Act Two: The Plot Thickens Around Falstaff’s Waist

Act Two of The Merry Wives of Windsor begins with Mistress Page entering with Falstaff’s letter:

Ask me no reason why I love you; for though Love use Reason for his physician, he admits him not for his counselor. You are not young, no more am I; go to then, there’s sympathy: you are merry, so am I; ha, ha! then there’s more sympathy: you love sack, and so do I; would you desire better sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page,–at the least, if the love of soldier can suffice,–that I love thee. I will not say, pity me; ’tis not a soldier-like phrase: but I say, love me. By me,
Thine own true knight,
By day or night,
Or any kind of light,
With all his might
For thee to fight,
JOHN FALSTAFF
  • II.i.4-18

She vows “revenge” (II.i.28), and she wants to share this with her BFF Mistress Ford, but before Page can tell of Ford of her letter, Ford tells of her own need to be “revenged on (Falstaff)” (II.i.60). The reason is simple according to Mistress Page:

Letter for letter, but that the name of Page and Ford differs! … I warrant he hath a thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for different names
  • II.i.64-65, 67-69

They trade bawdy fears of Falstaff (“boarding” and “com[ing] below [her] hatches” [II.i.81 and 84]), vow revenge (again), and then Mistress Ford reveals the one positive to Falstaff’s lascivious letter: “It would give eternal food to (Ford’s) jealousy” (II.i.91-92).

Meanwhile, Ford and Page enter with Pistol and Nym, who tell the husbands individually of Falstaff’s amorous intentions toward their wives. While Page “never heard such a drawling, affecting rogue” (II.i.130-131), Ford (he of the jealousy) immediately wants to “seek out Falstaff” (II.i.129)… so much so that Ford will take on “a disguise to sound Falstaff” (II.i.215).

In Act Two, Scene Two, Falstaff is visited by Quickly who was last seen in the last scene talking to the merry wives. She tells him that Mistress Ford, who has been with “knights and lords and gentlemen” (II.ii.60), now wants Falstaff to know that “her husband will be absent between his house between ten and eleven” (II.ii.78-79). And if that news isn’t titillating enough for the old knight, Quickly informs him that “Mistress Page hath her hearty  commendations to (him) too” (II.ii.89-90). Falstaff’s ego is stroked, but he’s still surprised since “setting the attraction of (his) good parts aside, (he has) no other charms” (II.ii.98-99).

cue bad 70s porn wah-wah guitar…

Before Falstaff can run off to ready himself for his elicit rendezvous with Mistress Ford, he receives a visitor, Master Brook. Actually Ford in disguise, “Brook” asks Falstaff for his help in wooing the Mistress Ford, and he is willing to pay a “bag of money” (II.ii.161) for it. Falstaff takes on the job, telling Brook that he will “enjoy Ford’s wife” (II.ii.241) because he himself will be “with her between ten and eleven” (II.ii.249). Falstaff even brags that he will use her as the “key of the cuckoldy rogue’s coffers” (II.ii.258). After Falstaff exits, Ford fumes, and he vows revenge on the old knight.

The short third and final scene of Act Two takes us to a field near Windsor where Caius readies himself for the duel with Hugh Evans. Page, Shallow, Slender and the Host of the Garter Inn arrive, and we hear outrageous insults from the Frenchman, while the newcomers (save for the Host) watch in bemused amazement. The Host sends the three men ahead to get Evans from town and bring him back to the field, and then eggs on Caius more, even convincing the Frenchman that the Host will bring him to “where Mistress Anne Page is… and thou shalt woo her” (II.iii.77-78).

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