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Thursday, August 9, 2018
The Merry Wives of Windsor (Folger Shakespeare Library) Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2004 by William Shakespeare (Simon & Schuster)
When speaking of Shakespeare, one mostly thinks of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet. But in all honesty, Shakespeare is so much more.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of Shakespeare’s comedies and one of the underrated ones. It also happens to be my favourite. It is believed to have been written in the late 1500s or the early 1600s, apparently this cannot be completely certified. It isn’t really important for this review anyway.
The play is built like a farce. It relies heavily on physical gags and several linguistic jokes (although this is not uncommon with Shakespeare), which gives life to the comical theme of the play. It is probably the play of Shakespeare’s that is the most fun to watch due to the way it is staged. The intrigue in Merry Wives is never too dramatic as it is in some of his other comedies, instead the tone is jovial throughout and never deviates from this joviality. The characters are of course what makes the play, and the mix of personalities only enhance the comical air of the play.
Characters (There are many more than those below, but these are the important ones)
Mistresses Ford and Page are the wives of Windsor. They are both married, Ford to a jealous man and Page to a very trusting man. They both receive a letter from Falstaff, wherein he tries to seduce them. Both are very affronted by this and swears revenge. Not in an evil vindictive way, but in a manner that will teach him a lesson (well, possibly also ruin him). Mistress Page is also battling her husband over who their daughter should marry: both of them supporting different suitors.
Falstaff is a knight and a character that can be found in several of Shakespeare’s plays. He believes himself to be God’s gift to women and tries to seduce most of them. He tries to seduce Mistresses Ford and Page in order to get his hands on their husbands’ cash.
Master Ford is the extremely jealous husband of Mistress Ford. He believes that his wife cannot be trusted, and creates his own plot to catch her in the act of cheating. He creates a persona, Master Brooke and intends to get Falstaff to aid him in catching his wife cheating. However, he finds that his wife has already sent a letter to Falstaff, asking him to come to her house.
The main plot is centred around the wives clever plotting, Falstaff hubris and Ford’s jealousy. However, there is also a subplot, which focuses on the fair Anne Page (Master Page and Mistress Page’s daughter) and who she will choose to marry. Both her parents wants her to marry different men, neither in which Anne is interested. She has her eye set on a third suitor.
An honourable mention goes out to Mistress Quickly. She is a servant to the town’s French doctor and acts as everyone’s messenger. She creates her own little plots and is the one who actually listens to Anne and helps her get the man she want’s. Mistress Quickly has a knack for misunderstanding and mishearing conversations, hearing sexual innuendos where there are none (well, it’s Shakespeare. There are always sexual innuendos).
So, why should you read/watch this amazing play? Because it is one of the few of Shakespeare’s plays that will not upset anyone (apart from maybe the French or the Welsh). “What?” I hear you say. What I mean by that is that the women are strong without being mean or cruel, the men who are flawed (like jealous Master Ford) are redeemed at the end of the play and see the error of their way. Love and reason conquer all. Exactly what you want from a comedy. The only “mean” jokes are made when speaking of the French doctor or the Welsh clergyman.
The female characters in this play are just fabulous. They are strong-willed, yet loving. They get to be clever and demand revenge for a slight on their person, without being labelled cruel or demonic. Female friendship is also celebrated and the friendship between the two women is an equal one, wherein they both support and help each other. The male characters (well, mostly Ford) are redeemed and learn the importance of trust and love. Falstaff is publically shamed for his behaviour at the end of the play, and shown that one should not mess with another man’s wife. The Page’s realises that they should have listened to their daughter and respected her wishes. Everybody gets a happy ending. Like any good comedy that is.
The final question is: should you read it or watch it? As we all know, Shakespeare can be quite tricky to read due to the language. This is one of those plays that you kind of need to watch to fully appreciate it. Since a lot of it is dependent on physical gags, reading it fails to bring out all the finer points of the play. It can actually get boring when you read it, but this is never the case when watching it. I totally recommend you to get a hold of Shakespeare’s Globes official DVD recording of the play, it is brilliant.