Sir John Falstaff is up to his usual tricks. Justice Shallow and his cousin, Slender, complain to Sir Hugh Evans that Falstaff has swindled them. Evans suggests they forget their grievances and that Slender court Anne Page, master Page’s daughter. The unrepentant Falstaff arrives on the scene, admitting to the swindle. Later, he decides to generate some income for himself. Convinced that both women are enamored of him, he writes identical love letters to Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, intending to gain access to their husbands’ wealth.
Elsewhere in Windsor, Mistress Quickly tells her employer, Dr. Caius, about Slender’s plan to woo Anne Page. Caius, also in love with the lass, writes a letter challenging Evans to a duel, which leads to some hilarious “sparring.” Soon, Fenton enters and reveals himself to be a third suitor for the hand of Anne Page.
Shortly, Falstaff’s amorous letters are delivered, and Mistress Page and Mistress Ford decide to teach him a lesson, with Mistress Quickly acting as go-between. Meanwhile, their husbands have learned of Falstaff’s plans. The jealous Ford decides to put his wife’s honor to the test and arranges to be introduced to Falstaff in disguise as “Mr. Brook.”
Mistress Quickly hurries to tell Falstaff that Mistress Ford wants him to visit her while her husband is away. Ford, disguised as “Mr. Brook,” offers Falstaff money to court his wife as a test of her virtue. Falstaff boasts that he has already arranged a tryst with her, and Ford leaves, enraged at his wife’s apparent infidelity.
Mistress Page meets Ford, who is on his way to catch his wife and Falstaff together, and she rushes to warn Mistress Ford. Cleverly, the wives contrive to involve Ford’s arrival into their plot against Falstaff. When the rotund rogue arrives, Mistress Page cries out in alarm that Ford is coming. Falstaff hides in a hamper of dirty laundry, which is soon dumped into the river.
Meanwhile, Anne Page, who loves Fenton, must submit to the clumsy wooing of Slender, whom her father supports, and of Caius, whom her mother encourages.
Falstaff boasts to “Mr. Brook” about his narrow escape in the laundry basket, and about his upcoming second rendezvous with Mistress Ford. He leaves for the Ford home with “Mr. Brook” close behind. This time, the women disguise Falstaff as the fat witch of Brainford. Ford cudgels the witch from his home, and the wives decide it’s time to let their husbands in on the joke.
Mr. Ford and Mr. Page plan further fun at Falstaff’s expense. They will lure him to a haunted park where townspeople disguised as fairies, will frighten him. Later, in the park, Mr. Page advises Slender to elope with Anne, whom he thinks will be disguised as a fairy dressed in white. Mistress Page informs Caius that Anne will be dressed in green. Everyone else is ready, and they take their places. Falstaff arrives, fully dressed as Herne the Hunter. The fairies appear, the women flee, and Falstaff is pinched and taunted unmercifully. Meanwhile, Slender and Caius snatch their green and white “Annes” as Fenton escapes with the real one.
The Fords and Pages reveal their joke to Falstaff, but their joy is short lived as Slender and Caius appear, each of whom has discovered that his beloved has turned out to be a boy in a fairy costume.
Anne and Fenton, now married, return, and their parents accept the situation philosophically. Mistress Page invites the entire company to her home for a laugh over all the complications that have finally been resolved.