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MonkeyNotes-The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
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Act II, Scene 2

Falstaff and Pistol enter a room in the Garter Inn. They bicker among themselves, with Falstaff refusing to lend money to Pistol. Robin enters, informing them of Mistress Quickly's arrival. Quickly reports to Falstaff that Mrs. Ford expects her husband to be away from home between ten and eleven, and that he may visit her then. There is also an encouraging message from Mrs. Page, but Quickly falsely assures Falstaff that neither woman knows of the other's love for him. She also tells him that Mrs. Page wishes him to send Robin to act as a messenger for her. Falstaff is thrilled by his easy success in winning over both Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page.

Bardolph enters, informing Falstaff that a Mr. Brook wishes to see him. Ford, disguised as Brook, appears and requests Falstaff to help him in wooing Mrs. Ford. He claims that he has always loved her, but she has refused to give herself to him. He says that he wants Falstaff to seduce Mrs. Ford so that she will no longer be able to hide behind her purity and deny his (Brook's) desires. Ford, disguised as Brook, even offers to pay Falstaff for this service. Falstaff cannot believe his good luck. He boasts to Brook of his conquest of Mrs. Ford and promises to report his success in the evening. When Brook asks about Mr. Ford, Falstaff curses him and calls him a cuckold. After Falstaff leaves, Ford is consumed by jealousy and resentful of his wife's supposed actions.


Notes

This entire scene is filled with dramatic irony, for the audience and most of the characters know more about what is going on than Falstaff does. He naively believes everything he is told and proceeds to make a complete fool of himself. In his pomposity and self-importance, Falstaff immediately believes Mrs. Quickly's glowing (but false) report of the success of his letters to Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford. As a result, he is ready to carry out his plan of seduction without any hesitation. On hearing Mr. Brook's proposal about Mrs. Ford, he is doubly jubilant, for he can now prove his seduction to a third person and earn some profit in the process.

Falstaff states to Brook that he has already won Mrs. Ford for himself and then pretends to act generously by offering Mrs. Ford to Brook (whom the audience knows to be Ford himself.) Falstaff furthermore foolishly and ironically blackens Mr. Ford's reputation by calling him a 'poor cuckoldly knave' and a 'jealous wittolly knave.' (Wittoll' is formed from 'wittol,' a husband who is complaisant about being cuckolded.)

Obviously a doubting Thomas about his wife, Ford believes the lies that Falstaff tells about Mrs. Ford. It is not surprising, therefore, that Ford, still disguised as Brook, becomes very angry over the whole situation and calls Falstaff a 'damned Epicurean (meaning sensual) rascal'. His utter lack of trust in his wife is very disconcerting, especially when he says, "I will rather trust a Fleming with my butter, Parson Hugh, the Welshman, with my cheese, an Irishman with my aqua vitae bottle . . . than my wife with herself."

Several references to money in this section continue the financial theme that was first introduced with the mention of Anne Page's dowry at the very beginning of the play. Falstaff and Pistol argue over money as the scene opens; Ford-as-Brook offers Falstaff money to seduce his wife; and Mistress Quickly, who lies to Falstaff here, is being paid for her involvement in another of the play's love-plots.

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