• Falstaff Synopsis

The Story

Audio tracks are embedded within each activity. A pronunciation guide and "Who's Who" chart can be found here.

ACT I Scene 1: The Garter Inn, Windsor, England. As the curtain rises, one Dr. Caius is accusing two associates of the venerable scoundrel Sir John Falstaff, Bardolfo and Pistola, of thievery. With trickster logic and wit verging on condescension, Falstaff shoos Caius away. Falstaff has money problems and chastises Bardolfo and Pistola for enjoying themselves at his expense. Falstaff lays out a scheme to wheedle cash out of two wealthy housewives, Alice Ford and Meg Page, by sending them both love letters. But Bardolfo and Pistola refuse to deliver them, claiming the scheme offends their sense of honor. Infuriated, Falstaff assails the thieves’ “honor” and sends them packing.

Scene 2: The Garter Inn. When Meg Page excitedly tells Alice Ford that she’s received a love note from the old knight Falstaff, she learns Alice is holding an identical note. The wives decide to teach Falstaff a lesson: Alice will accept his advances, then expose him. They enlist Alice’s daughter, Nannetta, and their friend, Mistress Quickly, to help with their plan. Meanwhile, Bardolfo and Pistola denounce Falstaff to Alice’s husband, Ford. Also present are Dr. Caius, whom Ford has chosen as Nannetta’s husband, and the young Fenton, whom Nannetta loves. The jealous Ford fears his wife will give in to Falstaff’s overtures. He decides to double-trick the knight and test his wife’s fidelity by visiting Falstaff in disguise and asking him to seduce Alice. Three intrigues unfold at once: The women and men plan their schemes, while Fenton and Nannetta find a moment to kiss.

ACT II Scene 1: The Garter Inn. Falstaff holds court at the inn. First, Bardolfo and Pistola pretend to seek forgiveness and rejoin his service. Next, Mistress Quickly arrives with an invitation from Alice to visit her at home that afternoon. Falstaff is delighted. Then Bardolfo introduces a “Mister Brook”—Ford in disguise. “Brook” offers Falstaff money to seduce a certain virtuous Alice Ford, in order to clear the path for “Brook” to woo Alice himself. Falstaff reveals that he’s already set up an assignation with her. When he heads off to change his clothes, Ford erupts with jealousy.

Scene 2: The Fords’ home. Mistress Quickly, Alice, and Meg are preparing for Falstaff’s visit. Only Nannetta is upset because her father insists she marry Dr. Caius. Falstaff arrives and begins his seduction. Alice deters him, saying she knows he is also courting Meg. Meg suddenly arrives, as part of the plan, to warn Alice that her husband is approaching. At that moment, Quickly rushes in with news that Ford really is on his way. As Ford, Dr. Caius, Bardolfo, Pistola, and Fenton burst in, Falstaff desperately looks for a hiding place. The women stuff him into a huge laundry basket while the men go off to search the rest of the house. Nannetta and Fenton manage to steal another kiss, which enrages Ford. Amid the confusion, Alice instructs her servants to empty the laundry basket out of the window. To everyone’s amusement, Falstaff is thrown into the Thames.

ACT III Scene 1: Outside the Garter Inn. Falstaff reflects on the wickedness of the world but is cheered up by a glass of mulled wine. Mistress Quickly appears, apologizing on Alice’s behalf, and invites him to another rendezvous—that night in Windsor Great Park. Alice, Meg, Ford, Dr. Caius, and Nannetta look on unseen as Falstaff accepts the invitation. Alice lays out a plan to ridicule the knight: they will scare him by pretending to be a band of woodland fairies. Ford secretly agrees to let Caius sneak Nannetta out of the forest and marry her.

Scene 2: Windsor Great Park. Alice, who is aware of Ford’s scheme, arranges to disguise Pistola as Nannetta. Caius will then abduct the wrong “girl,” and Nannetta can marry Fenton. Falstaff arrives at midnight to find Alice, as planned, but their meeting is interrupted by the arrival of the “fairies,” who first frighten, then prod, pinch, and make fun of Falstaff. At last, recognizing Bardolfo, whose mask has fallen off, he realizes he has been tricked—but takes it all in good humor. Dr. Caius approaches with his “bride,” only to discover “she” is Pistola. Alice escorts Nannetta and Fenton to the gathering, and Ford accepts Fenton as his future son-in-law. Falstaff leads everybody in a final ensemble, declaring that everything in the world is but a joke.