius will pinch her on the hand and tell her to go with him, and they shall leave to be married. Anne has told him that she will go with him.”

The Host asked, “Whom does Anne intend to deceive: her father or her mother?”

Fenton replied, “Both, my good Host. She intends to go with me and marry me. And here is what is needed: You will talk to the vicar and have him wait for us at the church between twelve and one. There he shall marry Anne and me to give our hearts united ceremony.”

“Well, do your part in the plot properly and husband your resources,” the Host said. “I’ll go and talk to the vicar. You bring the maiden; you shall not lack a priest.”

“I shall evermore be bound to you,” Fenton said. “Right now, I will give you some monetary compensation.”

***

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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 2-3

— 4.2 —

Falstaff and Mrs. Ford were speaking in a room in the Fords’ house.

Falstaff said, “Mrs. Ford, your sorrow has eaten up and taken away my suffering. I see that you return my love, and I declare to you that I match your love exactly — notonly, Mrs. Ford, in the simpleact and office of love, but in everything that accompanies it — the proper apparel, accompaniment, and ceremony. But are you sure that your husband is away now?”

“He’s hunting birds, sweet Sir John,” Mrs. Ford said.

Outside the house, Mrs. Page called, “Hello, friend! Are you home?”

Mrs. Ford said, “Step into this room and stay out of sight, Sir John.”

Falstaff went into the other room.

Mrs. Page entered the house and said, “How are you now, sweetheart? Who’s at home besides yourself?”

“Why, no one but my own servants.”

“Indeed!”

“I have told you the truth,” Mrs. Ford said.

She whispered to Mrs. Page, “Speak louder so that Falstaff can hear you.”

“Truly,” Mrs. Page replied, speaking loudly, “I am so glad you have nobody else here.”

“Why?”

“Why, woman, your husband is in his old lunatic mind again,” Mrs. Page replied. “He so takes on yonder with my husband; he so rails against all married mankind, he so curses all Eve’s daughters of whatsoever temperament, and he so hits himself on the forehead, crying, ‘Show yourself! Show yourself!’ that any madness I have ever before beheld in him now seems only tameness, civility, and patience compared to this distemper he is in now.”

When Mr. Ford hit his forehead and yelled, “Show yourself! Show yourself!” he was referring to the metaphorical cuckold’s horns that he felt that his wife had given to him.

Mrs. Page said, “I am glad the fat knight is not here.”

“Why, does my husband talk about Falstaff?” Mrs. Ford asked.

“He talks about no one but him; and he swears that Falstaff was carried out of your house in a basket the last time he searched for him. He protests to my husband that Falstaff is now here, and he has drawn my husband and the rest of their company from their hunting of birds to see whether his suspicion is correct. I am glad that the knight is not here; now your husband shall see how foolish his suspicions are.”

“How near is my husband, Mrs. Page?”

“Very near. He is at the end of the street. He will be here almost immediately.”

“I am ruined!” Mrs. Ford said. “The knight is here.”

“Why, then you are utterly shamed, and he will soon be a dead man. What a woman are you! Send him away! Send him away! Better shame than murder! You will be shamed, but if he escapes, he will avoid being murdered!”

“How can he get out of here? How can I hide him? Shall I put him into the buck-basket again?”

Falstaff came out of hiding and said, “No, I will not hide again in the basket. Can’t I leave before he arrives here?”

Mrs. Page said, “No. Alas, three of Mr. Ford’s brothers are watching the door. They are carrying pistols so that no one can go out the door; otherwise, you might slip away before he came. But what are you doing here?”

Ignoring that question, Falstaff said, “What shall I do? I know. I’ll creep up into the chimney.”

Mrs. Ford said, “Mr. Ford and his hunting partners always fire their birding guns up the chimney. It is a safe way to ensure that they are not loaded. I know where you can hide: Creep into the kiln.”

The kiln was where the cooking took place.

“Where is it?” Falstaff asked.

“My husband will look there, I swear,” Mrs. Ford said. “He will look everywhere: cupboards, coffers, chests, trunks, wells, vaults. He knows all the places where a man can hide, and he will search all of them. Falstaff, you cannot hide in this house.”

“I’ll go out of the house then.”

“If you go out of this house, you die, Sir John,” Mrs. Page said. “Unless you go out disguised —”

“How can we disguise him?” Mrs. Ford asked.

