The Merry Wives of Windsor

by: William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scenes iii-vi

Mistress Quickly enters with a message from Mistresses Ford and Page. She says that Mistress Ford, too, was beaten, and is upset at Falstaff's misfortune. Quickly says she has news and urges that they speak in private.

Fenton and the Host speak; the young suitor asks the Host to help him. He speaks of his love for Anne Page. He just received a letter from her, he says, that tells of a plot to trick Falstaff. Her father has commanded her to dress in white as a fairy queen and to elope with Slender once the confusion arises. Meanwhile, her mother has ordered her to dress in green with a mask and to elope with Caius. The Host asks which of her parents she means to deceive; both, says Fenton. He asks the Host to help him procure a vicar who will marry them that evening.


The story about a German duke is a fiction made up by Caius and Evans to avenge themselves on the Host. The unfolding of this scheme is somewhat unclear during the play, which means that, sometime between the first performance of the play and its publication, a scene or more may have been lost wherein some characters may have disguised themselves as Germans and fooled the Host.

Mistresses Page and Ford reveal to their husbands that they have lured Falstaff to Mistress Ford's house in order to humiliate him, thus concluding the part of the plot necessitating them fooling their husbands. Mistress Ford teaches her husband that he shouldn't be jealous, for she is an honest woman, and Mistress Page reaffirms her virtue in her husband's eyes. Once they see the schemes of their wives, they want to join in and make sure Falstaff suffers one more time. By this time, their point has been proven, but they go on anyway with complex plans for a supernaturally-tinged final humiliation, which will overlap with various elopement plans.

Ford has learned the error of his ways, but Page and his wife have not yet learned their lesson. As each parent schemes to have their favorite meet their daughter in a different outfit and elope, they each continue to demonstrate their great flaw--an inability to listen to their daughter. They each believe that they are more right than the other, and both smarter than their daughter, about whom she should marry. But in the final unfolding of events, they will find they were both wrong and should have listened to her.

Fenton's discussion with the Host about the letter he received from Anne is the only scene in the play spoken exclusively in verse. Fenton's high estimation of his love may account for his speech, whereas prose spoken elsewhere in the play illustrates the middle-class milieu of Windsor's natives.