Falstaff, Bardolph, Nim, and Pistol enter The Garter Inn and call for the inn's Host. Falstaff makes a deal with the Host to be housed for a certain sum, while Bardolph will double as the Host's bartender. Falstaff says he is glad to have Bardolph off his hands for a time, and tells Pistol and Nim of his plans.
He announces that he means to seduce Mistress Ford. Not only does he like her good-natured attitude, but he also hears she has control over her husband's cash. He shows two letters that he wrote, one to Mistress Ford and the other to Mistress Page, who he thought also looked favorably on him. She too holds the purse-strings in her marriage, and Falstaff hopes to benefit greatly from an affair with each. He asks Pistol and Nim to convey his letters to the ladies, but they refuse, saying that they prefer to behave respectably. Falstaff exits to find someone else to take them. Pistol and Nim scorn Falstaff's base behavior. They decide to be avenged on Falstaff and plan to go to Ford and Page to reveal his plan.
Meanwhile, Mistress Quickly awaits the return of her master, Doctor Caius while speaking to Simple. Simple explains his errand from Evans; Mistress Quickly thinks that Anne Page would do well to marry Slender, so she promises to urge Anne to make the match.
Caius approaches, so Mistress Quickly hides Simple in a closet. Caius looks for all his equipment, for he is about to depart to visit the court. He looks in the closet and encounters Simple. Quickly explains that Simple has come with an errand from Evans, and Simple says it's true, Evans sent him to ask Quickly to put in a good word for Slender with Anne. Caius is upset; he asks for paper and writes a note. While he writes, Quickly whispers to Simple that she will do all she can for his master, but the truth is that her master is in love with Anne Page too.
Caius hands his letter to Simple and announces that he will challenge Evans to a fight. He sends Simple to deliver the letter. Caius scolds Quickly, angry since she had told him she could convince Anne to marry him. Quickly insists that Anne does love him, and that Slender means nothing to her. Caius departs for court, and Quickly comments to herself that she knows Anne's mind, and doubts Anne loves either man.
Master Fenton enters to ask Quickly about Anne. Quickly swears to him that Anne loves him, and says they spoke of him at length. Fenton says he'll visit her that day and departs. Quickly reiterates that she knows Anne well and is sure she doesn't love Fenton either.
Much double-dealing begins in this scene. Falstaff's henchmen decide to tell Ford and Page of his plan to seduce their wives, while Quickly plays Slender, Caius, and Fenton with promises that she can influence Anne's choice of husband. Servants turn against their masters and drinking buddies turn against their ringleader, each attempting to influence events to their own benefit.
The scene where a French-accented Caius finds Simple in the closet is nearly pure slapstick. However, rather than beating Simple as an audience might expect, Caius sends Simple away with threats against Evans. Caius, like Evans, seems more foolish than even his actions indicate, merely because of his exaggerated accent.
Act 1 Scene 1 Slender. In the county of Gloucester, justice of peace and 5
Robert Shallow. Ay, cousin Slender, and 'Custalourum.
Slender. Ay, and 'Rato-lorum' too;
three veneys for a
dish of stewed prunes; 265
Act 1 scene 3
be cheater to them both, and they shall be
exchequers to me; they shall be my East and West
Indies, and I will trade to them both.
Act 1 scene 4
shent - put to shame