“I don’t know!” Mrs. Page said. “There is no woman’s gown big enough for him to put on as a disguise; otherwise, he might put on a hat, a muffler around his throat, and a kerchief on his head under his hat, and so escape.”

“Good hearts, devise some kind of disguise,” Falstaff said. “Better an inconvenience rather than a calamity.”

“My maid’s aunt, the fat woman of Brentford, has a dress upstairs,” Mrs. Ford said.

“I give my word that the dress will fit him,” Mrs. Page said. “She’s as big as he is: and there’s her fringed hat and her muffler, too. Run upstairs and put on her dress, Sir John.”

“Go, go, sweet Sir John. Mrs. Page and I will look for a kerchief you can put on your head.”

“Quickly, quickly!” Mrs. Page said. “We’ll come and help disguise you very soon. In the meanwhile, put on the dress.”

Falstaff went upstairs to put on the dress.

“I wish that my husband would see Falstaff in this disguise,” Mrs. Ford said. “He cannot abide the old woman of Brentford; he swears that she’s a witch and he has forbidden her to enter my house and has threatened to beat her.”

“May Heaven guide Falstaff to your husband’s cudgel, and may the Devil guide his cudgel afterwards!”

“But is my husband really coming?”

“In all seriousness, yes,” Mrs. Page said, “and he talks about the buck-basket, too, but I do not know how he learned about that.”

“We’ll make use of the buck-basket again,” Mrs. Ford said. “I’ll tell my manservants to carry the buck-basket again so that they will meet my husband at the door with it, as they did last time.”

“Your husband will be here very soon,” Mrs. Page said. “Let’s go dress Falstaff like the witch of Brentford.”

“I’ll first give my manservants orders about what they shall do with the buck-basket. Go up to Falstaff; I’ll bring him a kerchief for his head very quickly.”

Mrs. Ford departed.

Mrs. Page said to herself, “Hang Falstaff, that dishonest varlet! We cannot treat him badly enough. We’ll leave a proof, by that which we will do, that wives may be merry, and yet be honest, too. We do not commit adultery although we often jest and laugh. Remember the old, but true, proverb: Quiet swine eat all the pigswill. The pig that is quiet is the one that is actually feeding.”

She went upstairs.

Mrs. Ford came back with two manservants.

“Go, sirs, take the buck-basket again on your shoulders. Your master is almost at the door; if he orders you to set it down, obey him. Quickly, do it.”

She went upstairs.

The first manservant said, “Come, come, lift it up.”

The second manservant said, “Pray to Heaven that it is not full of knight again.”

“I hope that it is not,” the first manservant said. “I would rather carry a buck-basket filled with lead.”

Mr. Ford, Mr. Page, Justice Shallow, Doctor Caius, and Sir Hugh entered the room.

Mr. Ford said, “If my suspicions prove to be wrong, I will look like a fool, true. But if my suspicions prove to be true and I allow my wife to commit adultery through my negligence, do you have any way to make me not a fool again?”

Mr. Ford ordered the manservants, “Set down the basket, villains! Somebody call my wife. Is there a youth — a fortunate lover — in this buck-basket? Oh, you panderly rascals — you act like panders! There’s a knot of men, a gang, a pack, a conspiracy against me. Now shall the truth be revealed and the Devil shamed. Remember this proverb: Tell the truth and shame the Devil!”

No one had called his wife, so Mr. Ford did it: “Hello, wife, I say! Come, come here! Look at these honest clothes you sent forth to be bleached!”

Mr. Page said, “Why, this surpasses belief, Mr. Ford; this is incredible. You ought not to be allowed loose any longer; you ought to be tied up like a madman.”

“Why, this is lunatics!” Sir Hugh said. “This is as mad as a mad dog!”

Justice Shallow said, “Indeed, Mr. Ford, this is not well, indeed.”

“I agree, sir,” Mr. Ford replied.

Mrs. Ford entered the room.

Mr. Ford said, “Come here, Mrs. Ford: Mrs. Ford the honest and faithful woman, the modest wife, the virtuous creature, who has a jealous fool for her husband! I suspect without cause, Mrs. Ford, do I?”

“Heaven be my witness that you do,” Mrs. Ford said, “if you suspect me in any dishonesty and if you suspect that I have been unfaithful to you in any way.”

“Well said, brazen-face!” Mr. Ford said. “Keep it up.”

He then started pulling clothing out of the buck-bucket as he said, “Come out of there, damn you!”

“This surpasses everything!” Mr. Page said.

