Act I Scene 3
Falstaff tells the Host that he must get rid of some of his hangers-on, since his expenses are too high. The Host says he will give Bardolph a job as a tapster, serving liquor. Bardolph likes this idea, saying he has wanted such a life. Falstaff is pleased to get rid of him. Falstaff then confides to Pistol and Nym that he has almost run out of money, but he has hatched a scheme that will remedy his fortunes. He plans to seduce Fords wife, since she has control of her husbands money. He has written her a love letter, and has also written to Mrs. Page with a similar idea in mind. She also controls her husbands money. Falstaff tells Pistol and Nym to deliver the respective letters, promising them that they will all thrive. But Pistol and Nym refuse, and Falstaff cuts them off from his company and gives the letters to Robin to deliver.
Seeking revenge on Falstaff, Nym says he will inform Page of Falstaffs plan. Pistol says he will inform Ford.
This scene sets the second plot, the humiliation of Falstaff, in motion. This plot has similarities with the other plot (the courting of Anne Page), since both are concerned with monetary gain for men through alliance with a woman. But whereas the courting of Anne Page (and her inheritance) is a socially acceptable way of advancing ones own financial interests, Falstaffs attempts to accomplish the same goal fall outside the bounds of the moral code that governs the life of the society depicted in the play.
The Falstaff depicted in this scene, and throughout the Merry Wives of Windsor, is a lesser character than the witty, astute rogue who appears in Henry IV parts 1 and 2. The Falstaff of the Henry plays, for example, would not be foolish enough to think that the two women concerned were giving him “the leer of invitation.” This Falstaff lacks both the self-knowledge and the shrewd judgment of the earlier comic figure.
Act I Scene 3