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MonkeyNotes-The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
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Act III, Scene 3

Mistress Page and Mistress Ford enter a room in Ford's house. They ask the servants to quickly bring a "buck basket" (laundry basket) and set it down. Mrs. Ford instructs them that the moment she calls them, they must take the basket and empty it in the ditch by the Thames River. Robin then enters the scene, informing them of Falstaff's arrival. They are prepared for the visit, and Robin and Mrs. Page exit. Falstaff enters and begins to shower Mrs. Ford with compliments. Mrs. Ford goes along with her planned pretension, acting like she is seducing him. At that moment, Robin, from within, announces that Mrs. Page is on her way. Falstaff is perturbed at the thought of facing both women and hides himself in the laundry basket. Mrs. Page and Robin enter and inform Mrs. Ford of her husband's arrival with a platoon of friends. The signal is then given to the servants, who come in to carry the laundry basket and empty it into the ditch, dumping Falstaff into the water in the process.

When Ford enters, he questions his servants about the presence of the laundry basket; he accepts their explanation that it contains dirty linen which has to be washed at Datchet Mead. The upset Ford is so sure of his suspicions regarding his wife's betrayal that he and his friends search all over the house for Falstaff, but to no avail (since he is hidden in the laundry basket). Page and the others reproach Ford for his unwarranted jealousy. Ford, too, is temporarily mollified.


Notes

This scene is again filled with humor and dramatic irony. The plan formed by the two wives of Windsor to trick Falstaff is a success. With skill, they have anticipated everything. In the event that Mr. Ford arrives at the wrong moment to interrupt their plans, they have placed in the room a laundry basket in which Falstaff can be hidden. They have even arranged with the servants to come and carry out the basket when they are summoned; the servants are told to dump its contents into the ditch.

The obnoxious, but naïve, Falstaff arrives, with no inkling that he is being duped. Mrs. Ford responds positively to him, and he is lavish in his praise for her, telling her she is beautiful; he also bemoans that fact that she is still Ford's wife. As he woos her, Robin enters and announces that Mrs. Page has arrived and that Mr. Ford and a group of his friends are also on their way. Falstaff, in a panic about facing these newcomers, hides himself in the laundry basket.

Certain of his wife's guilt, Ford enters the house and does a thorough search for Falstaff. When he cannot locate him, his friends criticize Ford for the unfounded jealousy for his wife. In the midst of the confusion, the signal is given to the servants, who come in and carry out the laundry basket with Falstaff inside. This humiliating exit clashes with Falstaff's presentation of himself as a gallant lover.

It is important to note Ford's exchange with his wife, which is filled with humor and marked by a play on words; both husband and wife use the word "buck," but with two very different meanings, for it is a synonym for "laundry" and for "cuckold". During the interchange, Mrs. Ford clearly has the upper hand, while her husband is left in anxiety. At the end of the scene, Ford apologizes to his wife for his suspicions, but he is still not completely convinced of her innocence. He decides to bide his time until another opportunity arises.

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