“Are you not ashamed?” Mrs. Ford said. “Let the clothes alone!”

“I shall find you,” Mr. Ford said as he searched the basket.

“It is unreasonable!” Sir Hugh said. “Will you take up your wife’s clothes? Come away.”

Sir Hugh was being unintentionally bawdy. Someone with an indelicate sense of humor could interpret Sir Hugh’s words as asking, “Will you take up your wife’s dress so you can have sex with her?”

“Empty the basket, I say!” Mr. Ford ordered.

“Why, man, why?” Mrs. Ford asked.

“Mr. Page, as I am a man, I swear that a man was conveyed out of my house yesterday in this buck-basket. Why may he not be there again? I am sure that he is somewhere in my house. My source of information is true; my jealousy is reasonable.”

He ordered again, “Pull all the clothing out of the buck-basket.”

“If you find a man there, he shall die a flea’s death,” Mrs. Ford said. “He will have to be as small as a flea to hide there, and I shall squish him between my forefinger and my thumb.”

“No man is hiding in that basket,” Mr. Page said.

“By my fidelity [faith], this is not well, Mr. Ford,” Justice Shallow said. “This disgraces you.”

Sir Hugh said, “Mr. Ford, you must pray, and not follow the imaginations of your own heart: This is jealousies.”

“Well, the man I am looking for is not here in the buck-basket,” Mr. Ford said.

“No, nor anywhere else but in your brain,” Mr. Page said.

“Help me to search my house one more time,” Mr. Ford said. “If I do not find what I am seeking, suggest no excuse for my extreme behavior, but instead joke about me at your dinner-table. Let everyone use me in comparisons: ‘As jealous as Ford, who searched inside a hollow walnut for his wife’s lover.’ Help me once more; once more search my house with me.”

Mrs. Ford called upstairs, “Mrs. Page! You and the old woman come downstairs; my husband will come into the bedchamber.”

“Old woman!” Mr. Ford said. “What old woman is that?”

“She is my maid’s aunt of Brentford.”

“She is a witch, a hussy, an old and cheating hussy! Haven’t I forbid her to enter my house? She comes on errands, does she? We are simple men; we do not know what’s brought to pass in the name of fortune telling. She works by charms, by spells, by the figure — wax effigies, pentagrams, and astrological horoscopes — and other such pretenses that are beyond our understanding and about which we know nothing!”

He called, “Come down, you witch, you hag, you; come down here, I say!”

“No, please, good, sweet husband!” Mrs. Ford said.

She added, “Good gentlemen, don’t allow him to strike the old woman.”

Falstaff, now dressed in women’s clothing, and Mrs. Page entered the room.

Mrs. Page said, “Come, Mother Prat; come, give me your hand.”

“I’ll prat her,” Mrs. Ford said.

He hit Falstaff several times and yelled, “Out of my door, you witch, you hag, you baggage, you polecat, you bad woman! Out, out! I’ll conjure you, I’ll fortune-tell you.”

Falstaff ran out the door.

“Are you not ashamed?” Mrs. Page said. “I think you have killed the poor woman.”

Mrs. Ford said, “He is willing to kill her.”

She said sarcastically to her husband, “You ought to be proud of yourself.”

“Hang her, the witch!” Mr. Ford said.

“By the yea and no, I think the ’oman is a witch indeed,” Sir Hugh said. “I like not when a ’oman has a great peard [beard]; I spy a great peard [beard] under his muffler. Witches have peards.”

“Will you follow me, gentlemen?” Mr. Ford asked. “I ask you to please follow me. See if my jealousy has a cause. If I am crying ‘Wolf’ falsely now, then do not listen to me if I ever cry ‘Wolf’ again.”

“Let’s humor him a little further,” Mr. Page said. “Come, gentlemen.”

Mr. Ford, Mr. Page, Justice Shallow, Doctor Caius, and Sir Hugh went upstairs.

Mrs. Page said, “Believe me, your husband beat Falstaff most pitifully.”

Mrs. Ford replied, “No, I swear by the Mass that he did not — he beat him most unpitifully, I believe.”

“I’ll have the cudgel he used hallowed — sanctified — and hung over the altar,” Mrs. Page said. “It has done meritorious service.”

“What do you think?” Mrs. Ford asked. “May we, with the warrant of womanhood and the witness of a good conscience, pursue Falstaff with any further revenge? Are we justified in punishing him further?”

