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Act V, Scene 5
In another part of the park, Falstaff, disguised as Herne and wearing horns, seeks Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page at the appointed hour. When the two wives enter, Falstaff embraces Mrs. Ford. Suddenly, the noise of horns is heard, and both the ladies run off. Sir Evans, Pistol, Quickly (dressed as the Fairy Queen), and all the children disguised as fairies enter carrying tapers. Quickly orders the company to torment Falstaff. The fairies start pinching Falstaff and burning him with their tapers. At the same time, Quickly sings a song reproaching him for his lust.
Dr. Caius arrives, sees a fairy in green, and whisks her away, thinking it is Anne. Slender spies a fairy dressed in white and takes her away. At the same time, Fenton steals off with Anne. The fairies then disperse, and Falstaff removes his disguise. Page, Ford, and their wives enter and reveal to Falstaff how he has been duped. Ford also reveals that it was he who had disguised himself as Mr. Brook. Falstaff is shocked.
The Pages congratulate themselves on their respective matchmaking. Slender then arrives, complaining that he has found himself married to a boy who was dressed in green. Caius relates the same experience with the fairy in white. Fenton and Anne then enter and inform the Pages of their marriage. The parents, seeing the happiness of the newlyweds, accept Fenton as a son-in-law. Mrs. Page then invites all the characters home to laugh over the previous incidents and to rejoice over the wedding.
The play comes to a climatic close with the final exposure of Falstaff. Just as Falstaff is ready to seduce both Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford, the fairies arrive and begin to torment him mercilessly. In the confusion of Falstaff being pinched and burned, Slender and Caius seize the opportunity to steal their fairies, one in green and one in white; both men erroneously believe that have stolen Anne Page.
When Falstaff can take no more torture, he removes his costume. Mr. Page and Mr. Ford arrive on the scene to tell Falstaff how he has been duped. He is shocked over the whole situation and especially surprised to learn that Mr. Brook is really Mr. Ford. Falstaff has been fully and appropriately humiliated, making the plot end in comedy. The audience hopes that this scoundrel has learned his lesson and will never again look at another married woman.
Ironically, Slender and Caius have also been duped, for they have stolen fairies that are really little boys; without realizing their mistakes, both men have "married" the fairies they believed to be Anne. At the same time, Fenton and Anne have had a wedding ceremony performed by the vicar. When the newlyweds appear on the scene, Anne's parents accept her marriage good- naturedly, providing a truly happy ending.
The style of the last scene is that of a masque, a dramatic form characterized by masked actors, costumes, dance, lines of verse, and an otherworldly setting. Masques, which had a magical aura to them, were usually performed as entertainment to celebrate events at court; this masque, however, has a very different purpose. It ironically results in the unmasking of Falstaff; in the end he is shown for what he truly is - a conniving, outrageous (but harmless) fool. Since the wives of Windsor have succeeded in overcoming this rascal, the plot ends as a comedy. The happy ending is intensified by the union of Anne and Fenton, bringing the sub-plot to a comic close