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The Merry Wives of Windsor
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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
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
Falstaff is a knight, but hardly young or dashing. In Henry IV Part 1, Sir John describes himself as "A goodly portly man, i'faith, and a corpulent; of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a most noble carriage . . .." Prince Hal describes him as "a stuffed cloak-bag of guts" and "an old white-bearded Satan." Needless to say, he's hardly a catch. His idea of love is to find a woman who will fund his considerable appetite for food, fun and drink.
Falstaff has his attention focused on two such women, both of whom are married to wealthy town merchants. Both women have flirted with him--or so he has deluded himself into thinking. Equally important, in their respective households both control the family's purse. They are Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, a.k.a. the Merry Wives of Windsor. Sir John writes them identical love letters, and says, in effect, we both like to drink, neither of us are young; when your husband's away, let's get together and have some fun.
The merry wives are on to Falstaff, however, and invite him to their homes for the purpose of making a fool of him. Their husbands learn of the planned rendezvous and one of them--Master Ford--believes his wife is about to cheat on him and becomes crazy with jealousy. Master Page, on the other hand, trusts his wife. That's half the plot.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Miserable read, but I don't really care for Shakespeare anyhow, needed it for a class. On the other hand, makes me look like a gentleman because the book is kind of fancy looking.Published 7 months ago by greywarden
No matter which of Shakespeare's plays you read or teach, this is the edition that provides engaging and accessible resources to understand the text as well as the play's position... Read morePublished on June 22, 2013 by Mary Christel
A priceless edition (the whole series) which unfortunately has been consigned to the discard bin by libraries. Read morePublished on June 17, 2013 by John Gardiner
The text begins with notes on various production problems posed by the play, with advice regarding how to handle them. Read morePublished on July 8, 2011 by Ida Lizabeth
"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. Read morePublished on May 16, 2011 by B. Wilfong
a horribly produced paperback- low quality coarse paper, difficult to open, note presentation muddled. Use only in an emergency, then throw out. Postage expensive.Published on April 25, 2011 by gabrielle.s
Mistress Ford and Mistress Page are be badgered by the lecherous Falstaff, how to arrange a happy ending? Read morePublished on May 3, 2008 by E. M. Van Court