Act II, Scene 2
Falstaff refuses to lend Pistol any money. He cites, as his reason, that he has been nothing but generous to Pistol and his friends, and in return they refused to carry his letters to the married ladies. He mocks that Pistol hid behind his honor.
Mistress Quickly comes in with a message from Mistress Ford. You see, Mistress Ford, despite being married, has been pursued by all sorts of suitors. They dote gifts on her like you wouldn’t believe. However, she does not find any of these men appealing. That is, until she was pursued by Falstaff. She wanted to let him know that her husband would be away from home between ten and eleven. Mistress Quickly emphasizes what a horrible, jealous man her husband is. He promises to be there for her.
Mistress Quickly also has a message from Mistress Page. She is equally intrigued by Falstaff’s offer. Unfortunately, her husband is rarely away from home. She, unlike Mistress Ford, has a loving and devoted husband, which she completely deserves because she is such a wonderful woman. Mistress Page requests that Falstaff send his young page to be a sort of go-between Mistress Page and himself. He agrees and send his boy to go with Mistress Quickly.
Bardolph brings in a Master Brook (Ford in disguise). He offers Falstaff huge sums of money. Falstaff wonders why he should be given so much money. This is when Brook (Ford) reveals that he is in love with Mistress Ford and has spent a ton of time and money attempting to win her heart to no avail. However, she has never given him any sort of love in return. Flastaff asks why Ford is telling him all of this. This is when Brook reveals his crazy scheme. You see, apparently Mistress Ford presents herself like a dutiful wife to most, but he has heard rumors that she will be unfaithful with some men. Brook (Ford) hopes that if Falstaff can bring Mistress Ford over to the dark side then he, Brook, will feel comfortable showing his own affection.
Falstaff thinks the plan is a little backwards, but he agrees because, well, money. He reveals that he is going to see Mistress Ford that very day and Brook should come to him later tonight. He, of course, takes plenty of time to mock Ford for being a cuckold, which means a man who has been cheated on.
Once alone, Ford broods over being called a cuckold and plans to barge in on his wife and Falstaff with a bunch of the other men who called him crazy for being so jealous.
Act II, Scene 3
Dr. Caius waits for the priest to arrive for their duel, but he doesn’t. Caius swears to kill him all the same.
The Host brings Shallow, Slender, and Page to see the fight. The Doctor reveals that the priest never showed. Dr. Caius wants them to bear witness that he waited a few hours for the priest. Shallow thinks they shouldn’t be fighting at all, Caius being a healer of bodies and Hugh being a healer of souls. Shallow has come to fetch the Doctor to make peace instead of jumping to the sword like they might have done in their younger days.
The Host lays out a plan to get Doctor Caius in the company of Anne Page, so that he can woo her. Secretly, he knows that Sir Hugh will be on the way.
Act III, Scene 1
Sir Hugh, the priest, walks along the field preparing to fight Dr. Caius. He sends Simple to go and find the Doctor. When he’s alone, he reveals how nervous he is. Simple returns to let him know the Doctor is headed this way.
Before the Doctor arrives, Page, Shallow, and Slender approach. All Slender can think about is Anne Page. They comment on the fact that the priest has a sword and is only wearing a doublet and stockings on such a cold day. They tell him that there is an intelligent, well-respected man who has a quarrel with him, Master Doctor Caius. Hugh dismisses him as a knave and prepares to fight him.
Caius and Hugh exchange threats and big talk, but in an aside Sir Hugh begs to have the fight abandoned. Eventually, the Host of the Garter reveals that he intentionally sent the two men to different places intentionally. He invites them back to the Garter for dinner and to settle their differences. Everyone heartily agrees, but Sir Hugh and the Doctor agree to get revenge on the Host.
Act III, Scene 2
As Master Ford leaves, he runs into Mistress Page. She is on her way to see is wife. During their conversation, Mistress Page reveals that the boy with her was Sir John Falstaff’s page. She quickly departs. Master Ford mocks Master Page for being so trusting of his wife, when clearly she is also sleeping with Falstaff.
Page, Shallow, Slender, the Host, Sir Hugh, and Doctor Caius approach on their way to see Anne Page. Master Ford invites them all to dine with them. Shallow and Slender immediately decline because they don’t want to break their plans with Anne Page. Master Page reveals that he wants his daughter to marry Slender, but Mistress Page wants her to marry the Doctor. The Host asks about Master Fenton, but Master Page swears if she marries Fenton, she won’t get any money.
Ford insists again that everyone join him to see a monster. Caius sends his servant home, and the Host goes to drink with Falstaff. Everyone else goes with Master Ford.
