SCENE I. A field near Frogmore.
Enter Sir Hugh Evans and Simple. Scene I opens with Evans and Simple in a field; Evans sends Simple off to continue looking for Doctor Caius, whom he is starting to think has deceived him. Simple exits briefly, Evans sings and talks to himself, and Simple reenters to inform Evans that Shallow, Master Page, and Slender are coming hither. Before long, the host of Garter Inn, Caius and Rugby also enter. Evans and Caius are disarmed so that they cannot duel, “let them keep their limbs whole and hack our English,” says the host, making fun of their accents and the Frenchman’s poor English. The host confesses that he has deceived them both, having told them to go to different locations. All but Caius and Evans exit at which point both concur to plot revenge upon the host.
SCENE II. A street.
Enter Mistress Page and Robin talking; Master Ford enters and accosts the two, upon which he inquires about Falstaff. Mistress Page and Robin exit, Ford expresses his certainty that Master Page is a fool and divulges his upcoming policy for dealing with Falstaff.
Master Page, Shallow, Slender, the host, Sir Hugh Evans, Caius and Rugby enter. Ford asks them all to come home to dine with him but he is informed that they have all prearranged to dine with Anne Page, telling him that it is the day wherein her future husband will be decided. Ford concedes that Slender is his choice, but that his wife would have Caius. Shallow and Slender leave to look for Anne Page; Rugby leaves for Caius’s house; the host leaves to find Falstaff. Ford invites them to dine again; accepting the invitation, they leave with Ford.
SCENE III. A room in Ford’s house.
Enter Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. Scene III opens with the two ladies directing some servants; Robin enters to inform them that Falstaff is waiting outside and wants to talk to Mistress Ford. Fearing that her presence would arouse suspicion, Mistress Page inconspicuously departs. Robin fetches Falstaff, who then attempts to flatter Ford by telling her that he wishes her husband was dead so that he could “make thee a lady.” Ford claims that she would not make a good lady, which Falstaff refutes. Ford claims then that she fears Falstaff loves Mistress Page, which he also refutes. Robin announces Mistress Page is at the door; Falstaff hides himself; Page enters to tell Ford that her husband is coming with men to search the house for Falstaff. Ford denies anyone that ought not to be present is but, ostensibly persuaded by fear, admits Falstaff’s presence. They hide him in a hamper full of dirty linens, which Falstaff later proclaims “was the rankest compound of villainous small that ever offended the nostril,” and order some servants to take him out and throw him into the nearby river.
Master Ford with Master Page, Caius, and Evans enter. Ford inquires what’s in the basket, but eventually lets it pass without inspection. Ford searches the house but finds nothing and is thus admonished for his jealousy. The party exits to continue searching. Mistress Ford and Mistress Page express to each other their satisfaction with the present situation, unsure who they’ve enjoyed fooling more, Ford or Falstaff. The party reenters; Master Ford is further admonished for his jealousy.
SCENE IV. A room in Page’s house.
Enter Fenton and Anne Page. Fenton complains that he cannot get Master Ford to like him, for he is of high class but squandered all his wealth and Ford believes that he is only wooing Anne for her money. He admits that this was his original intention, but has since, he tells Anne, found “the very riches of thyself.”
Shallow, Slender, and Mistress Quickly enter whereupon Shallow attempts to court Anne for Slender, who keeps evading questions Anne asks him. Anne tells Shallow to let Slender speak for himself and to let him disclose his desires. Slender informs her that he does not really care what happens.
Page and Mistress Page enter. Fenton rather unsuccessfully accosts Page and asks him permission to be with his daughter. Mistress Quickly tells him to try asking Mistress Page, which he does to more avail. Mistress Page and Anne exit. Fenton thanks Quickly, gives her money, and exits. Quickly, by herself, considers how she has promised to help Anne’s three suitors; she resolves that she will now especially help Fenton.
SCENE V. A room in the Garter Inn.
Enter Falstaff and Bardolf. Falstaff complains to himself about how his day has unfolded. Quickly enters and tells him that Mistress Ford wants to meet him again between eight and nine; however, Falstaff proclaims how he is quite fed up with Mistress Ford. Mistress Quickly tells him that his misfortune was the fault of Ford’s incompetent servants; Falstaff agrees to visit her; Quickly exits.
Ford enters disguised as Brooke, inquiring Falstaff about how the date went. Ford relates a quite exaggerated account of his day, telling Ford thinks like “we embraced, kissed, [and] protested.” He further tells him that he’s made new arrangements between eight and nine tonight, much to Ford’s dismay. Ford tells him that it’s already past eight; Falstaff bids adieu and exits. Ford soliloquies over his situation.