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Fal. I do begin to perceive that I am made an
Ford. Ay, and an ox too; both the proofs are extant.
Fal. And these are not fairies? I was three or four times in the thought, thcy were not fairies: and yet the guiltiness of my mind, the sudden surprise of my powers, drove the grossness of the foppery into a received belief, in despite of the teeth of all rhyme and reason, that they were fairies. See now, how wit may be made a Jacka-lent, when 'tis upon ill employment!
Eva. Sir John Falstaff, serve Got, and leave your desires, and fairies will not pinse you.
Ford. Well said, fairy Hugh. Eva. And leave you your jealousies too, I pray you.
Ford. I will never mistrust my wife again, till thou art able to woo her in good English.
Fal. Have I laid my brain in the sun, and dried it, that it wants matter to prevent so gross o'erreaching as this ? Am I ridden with a Welsh goat too? Shall I have a coxcomb of frize 14 ? 'tis time I were choked with a piece of toasted cheese.
Eva. Seese is not good to give putter; your pelly is all putter.
Fal. Seese and putter! Have I lived to stand at the taunt of one that makes fritters of English ? This is enough to be the decay of lust and late walking through the realm.
Mrs. Page. Why, Sir John, do you think, though we would have thrust virtue out of our hearts by the head and shoulders, and have given ourselves without scruple to hell, that ever the devil could have made you our delight? Ford. What, a hodge-pudding ? a bag of flax ? Mrs. Page. A puffed man?
14 i. e. a fool's cap made out of Welsh materials. Wales was fqinous for this cloth.
Page. Old, cold, withered, and of intolerable entrails ? Ford. And one that is as slanderous as Satan? Page. And as poor as Job ? Ford. And as wicked as his wife? Eva. And given to fornications and to taverns, and sack and wine, and metheglins, and to drinkings, and swearings and starings, pribbles and prabbles?
Fal. Well, I am your theme; you have the start of me; I am dejected; I am not able to answer the Welsh flannel 15; ignorance itself is a plummet o'er me 16: use me as you will.
Ford. Marry, sir, we'll bring you to Windsor, to one master Brook, that you have cozened of money, to whom you should have been a pander: over and above that you have suffered, I think, to repay that money will be a biting affliction. Mrs. Ford. Nay, husband, let that go to make
amends; Forgive that sum, and so we'll all be friends.
Ford. Well, here's my hand; all's forgiven at last.
Page. Yet be cheerful, knight: thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my house; where I will desire thee to laugh at my wife, that now laughs at thee 17: Tell her, master Slender hath married her daughter.
Mrs. Page. Doctors doubt that: If Anne Page be my daughter, she is, by this, doctor Caius' wife.
[Aside. Enter SLENDER. Slen. Whoo! ho! ho! father Page. Page. Son! how now ? how now, son? have you despatched ?
15 The very word flannel is derived from a Welsh one, and it is almost unnecessary to add that it was originally the manufacture of Wales.
16 Jgnorance itself weighs me down, and oppresses me.
17 Dr. Johnson remarks, that the two plots are excellently connected, and the transition very artfully made in this speech.
Slen. Despatched !- I'll make the best in Gloucestershire know on't; would I were hanged, la, else. Page. Of what, son ?
Slen. I came yonder at Eton to marry mistress Anne Page, and she's a great lubberly boy. If it had not been i' the church, I would have swinged him, or he should have swinged me. If I did not think it had been Anne Page, would I might never stir, and 'tis a post-master's boy. Page. Upon my life then you took the wrong. Slen. What need you tell me that? I think so, when I took a boy for a girl: If I had been married to him, for all he was in woman's apparel, I would not have had him.
Page. Why this is your own folly. Did not I tell you, how you should know my daughter by her garments ?
Slen. I went to her in white, and cry'd mum, and she cry'd budget, as Anne and I had appointed; and yet it was not Anne, but a post-master's boy.
Eva. Jeshu! Master Slender, cannot you see but marry boys? Page. O, I am vexed at heart: What shall I do? Mrs. Page. Good George, be not angry: I knew of your purpose; turned my daughter into green; and, indeed, she is now with the doctor at the deanery, and there married.
Enter CAIUS. Caius. Vere is mistress Page? By gar, I am cozened: I ha' married un garçon, a boy; un paisan, by gar, a boy; it is not Anne Page: by gar, I am cozened. Mrs. Page. Why, did you take her in green? Caius. Ay, be gar, and 'tis a boy; be gar, I'll raise all Windsor.
[Erit Caius. Ford. This is strange! Who hath goi the right Anne ?
Page. My heart misgives me: Here comes master Fenton.
Enter FENTON and ANNE PAGE. How now, master Fenton ? Anne. Pardon, good father! good my mother,
pardon! Page. Now, mistress ? how chance you went not with master Slender ?
Mrs. Page. Why went you not with master doctor, maid? Fent. You do amaze 18 her: Hear the truth
of it. You would have married her most shamefully, Where there was no proportion held in love. The truth is, she and I, long since contracted, Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us. The offence is holy that she hath committed : And this deceit loses the name of craft, Of disobedience, or unduteous title; Since therein she doth evitate 19 and shun A thousand irreligious cursed hours, Which forced marriage would have brought upon
her. Ford. Stand not amaz’d: here is no remedy:In love, the heavens themselves do guide the
state; Money buys lands, and wives are sold by fate.
Fal. I am glad, though you have ta’en a special stand to strike at me, that your arrow hath glanced. Page. Well, what remedy? Fenton, heaven give
thee joy! What cannot be eschew'd, must be embrac'd. Fal. When night-dogs run, all sorts of deer are
chas'd 20. Eva. I will dance and eat plums at your wedding. Mrs. Page. Well, I will muse no further: mas
18 Confound her by your questions. 19 Avoid.
20 Young and old, does as well as backe. He alludes to Pen ton's having run down Anne Page.
Heaven give you many, many merry days!
Ford. Let it be so:—Sir John,
Of this play there is a tradition preserved by Mr. Rowe, that it was written at the command of Queen Elizabeth, who was so delighted with the character of Falstaff, that she wished it to be diffused through more plays; but suspecting that it might pall by continued uniformity, directed the poet to diversify his manner, by showing him in love. No task is harder than that of writing to the ideas of another. Shakspeare knew wbat the queen, if the story be true, seems not to have known, that by any real passion of tenderness, the selfish craft, the careless jollity, and the lazy luxury of Falstaff must have suffered so much abatement, that little of his former cast would have remained. Falstaff could not love, but by ceasing to be Falstaff. He could only counterfeit love, and his professions could be prompted, not by the hope of pleasure, but of money. Thus the poet approached as near as he could to the work enjoined him; yet, having perhaps in the former plays completed his own idea, seems not to have been able to give Falstaff all his former power of entertainment.
This comedy is remarkable for the variety and number of the personages, who exhibit more characters, appropriated and discriminated, than perhaps can be found in any other play.
Whether Shakspeare was the first that produced upon the Eng. lish stage the effect of language distorted and depraved by provincial or foreigu pronunciation, I cannot certainly decidel. This mode of forming ridiculous characters can confer praise only on
1 In The Three Ladies of London, 1584, is the character of an Italian Merchant very strongly marked by foreign pronunciation. Dr. Dodypoll, in the comedy of that name, is, like Caius, a French physician. This piece appeared at least a year before The Merry Wives of Windsor. The hero of it speaks such another jargon as the antagonist of Sir Hugh, and like him is cheated of his mistress. In several other pieces, more ancient than the earliest of Shakspeare's, provincial characters are introduced. In the old play of Heary V. French soldiers are introduced speaking broken English