Act III, Scene 3
Mistress Ford instructs two of her servants to set down a basket of wash and then come to retrieve it when instructed and toss it into the river. When Robin, Falstaff’s page, informs her that Falstaff is at the back door. Mistress Page confirms that Robin has kept their secret. He confirms that Falstaff does not know that Mistress Page is there. Mistress Ford sends Robin to get Falstaff and sends Mistress Page away, reminding her of her cue.
Falstaff comes in, doting compliments on Mistress Ford. He wishes her husband dead, so he could make her a lady. Her beauty certainly lends itself to such a status. She coyly puts him off, but he persists, telling her she is simply extraordinary. She fears he loves Mistress Page. He denies it. She confesses she loves him.
That’s when Robin lets them know that Mistress Page is there. They quickly hide Falstaff. Mistress Page lets Mistress Ford know that Master Ford is on his way in a jealous rage. He swears that she has a man in the house. Unfortunately, Mistress Ford must confess that there is a man in the house. They decide they must hide him since there is no way to sneak him out. Mistress Page suggests the laundry basket. Mistress Ford is pretty sure he won’t fit. Falstaff busts out and insists on trying. Mistress Page feigns offence at him being there after writing her a letter. Falstaff hops into the basket and the servants come in to take it.
Master Ford comes in right as the servants are leaving. He briefly stops them, but ultimately doesn’t look in the basket. Ford and the other men go throughout the house to search. Mistress Ford and Mistress Page laugh about everything that is happening. They don’t know which is better, tricking Falstaff or tricking Master Ford. The men, of course, find nothing.
Master Ford is duly embarrassed and everyone teases him. Master Page invites them all to do some falconry in the morning. Master Ford agrees and promises to tell everyone why he was acting so crazy.
Act III, Scene 4
Fenton asks Anne Page’s permission to no longer pursue her father’s blessing for their marriage. She wonders how they could possibly marry then. He explains that her father thinks he is too high above her in status and only seeks to marry her so that her fortune can save his estate. He also was too rambunctious in the past and that there’s no way he could love Anne except as property. She wonders if this is all true. Fenton confesses that he first seemed Anne out for her fortune, but once he started wooing her, he found she was worth more than all the gold in the world. She begs him to continue seeking her father’s blessing.
Shallow and Slender enter the garden with Mistress Quickly. Shallow asks Mistress Quickly to break up Anne and Fenton’s conversation, so that Slender can swoop in. Mistress Quickly does just that. Anne rolls her eye explaining that Slender is her father’s choice and also super lame. Mistress Quickly pulls Fenton aside.
Shallow tries to pump Slender up to talk with Anne, but he awkwardly tells her that he had a father and tries to get Shallow to tell a story. Shallow, instead, gets to the point and says Slender loves Anne and will treat her like a gentlemen should treat a lady. Slender couches everything in underwhelming terms. Anne tells Shallow to let Slender woo for himself and Shallow leaves. Anne asks Slender what his will is. He tries to make a joke about not having written a will because he’s so young. It’s not a funny joke. She rephrases the question and he pretty much says that him courting her is all his cousin and her father’s idea.
Conveniently, her father is entering the garden at exactly that moment, so Slender can toss the explaining over to him. Master Page starts telling Anne to love Slender when he sees Fenton and tells him to get out. Fenton tries to protest, but Mistress Page also insists that he leave. Fenton tries to plead his case, but Master Page will have none of it. He leaves with Slender and Shallow.
Mistress Quickly urges Fenton to plead his case to Mistress Page. Fenton explains that he loves her daughter. Anne begs her mother to save her from marrying Slender. Mistress Page has no intention of letting her marry Slender. She wants Anne to marry Doctor Caius. Anne doesn’t like that prospect any better. Mistress Page says she won’t work for or against Fenton. She will support her daughter. Mistress and Anne Page leave.
Mistress Quickly assures Fenton that she is successfully pleading his case. He thanks her, asks her to give Anne a ring for him, and leaves. Mistress Quickly reveals that she is going to work for all three suitors, just like she said she would…and collect money from all three of them.
Act III, Scene 5
Falstaff order Bardolph to bring him some wine and toast. He recalls how he was tossed into the Thames and nearly drowned. He would have drowned if the water had been any deeper. Bardolph returns with the wine and lets Falstaff know that Mistress Quickly is looking for him. He lets her in and Falstaff asks for more wine.
Mistress Quickly explains that Mistress Ford is very sorry for the mixup at her house today and begs his forgiveness. She also wants him to come to her house that very morning. Flastaff at first scoffs at her request, but ultimately agrees to come again.
Brook (Ford) comes in shortly after Mistress Quickly leaves to hear all about what happened. Falstaff regales him with a highly exaggerated tale of what happened. Ford is clearly perturbed that he only just missed discovering Falstaff. Falstaff explains that he is going to try again shortly. Once alone, Ford swears to discover the affair this time.