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The Merry Wives of Windsor (Folger Shakespeare Library) Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...wonderfully informative introdutory essay." Studies in English Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

This new edition of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor focuses at every point on a theatrical understanding of the play. While emphasising the liveliness of the play in stage terms, David Crane also claims that this citizen comedy needs to be taken much more seriously than in the past, as an expression of Shakespeare's fundamental understanding of human life, conveyed centrally in the character of Falstaff. In the process he also examines Shakespeare' free and vigorous use of different linguistic worlds within the play. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Folger Shakespeare Library
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671722786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671722784
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By playscribbler on March 10, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This play is odd in that critics hate it, but theater companies love it. Harold Bloom's contempt for this play is so great that he refused to discuss it in his book on Shakespeare. But, unlike some of Shakespeare's less popular plays, Merry Wives is performed frequently in Shakespeare festivals across the land.

You really have to see this play to understand how well it works on the stage. Played by an energetic cast it is hilarious situation comedy and easily understandable by people unfamiliar with Shakespeare. When Falstaff says at the end, with deadpan delivery, "I do begin to perceive that I am made an ass," it brings down the house. Just reading the play in your living room, you will probably miss much of the humor.

Shakespeare was a man of the theater. He wrote for production, with little thought given to publication in his lifetime. You have to see his plays performed to get a measure of his theatrical genius.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chris Salzer on December 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Shakespeare, considering he wrote this little gem of a comedy in a mere 14 days for the Virgin Queen, pulls off a play that proves both witty and fun. Unequivocally, The Merry Wives of Windsor makes for a more enjoyable play if seen live. Nonetheless, reading it is the 2nd best thing.
Sir John Falstaff is once again such a fool - but a lovable and hilarious one at that. Having read Henry V - where Falstaff ostensibly had met his end - I was pleased to see him so alive(pardon the pun) in this short, albeit clever play. It is no surprise that The Merry Wives of Windsor enjoyed such a long and successful stage run during Shakespeare's day and continues to be one of his most popularly staged plays. Recommended as a fun break from the more serious and murderous Shakespearean tragedies.
"Why, then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open." - Pistol
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Poirier on June 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
Among critics, this is arguably their least favorite of Shakespeare's plays but with audiences it is a perennial favorite. Also, Giuseppe Verdi chose it as the basis of his very last opera, Falstaff. So there must be something in it.

Sir John Falstaff, the lovable rogue from The Henriad cycle of plays, needs money and he intends to get it from a rich wife. Just to be sure he gets something, he attempts to woo two women rather than just one. Never mind that both women are already married; this is not a problem for the shameless Sir John. He sends love letters to both women but puts them in the wrong envelopes, so that each gets the one meant for the other. OK, these middle aged women might be a little starved for affection from their husbands but they aren't stupid and they would have seen through Falstaff's ruse anyway.

His mistake however does give them the chance to have a little fun at his expense. Falstaff appears at one woman's home to press his suit. Her husband arrives unexpectedly, and Falstaff hides in a basket that is then carried out. It's a bit heavy...

Falstaff and his ridiculous plan provides the comic situation, the confusion that ensues provides the slapstick, foreigners with Welsh and French accents provide ethnic humor. And in the end, Falstaff receives a well deserved lesson.

There is nothing wrong with this play, it's a very good, very funny comedy and as close to pure comedy as Shakespeare gets with the exception of The Comedy Of Errors. So why don't critics like it? Probably because they expect more from Falstaff. He fears getting caught by the husband but that does not keep him from courting his wife. He offers no catechism in this play about the evils of adultery or of the dark side of love, unlike in Henry IV Part One where he cautions the audience against how honor in war leads to injury or death. The fat man in this play offers us a barrel of laughs but no wisdom at all.

Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sean Ares Hirsch on March 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Allright. Maybe as far as the comedies go, I was spoiled by the exquisite comical masterpiece "The Comedy of Errors." But this is without a doubt my 2nd favorite comedy. I can not help but simultaneously laugh and feel sorry for poor Ford when he suspects his wife is interested in Falstaff and goes into his jealous rages. One scene I could not forget if I tried is when Ford feels bad for suspecting his wife, is humiliated in front of everyone, and apologizes.Only a bit later he finds his wife was with Falstaff and she has another arranged meeting with him! But this is only a small part of the many laughs that await. Shakespeare only had a few days to write this play, but this shows that even under pressure he wrote great!
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By B. Wilfong on May 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Merry Wives" is generally loathed by scholars, and loved by audiences. The reason is not hard to detect. It is a non-serious and very funny play. Shakespeare wrote low comedy farce. GASP!
First off, the 3 star rating means as compared to other works of Shakespeare. I don't feel it fair to compare him to other writers. For the other writer's sake!
"Merry Wives" is a fast paced romp that would be much better to see than to read. The first act of this play frustrated me as reading no Shakespeare has done before. The play is his only comedy set in (Shakespeare's) modern day, and in England. As a result it abounds with archaic English colloquialisms and regionalisms that mean nothing to the modern American reader. You will have to look at the explanatory notes often while reading this play. The reader's frustration will be added to by the inclusion of a French character, complete with accent, a Welsh parson, also with accent, and a servant lady who speaks with malapropos and misunderstandings most of the time.
If you can get over that hurdle, you will find the play picks up steam and humor in the last three acts, and there are some truly comic, and often vulgar, moments. The groundlings must have howled with delight at this play.
Many critics hate this play because they say the Falstaff of "Merry Wives' is a shadow of the character Shakespeare created for the Henry Four plays. He is. But I guess my question is, so what? Shakespeare created Falstaff and he can use him however he sees fit. To me it seems a minor quibble, and I am not sure I understand the passion it engenders in some people.
Take "The Merry Wives of Windsor" for what it is, a lighthearted farce, meant as a diversion for its viewers, and leave all the academic baggage at home. You will be glad you did.
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