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Summary Act V

SCENE I. A room in the Garter Inn.

Enter Falstaff and Mistress Quickly. The two converse, having just discussed the letter, and Falstaff agrees to the third date with Mistress Ford, hoping that it will be more successful than the last two. Quickly departs to help the others prepare for the prank.

Master Ford enters disguised as Brooke; Falstaff tells him that the matter between him and Mistress Ford will be decided that night. Ford asks how the second date went; Falstaff relates the account and tells him that he will get revenge on Ford that night; he also promises he will deliver Mistress Ford into Brooke’s hands, opposed to keeping her for himself.

SCENE II. Windsor Park

Enter Master Page, Shallow and Slender. The three prepare for the night. Page reminds Slender to elope with his daughter in all the confusion.

SCENE III. A street leading to the park.

Enter Mistress Page, Mistress Ford and Caius. The three prepare as well; Mistress Page reminds Caius, too. The women express their enthusiasm about their prank.

SCENE IV. Windsor Park.

Enter Evans, disguised, with others as fairies. He brings those he’s with to their hiding spots.

SCENE V. Another part of Windsor Park.

Enter Falstaff disguised as Herne, clad with large horns upon his head (a symbol for cuckolded husbands; also sexual). He talks to himself about the Greek Gods. Mistress Ford and Mistress Page enter; Falstaff affably welcomes them. Abruptly, they hear a noise and the women run away. Evans disguised as before, Pistol as a hobgoblin, and others disguised as fairies enter singing of magic and the supernatural. Falstaff, scared stiff, falls to the ground and hides his face.

Evans proclaims that he “smells a man of middle-earth;” Mistress Quickly surmises that they can put Falstaff through a trial of fire to determine his purity: if he burns he proves unchaste. Quickly assays him with a candle; predictably he burns, and the children proceed to sing and pinch Falstaff for being an errant man. During the confusion, Caius and Slender come and steal who they believe to be Anne Page; Fenton comes and steals away the real Anne Page. Falstaff pulls off his buck’s head and rises to exit.

However, before he can make his escape, Ford, Page, Mistress Ford, and Mistress Page enter. Page tells Falstaff that they have caught him trying to seduce Mistress Ford; Master Ford discloses to Falstaff the he was Brooke and that he plans to take Falstaff’s horses for the money that Falstaff took from him. Falstaff realizes that he’s been made a fool and inquires as to whether the fairies were real. Evans answers, telling him that so long as he serves God they ought not bother him. Evans also tells Ford to leave his mistrust of his wife behind; Ford responds “I will never mistrust my wife again, till thou art able to woo her in good English.”

The women ask Falstaff if he had seriously thought they would risk their honor for such a base man. Falstaff gives no straight answer, but nevertheless concedes his humiliation and forfeits, telling them that they can do what they want with him. Ford tells him that they will bring him back to Windsor so he can pay off his debts; Page invites him to dine at his house on account of his daughter’s wedding.

Slender enters flurried, protesting that the person he abducted during all the confusion was not Anne Page, but rather “a great lubberly boy,” which he nearly ended up marrying. Page and Slender argue until Mistress Page divulges that she’s tricked them both. Suddenly, Caius enters with similar news, except that he has accidentally married the boy he took! Caius exits and Ford wonders who took Anne. Fenton and Anne enter; Anne’s parents ask why she defied them; Fenton explains their love for each other and that they’ve just been married. Ford eloquently declares how love directs our fate. With the marriage done, the parents agree that they ought to welcome Fenton, instead of scorn him. The play ends with Ford telling Falstaff that he, indeed, held his promise: Brooke will get to have Mistress Ford. Everybody exits.

William Shakespeare