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The Merry Wives of Windsor | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Merry Wives of Windsor | Act 4, Scene 3 | Summary



At the Garter Inn, Bardolph informs the Host his three German guests require horses to go pay their respects to a visiting duke. The Host is surprised—he hasn't heard of any duke visiting the court. Nonetheless he agrees to lend his horses to the Germans, though he promises to "sauce" them (charge a hefty sum) for the privilege.


This scene contains the first mention of "Germans" in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Never seen onstage, these three shifty figures are usually identified as part of Sir Hugh and Doctor Caius's revenge plot against the Host. Much earlier in the play, the Doctor promises to send the Host "good guest[s]" by way of thanks for his help. Now it seems, he has decided to refer some bad guests to give the meddling Host his comeuppance.

In sending the supposed Germans to stay at the Garter Inn, Sir Hugh and the Doctor are hitting the Host where it hurts: the guests virtually take over the inn for a week, leave without paying, and even steal the horses they have borrowed in this scene. A final twist of dramatic irony is the Host's belief he will profit from the Germans rather than the other way round. Only in Act 4, Scene 5 does he realize he has been cheated.

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