— 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.”
“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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