Merry Wives of Windsor: Novel Summary: Act I Scene 4

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Act I Scene 4
At Dr. Caius's house, Mistress Quickly has received the letter from Evans, and she questions Simple about who Slender is, as she is having difficulty remembering him. She then instructs him to tell Evans that she will do what she can to further Slender's cause with Anne Page.
Dr. Caius's servant John Rugby warns Quickly that Caius is on his way home. She shuts Simple in the closet, because she knows Caius will be angry if he finds him in the house.
Caius enters, speaking almost unintelligible English in a French accent. He summons Rugby and then goes to the closet, where he discovers Simple. He is furious and tells Rugby to fetch his rapier. Quickly tries to calm him down by explaining that Simple came on an errand from Evans. She explains what the errand was, and then tells Simple in an aside that she will do what she can to advance Slender's cause with Anne Page, even though she knows that Caius is also in love with the girl. In the meantime, Caius writes a challenge to Evans (even though Evans was only the bearer of a message) and reproaches Quickly who, he says, promised that he would be able to have Anne. Quickly assures him that Anne loves him.
After Caius exits, with Rugby in tow, Quickly in a soliloquy says that Caius has no chance with Anne. Quickly claims to knows Anne's mind better than anyone, and also has more influence on her than anyone.
Fenton enters, inquiring about Anne, whom he wants to marry. Quickly assures him that Anne loves him. Fenton gives Quickly some money, and asks her to put in a good word for him to Anne. Quickly agrees, but after Fenton leaves, she lets on that Anne does not love him.
Analysis
Shakespeare's satire of the Elizabethan use of go-betweens in marriage negotiations kicks into high gear in this scene, in the figure of Mistress Quickly. She acts as a kind of universal go-between, promising to help all of Anne's various suitors. In this scene she manages to promise Slender, Caius and Fenton that she is on their side. She claims to know Anne's mind better than anyone. We see no evidence of this in the play, but Quickly seems to have convinced everyone it is true, and she is careful to give all the suitors hope, even if it means telling a few lies. She tells Fenton, for example, that Anne loves him, but as soon as he is gone, she reveals that Anne does not love him. We also see once more how money greases the wheels of love, since Fenton pays Quickly for her service. He gains nothing from this investment, however, since Quickly appears to do nothing at all to advance his cause.

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