Act III Scene 5
Falstaff tells Bardolph to get him some wine and a piece of toast. He speaks with disgust of his ordeal in being tossed into the river. Quickly enters, and Falstaff responds coldly to her. Quickly then explains that Mrs. Ford has told her that the men made a mistake in throwing the basket into the river. It was not her fault, and she is upset about it. She sends word that her husband will be out hunting birds from eight to nine, and she desires to see Falstaff again. Falstaff agrees to try again.
Ford enters, disguised again as Brook. He inquires about what happened between Falstaff and Mrs. Page. Falstaff tells him the entire truth, including another long speech about the discomfort and indignity he suffered in the basket. Ford assumes that Falstaff will no longer be pursuing Mrs. Ford, but Falstaff tells him of the new plan. It is past eight o'clock so he is ready to depart. He promises Brook again that he, Brook, will enjoy Ford's wife.
After Falstaff exits, Ford is once more beside himself with jealousy and vows that Falstaff will not escape this time.
In his soliloquy at the beginning of the scene, in which he laments his ducking in the Thames, Falstaff shows some of the wit and verbal exuberance that mark his character in the Henry IV plays. If earlier in the play, he has been something of a villain, threatening to disrupt the harmony of the community, here he appears more as victim than villain. These opposite perspectives on his character and his role in the play will continue until the end.
However, for all the wit Falstaff shows in verbalizing about his humiliation, he is still easily taken in by the merry wives' next scheme. In this respect he appears as little more than a stage buffoon rather than one of the great comic characters in English drama. Those who love Falstaff from the Henry plays are often distressed by his reduction in stature (although not in physical bulk) here.