Sir John Falstaff arrives uninvited to a dinner hosted by the Slender family at their home in Windsor. He is deeply in debt and plans to charm Mrs Slender and Mrs Ford to get to their husbands' wallets.

From his room at the Capricorn Hotel, Sir John sends identical love letters to both ladies. The letters are delivered by Falstaff's servant Bardolph. Distressed by his master's behaviour, Bardolph betrays him and warns Mr Ford and Mr Slender of Falstaff's plot.

Mr Ford returns to Windsor after a week's absence. He missed the Slenders' party, but he is ready to suspect his wife of infidelity without any reason whatsoever. He goes to Mr Slender to find out if she was faithful to him.

Mrs Slender and Mrs Ford conspire to punish Falstaff by pulling a prank. Mrs Ford is happy to go ahead. Mrs Slender is afraid to take risks at first, but finally agrees to have some fun.

Mr Slender and Mr Ford, having been warned by Bardolph, argue over how Falstaff's plans should be treated. Mr Ford wants to act. Having met his wife at the Slenders', he feels his suspicions grow stronger and decides to start his own plot. He is going to visit Falstaff disguised as an extravagant rich man. Mr Slender, on the contrary, trusts his wife and imagines how his wife rebuffs the insolent suitor.

Mrs Ford comes to Falstaff's hotel disguised as a German girl. Falstaff does not recognize her and believes her when she says that Mrs Ford and Mrs Slender are head over heels in love with him. He accepts an invitation to a date with Mrs Ford, and also tries to flirt with the messenger herself, but she eludes his caresses. Another visitor comes to Falstaff — Mr Ford, under the name of Mr Broch. He bribes Falstaff to seduce Mrs Ford, whom “Broch” claims to have long unrequitedly loved. He wants Falstaff to dishonour the lady and hand her over to him. Falstaff believes "Broch" and convinces him of an easy victory. The jealous Ford loses his temper.

A fake date is being prepared at Ford's house. Falstaff flirts with Mrs Ford. Their conversation is interrupted by Mrs Slender, who reports that Mr Ford is standing at the door. A commotion breaks out, the servants hide Falstaff in a laundry basket. Just as they are ready to carry the basket away and tip its contents into the Thames, Mr Ford does appear in flesh and blood, accompanied by male neighbours, to search the house for his wife's lover. The basket is being carried out under Ford's nose. Not finding any lover, Ford is forced to give up his far-fetched jealousy and give in, falling under a hail of ridicule. However, he is not persuaded and promises to soon prove that he was right.


Mrs Ford's maid Betty reports to the merry wives how Falstaff was thrown into the water. The ladies are inspired by their success and plot to play Falstaff again. Mrs Slender again has her doubts, but Mrs Ford convinces her of the plan: Ford and his friends are out hunting, no one will interfere.

Falstaff was bathed in the Thames. He is trying to warm himself and cope with the humiliation he has experienced. Betty brings him a letter from Mrs Ford asking for a meeting. Betty claims her mistress suffers from love and shame. Having agreed to forgive the poor woman, Falstaff is ready for a new date. To "Mr Broch," who came to ask about the morning's adventure, Falstaff vividly describes the courtship, how the affair fell apart due to the sudden appearance of Ford, the tragic stay in the basket, and assures "Broch" that on a new date he will definitely finish what he started. Mr Ford becomes even more convinced of his wife's infidelity and dreams of revenge.

The new date between Falstaff and Mrs Ford is once again interrupted by Mrs Slender. She says that Ford and Slender along with other hunters intend to take the lovers by surprise. The basket trick cannot be repeated, and the women dress up Falstaff as the old aunt of Ford's cook. This gives Mrs Ford the opportunity to play a trick on the unlucky boyfriend who will be beaten by her husband, and on the husband himself, who is ready to look for his wife's lover in the laundry basket. Having laughed enough, Mrs Ford and Mrs Slender decide to tell their husbands the truth in order to play the third trick on Falstaff with their help.

Suffering from humiliation and beatings, Falstaff, however, is again ready to try his luck on a date with Mrs Ford. This time he is ordered to get a deer head with horns, dress up as a hunter Herme and wait by the oak tree in the park. The fake Mr Broch is ready to help to search for the head: having learned the truth about the prank from his wife, Ford feels much calmer, although he has not completely recovered from jealousy.

Mr Slender reflects on the vicissitudes of love and trust. Mrs Slender, Mrs Ford, and their friends are looking forward to fun and to punishment for the insolent Falstaff.

Appearing under the oak tree, Falstaff readily embraces Mrs Ford and Mrs Slender, but they quickly disappear, and in the darkness the residents of Windsor dressed as fairies and spirits attack him. Having tormented Falstaff enough, the pranksters reveal the truth to him: thrice in one day he was fooled by those whom he himself wanted to fool.