“The spirit of wantonness is, I am sure, scared out of him,” Mrs. Page said. “Unless the Devil completely owns him with no possibility of redemption, Falstaff will never again, I think, seek to sully us by attempting to commit adultery with us.”

“Shall we tell our husbands how we have tricked and punished Falstaff?” Mrs. Ford asked.

“Yes, by all means; if for no other reason than to scrape the jealous imaginings out of your husband’s brains. If they can find in their hearts that the poor unvirtuous fat knight should be any further afflicted, the two of us will continue to administer justice to him.”

“I’ll bet that they will have him publicly shamed,” Mrs. Ford said. “I think that would be the best and most fitting conclusion to the jest. Falstaff deserves to be publicly shamed.”

“Come, let us go to the forge then and shape our next plan for revenge,” Mrs. Page said. “I would not have things cool.”

— 4.3 —

In a room of the Garter Inn, Bardolph said to the Host, “Sir, the Germans desire to have the use of three of your horses: The Duke himself will be tomorrow at the court, and they are going to meet him.”

“What Duke is he who is coming so secretly?” the Host said. “I have heard nothing about a Duke being at the court tomorrow. Let me speak with the gentlemen. Do they speak English?”

“Yes, sir,” Bardolph said. “I’ll call them to come and speak to you.”

“They shall use my horses,” the Host said, “but I’ll make them pay; I’ll sauce them and charge them a lot. They reserved rooms at my inn for a week, and I have turned away other guests. They must pay a lot; I’ll overcharge them. Come with me.”

***

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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

On a public street stood Mrs. Page, Mistress Quickly, and William Page, the Pages’ young son, who was studying Latin, as even very young pupils did at that time.

Speaking about Falstaff, Mrs. Page asked Mistress Quickly, “Do you think that he is already at Mrs. Ford’s house?”

“I am sure that he is by this time, or will be immediately, but, truly, he is very outrageously angry about being thrown into the water. Mrs. Ford wants you to go to her right away.”

Mrs. Page replied, “I’ll be with her very soon; first I need to take my young man here to school.”

She looked up and said, “Look, his schoolmaster — Sir Hugh — is coming; I see that today is a playing day — a holiday from school.”

Because Sir Hugh was a university-educated priest, he was the schoolmaster in Windsor.

She said, “How are you, Sir Hugh? Is there no school today?”

“No, there is no school,” Sir Hugh replied. “Mr. Slender has requested that I allow the boys to play today.”

“God bless him,” Mistress Quickly said.

Mrs. Page said, “Sir Hugh, my husband says my son is not learning anything at all in school. Please, ask him some questions about his knowledge of Latin.”

“Come here, William,” Sir Hugh said. “Hold up your head; come here.”

“Come on, son,” Mrs. Page said. “Hold up your head; answer your teacher, and don’t be afraid.”

With his Welsh accent, Sir Hugh asked, “William, how many numbers is in nouns?”

“Two.”

William was correct: the two numbers were singular and plural.

Latin is a language that has inflections according to number and case. The inflections are changes in the form of the word that reveal information such as whether the noun is singular or plural. The inflections also reveal whether a noun is in the nominative, genitive, accusative, ablative, or vocative case.

Mistress Quickly, who knew no Latin, said, “Truly, I thought there had been one number more because they say, ‘God’s nouns.’”

She was mistaken. People sometimes referred to God’s ’ounds, or wounds, not God’s nouns. Also, Jesus suffered five wounds on the cross, not three. He was wounded in his side, his hands, and his feet.

“Peace your tattlings!” Sir Hugh said to Mistress Quickly; he meant, “Be quiet!”

He then asked, “What is ‘fair,’ William?”

William gave the Latin word for “fair,” aka “beautiful”: “Pulcher.”

Mistress Quickly misunderstood: “Polecats! There are fairer things than polecats, surely.”

Polecats were regarded as vermin; in addition, the word “polecat” was a slang term for a prostitute.

“You are a very simplicity ’oman [simple-minded woman],” Sir Hugh said to her. “Please, be quiet.”

He then asked, “What is lapis, William?”

William correctly translated the Latin word “lapis”: “A stone.”

“And what is ‘a stone,’ William?”

“A pebble.”

Here, William answered incorrectly. Sir Hugh had wanted William to translate the English word “stone” into Latin.

Sir Hugh said, “No, it is lapis. Please, remember in your prain [brain].”

William said, “Lapis.”

“That is a good William,” Sir Hugh said. “What is he, William, who does lend articles?”

