Act V Scene 4
Beadles enter dragging Hostess Quickly and Doll Tearsheet. (Beadles were minor officials who had the authority to carry out punishments for minor offenses.) Doll is to be whipped for prostitution. She is also being blamed because a man was killed in the Boar's Head tavern either in a fight over her, or while she was present. Doll protests loudly, pretending that she is pregnant, and she warns the beadles that they will be in trouble if she should miscarry as a result of the whipping.
This scene is a reminder of the harshness of punishments in medieval and Elizabethan England, which included the public whipping of women at Bridewell, in London. The practice was not abolished until 1791.
The arrest of Doll is also an indication that the law may finally be catching up with the crew who hang out at the Boar's Head.