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Act II, Scene I
The scene is a street in London. Mistress Quickly, Hostess of the Boar’s Head Tavern, asks Fang, the Sheriff’s sergeant, whether he has registered the lawsuit that she has brought against Falstaff. He assures that he has done so. They call Snare, the Sergeant’s man, and order him to arrest the knight. Miss Quickly says that Falstaff is like the devil who will not spare man, woman, or child. He stabbed her in her own house, and was not ashamed of his action. She recalls the incident when she was victimized. At this moment Falstaff appears with Bardolph and the page. Falstaff asks what’s all the fuss about. Fang tells him that he is arrested and a quarrel follows. Falstaff asks Bardolph to cut off Fang’s head and throw Quickly in the gutter. Just then the Chief Justice and his men arrive. He asks Falstaff why is he wandering aimlessly in the street when he should be hurrying to join the army in Yorkshire. Quickly tells him that she is a poor widow on whom Falstaff has imposed severe grievances and so she has had him arrested. When the Chief Justice asks Falstaff whether he is not ashamed of himself, Falstaff calmly asks the Hostess for the charges; she replies that he had promised to marry her when she dressed the head wound he had received from Prince Hal for insulting the King. Falstaff replies that the mistress has gone out of her mind and has lost her wits owing to poverty. The Chief Justice asks him to repay her money and repent for his actions. At this moment Gower, a messenger, brings news that the King and Hal are near London. The King has sent fifteen hundred soldiers and five hundred horses against the forces of Lancaster. Falstaff invites Gower to dine with him, ignoring the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice rebukes him for wandering aimlessly when he is wanted by the nation and reproves him for his bad manners. Falstaff replies that the Chief Justice was his teacher as far as manners were concerned. The Chief Justice calls Falstaff “a great fool.”
This scene gives a further insight into Falstaff. The hostess of the Boar’s Head Tavern accuses Falstaff of stabbing her in her own house. He is portrayed as a devil who will spare no one. When Fang announces his arrest, he orders Bardolph to cut off Fang’s head and to throw Quickly into the gutter. This shows that he is a man of loud words ordered to subordinates. Quickly tells the Chief Justice that Falstaff has committed several crimes against her, and being a poor widow, couldn’t bear it and has arrested him. Falstaff gives the audience a demonstration of his skill in victimizing the hostess using all his wit and substantiates her charges against him.
Quickly is a lover of using long words but has difficulty in putting them in the right places. This is known as a “malapropism.”
The Lord Chief Justice is a critic of Falstaff and a representative of law and order.