Articles are words such as “this” and “that.”

William had memorized the answer from his Latin book and quoted it word for word: “Articles are borrowed of the pronoun, and be thus declined, Singulariter, nominativo, hic, haec, hoc.”

Singularitermeans “in the singular,” nominativomeans “in the nominative case.”

Hic, haec,hocare all Latin words meaning “this.”Hicis masculine; haecis feminine; and hocis neuter.

Sir Hugh said in his Welsh accent, “Nominativo, hig, hag, hog. Please, listen: genitivo, hujus. Well, what is your accusative case?”

Genitivomeans “in the genitive case; hujusmeans “of this.”

William replied, “Accusativo, hinc.”

Accusativomeans “in the accusative case.” However, William erred when he answered hinc; he should have answered hunc.

Sir Hugh corrected him: “Please, have your remembrance, child, accusative, hung,hang, hog[hunc, hanc, hoc].”

Mistress Quickly said, “‘Hang-hog’ is Latin for bacon, I bet.”

Bacon is hung and then smoked and preserved. A story was told about a prisoner named Hog who once tried to get out of being hung by saying that he was related to a VIP named Sir Nicholas Bacon, who replied that the prisoner and he could not be related unless the prisoner was hanged because Hog does not become Bacon until it is hanged.

Sir Hugh said, “Leave your prabbles [prattling brabbles, aka trivial words], ’oman.”

He then asked, “What is the focativecase, William?”

By “the focativecase,” Sir Hugh meant “the vocative case.”

“O — vocativo, O,” William replied. In a way, William was correct. When you address someone by name in Latin, you are using the vocative case.

This is a translation of a name in the vocative case from Latin to English: “Oh, William.”

Sir Hugh said, “Remember, William; focativeis caret.”

Caretis Latin for “It is lacking.” Sir Hugh meant that although names can be in the vocative case, the articles hic, haec,hoclack a vocative case.

Mistress Quickly, who heard the Latin word “caret” but understood it to be the English word “carrot,” said, “And that’s a good root.”

Anyone with a bawdy sense of humor who heard the conversation could have had a good laugh. Sir Hugh’s pronunciation offocativecalled to mind a four-letter English word that began with fand ended with k. An “O” was a letter that was then used to refer to a vagina. And “carrot” was a word then used to refer to a penis.

Sir Hugh said to Mistress Quickly, “Stop speaking, ’oman.”

Mrs. Page added, “Quiet!”

Sir Hugh asked, “What is your genitive case plural, William?”

“Genitive case?” William asked.

“Yes.”

William answered, “Genitive — horum, harum, horum.”

He had answered correctly, but Mistress Quickly, who knew no Latin, was shocked. She understood “genitive case” to mean “Jenny’s case.” Prostitutes were called by diminutive names such as Jenny, and the word “case” was then used to refer to a vagina. In addition, she heard the Latin word “horum” and thought that she was hearing the English word “whore.”

Mistress Quickly said, “God’s vengeance on Jenny’s case! Darn her! Never say her name, child, if she is a whore.”

Sir Hugh said, “For shame, ’oman.”

Mistress Quickly defended herself: “You do ill to teach the child such words.”

She said to Mrs. Page, “He teaches him to hick and to hack, which they’ll do fast enough by themselves.”

To “hick” is to hiccup after drinking excessively, and to “hack” is to fornicate.

Mistress Quickly said to Sir Hugh, “And to say the word horum! Shame on you!”

Sir Hugh replied, “Are you lunatics, ’oman? Have you no understandings for your cases and the numbers of the genders? You are as foolish Christian creatures as I would desires.”

“Please, be quiet,” Mrs. Page said to Mistress Quickly.

Sir Hugh said, “Show me now, William, some declensions of your pronouns.”

“I have forgotten that,” William said.

“It is qui, quae, quod,” Sir Hugh said. “If you forget your quies, your quaes, and your quods, you must be preeches.”

By “preeches,” Sir Hugh meant “breeched” — William would be spanked after his britches were pulled down.

Sir Hugh then said to William, “Go your ways, and play; go.”

“He is a better scholar than I thought he was,” Mrs. Page said.

“He is a good sprag [alert, clever] memory,” Sir Hugh said. “Farewell, Mrs. Page.”

Adieu, good Sir Hugh.”

Sir Hugh departed.

Mrs. Page said to her son, “Let’s go home, boy. Come, we stay here too long.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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