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Falstaff emerges and says he'll consent to be smuggled out. Mistress Page pretends to be surprised to see him, and she asks him if he wrote love letters to her recently. He whispers that he loves her, then climbs into the basket. Mistresses Ford and Page hide him by piling dirty clothes on top, and they order two servants to carry the basket away. They are poised to leave when Ford, Page, Caius, and Evans enter.
Ford enters, intending to catch Falstaff. The servants depart with the basket. He and the other men look around the house but don't find anyone. Mistress Ford and Page find that they don't know whom they enjoy fooling more, Falstaff or Ford. The Mistresses agree that Ford seemed sure that Falstaff would be there, and his jealousy is especially horrible. They plan to play more tricks on Falstaff to draw out the root of Ford's jealous behavior.
The men return from their searching. Mistress Page says that Ford wrongs Mistress Ford to distrust her. Evans and Caius agree that Mistress Ford seems to be honest. Page suggests that the men go hunting together the next day, and Caius and Evans reaffirm their plot against the Host.
Caius and Evans, the two men with accents, band together when they realize that the Host intends to make fools of them. It was Caius, however, who challenged Evans to fight; the Host did not arrange that, so it's unclear what exactly they think the Host has done to make them look foolish, beyond making fun of their speech. This is a side-plot that never quite develops fully.
Meanwhile, Mistresses Page and Ford put on a show for Falstaff when Mistress Page enters in a flurry with news that Ford is on his way. As it turns out, Ford is rushing to the house with officials of Windsor, and they are lucky to get Falstaff out of the house before Ford can discover Falstaff in his house, confirming his worst suspicions. They're delighted to find that this anxiety-producing chain of events has the double bonus of showing Ford to be an unreasonably jealous man in front of his friends. In fact, it's so entertaining that they decide to lure Falstaff again, in order to multiply their pleasure in deceiving and humiliating the two men.
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
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