Act II Scene 2
Pistol asks Falstaff to lend him money, but Falstaff refuses. He says he has had enough of deflecting the demands of Pistol's creditors and swearing to them that Pistol is a reliable man. He is still annoyed by Pistol's refusal to deliver his letter, and this prompts Pistol to relent.
Mistress Quickly enters, and informs Falstaff that Mrs. Ford is thrilled by his letter. She thanks him a thousand times for it. She also wants him to know that her husband will be away from his house from ten to eleven. She invites Falstaff to visit. Quickly also informs Falstaff that his letter to Mrs. Page has also been well received. Mrs. Page's husband is seldom out of the house, however, but Mrs. Page hopes there will be a time when he is.
Quickly then arranges for Falstaff's page, Robin, to be the go-between for him and Mrs. Page.
Falstaff is delighted with his apparent success, and looks forward to getting some money from the two women.
Bardolph enters, announcing to Falstaff that a man named Brook wishes to see him. Ford enters, disguised as Brook. Ford asks Falstaff for his help. He says he is in love with Mrs. Ford, and has pursued her in earnest, but she is not the slightest bit interested in him. Ford flatters Falstaff about how accomplished a man he is, and asks him to seduce Ford's wife, since he will be able to do it as easily as any man. Ford also offers him money.
Falstaff does not understand what Ford's purpose is in asking him to do this. Ford explains that Mrs. Ford prides herself on her honor and her virtue. But if he could show her that he knows she has been having an affair with Falstaff, her defenses against him would no longer have any validity, and he would have a better chance with her.
Falstaff willingly agrees to the proposition, and accepts Ford's money. He says he will be with Ford's wife between ten and eleven. He also takes the opportunity, in the presence of Brook, to insult and deride Ford as a cuckold (a man whose wife commits adultery) and a rogue.
After Falstaff leaves, Ford gives vent to his jealousy, thinking he has proof of his wife's infidelity. He vows to prevent it from happening and be revenged on Falstaff.
In this scene, Quickly does more work as a go-between and is true to her promise to keep the secrets of the merry wives. She also shows that being a matrimonial go-between can be a profitable enterprise. Just as Fenton paid her for her anticipated services in the earlier scene, Falstaff pays her in this one. And then money changes hands again when Ford pays Falstaff. "If money go before, all ways do lie open," says Ford, a saying that certainly applies to the play so far, which has shown a lot of financial transactions and much desire for monetary gain, and very little actual love.
In his outburst of jealousy, Ford is a comic version of other jealous husbands in Shakespeare's plays, such as Leontes (in The Winter's Tale) and Othello, both of whom suspect their wives without cause.