William Shakespeare: Merry Wives of Windsor, Act IV, Scene IV
Enter Page, Ford, Mistress Page, Mistress Ford, and Sir Hugh Evans
Pardon me, wife. Henceforth do what thou wilt;
I rather will suspect the sun with cold
Than thee with wantonness: now doth thy honour stand
In him that was of late an heretic,
As firm as faith.
'Tis well, 'tis well; no more:
Be not as extreme in submission
As in offence.
But let our plot go forward: let our wives
Yet once again, to make us public sport,
Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow,
Where we may take him and disgrace him for it.
You say he has been thrown in the rivers and has been grievously peaten as an old 'oman: methinks there should be terrors in him that he should not come; methinks his flesh is punished, he shall have no desires.
Devise but how you'll use him when he comes,
And let us two devise to bring him thither.
There is an old tale goes that Herne the hunter,
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns;
And there he blasts the tree and takes the cattle
And makes milch-kine yield blood and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner:
You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Received and did deliver to our age
This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.
Why, yet there want not many that do fear
In deep of night to walk by this Herne's oak:
But what of this?
Well, let it not be doubted but he'll come:
And in this shape when you have brought him thither,
What shall be done with him? what is your plot?
That likewise have we thought upon, and thus:
Nan Page my daughter and my little son
And three or four more of their growth we'll dress
Like urchins, ouphes and fairies, green and white,
With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads,
And rattles in their hands: upon a sudden,
As Falstaff, she and I, are newly met,
Let them from forth a sawpit rush at once
With some diffused song: upon their sight,
We two in great amazedness will fly:
Then let them all encircle him about
And, fairy-like, to-pinch the unclean knight,
And ask him why, that hour of fairy revel,
In their so sacred paths he dares to tread
In shape profane.
And till he tell the truth,
Let the supposed fairies pinch him sound
And burn him with their tapers.
The truth being known,
We'll all present ourselves, dis-horn the spirit,
And mock him home to Windsor.
I will teach the children their behaviors; and I will be like a jack-an-apes also, to burn the knight with my taber.
That silk will I go buy.
And in that time
Shall Master Slender steal my Nan away
And marry her at Eton. Go send to Falstaff straight.
Exeunt Page, Ford, and Sir Hugh Evans
Go, Mistress Ford,
Send quickly to Sir John, to know his mind.
Exit Mistress Ford
I'll to the doctor: he hath my good will,
And none but he, to marry with Nan Page.
That Slender, though well landed, is an idiot;
And he my husband best of all affects.
The doctor is well money'd, and his friends
Potent at court: he, none but he, shall have her,
Though twenty thousand worthier come to crave her.