Merry Wives of Windsor: Novel Summary: Act V Scene 1-5
Falstaff has agreed to go to the wood, hoping this will be third time lucky. Ford, disguised as Brook, enters, and Falstaff tells him to go to the forest at midnight. He tells Brook about his misadventure disguised as the old woman of Brainford, disparages Ford and promises vengeance on him, and promises that Brook will have Ford's wife.
In scene 2, on the outskirts of Windsor forest, Page, Shallow and Slender rehearse their plans. Shallow tells Slender that he will recognize Anne by her white garments.
In scene 3, Mrs. Page tells Caius that her daughter will be dressed in green, and that he should slip away with her whenever a moment presents itself. She knows her husband will be angry, but she thinks that is better than the heartbreak that would ensue if Anne is forced to marry Slender.
Eagerly anticipating yet another humiliation of Falstaff, Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford depart for Windsor Park.
In scene 4, in the park, Evans leads the children disguised as fairies and tells them to remember their parts.
In scene 5 Falstaff enters, wearing a buck's head, as he has been instructed. It is just after midnight. Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page enter, and Falstaff embraces Mrs. Ford. He is delighted to hear that Mrs. Page is there also. But then there is the sound of horns, and the women run away.
Evans enters, dressed like a satyr (a mythical creature, half-man, half-beast), with Anne Page and the children, Pistol dressed as a hobgoblin, and Mistress Quickly dressed like the Queen of Fairies. Quickly and Pistol speak some rhymes addressed to the fairies. Falstaff, believing that anyone who speaks to fairies will die, lies face down and closes his eyes.
Evans and Quickly recite more verses and then command the fairies to dance around the tree, next to which Falstaff lies. Spotting him, Evans commands the fairies to put their tapers to Falstaff's fingers. He gives a start, and the fairies then dance around him, pinch him and recite a scornful rhyme. While this is going on, Caius steals away with a boy in green; Slender with a boy in white (each thinks he has got Anne Page), while Fenton steals away with Anne. After a noise of hunting is made, the fairies run away.
Page, Ford and their wives disclose themselves to Falstaff and mock him. He realizes that he has been made a fool of, but this does not stop their mockery. Falstaff resigns himself to enduring their insults.
Page invites Falstaff to his house for dinner, where he will be able to laugh at Mrs. Page (who is now laughing at him), because she will have found out that her daughter has married Slender (or so Page thinks). In an aside, Mrs. Page discloses that Anne has in fact married Caius (or so she thinks).
Then Slender enters, distressed. He tells how the person he thought was Anne Page turned out to be a boy. Page rebukes him for making a mess of their plan, but Slender explains that he followed it exactly. Mrs. Page tells her husband not to be angry, and explains that she put her daughter in green to foil his plan, and that Anne is now married to Caius.
Caius enters, and tells a story just like Slender's. He eloped with a boy, thinking it was Anne.
Fenton and Anne enter. They are married. Fenton rebukes her parents, saying that they wanted her to marry without love. He and Anne are now united and should not be accused of disobedience, since they married for love. Anne therefore avoided a forced, unhappy marriage. Page forgives them, and his wife follows his example. She invites everyone to their home where they can all laugh at what has happened. Falstaff is invited too, and Ford appears to be ready to forgive him his folly.
In the final scene, the community of Windsor comes together and overcomes the threat embodied in Falstaff by exposing and ridiculing him. In doing so they reaffirm the moral and social order that governs their lives. Mrs. Page gives the moral of the play in Act 5, scene 3: "Against such lewdsters and their lechery / Those that betray them do no treachery."
But anyone who knows the Henry IV plays will be disappointed to see the great wit and rogue Falstaff laid low in this manner. His abject submission, "Use me as you will," and his comment, "I am not able to answer," could not possibly have been uttered by the Falstaff of the Henry plays, who is never at a loss for words and can talk himself out of any situation.
If Falstaff is thoroughly humiliated, the other characters do not emerge unscathed either. In the marriage plot concerning Anne Page, the deceivers are themselves deceived, and their materialistic values rebuked. The young lovers, Fenton and Anne, overcome the cold practicalities of middle age. Fenton is like Falstaff in the sense that he too transgressed the social order, since he had no permission to marry Anne, but he asks for and receives forgiveness.
Merry Wives of Windsor Study GuideChoose to Continue
- Merry Wives of Windsor
- Novel Summary
- Act I Scene 1-2
- Act I Scene 3
- Act I Scene 4
- Act II Scene 1
- Act II Scene 2
- Act II Scene 3 - Act III Scene 1
- Act III Scene 2
- Act III Scene 3
- Act III Scene 4
- Act III Scene 5
- Act IV Scene 1-2
- Act IV Scene 3-4
- Act IV Scene 5-6
- Act V Scene 1-5
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- William Shakespeare
- Essay Q&A