Musing on Shakespeare: The Merry Wives of Windsor

I’ve started to read the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and instead of writing one book report at the end, since this could take years, I’ve decided to post my thoughts on each play as I finish it. Of course, it will still only count as one book on my annual reading count in 2020 because I’m silly that way.

The story of the composition of the play is that Queen Elizabeth wanted to see another play with John Falstaff, the character from the Henry IV plays. So Shakespeare did some fan service with this play, and banged out a play where the scoundrel pitches woo to two wealthy married women, who see through his game and play with him a bit. Two of Falstaff’s retainers refuse to participate, so he fires them. They reveal to the plot to the women’s husbands, and one of them meets Falstaff under an alias to see if he really is pursuing the women. Falstaff reveals his plans, and the jealous husband tries to catch him in the act, but the merry wives hide Falstaff in humorous ways so they can continue to have their fun leading him on. A subplot deals with the daughter of one of the wives wanting a different match for her husband than either the mother or the father prefers, and her parents’ preferred rivals rival each other.

The subplot of this particular play sticks out as a rather grafted on bit that fulfills the requirement of a promised wedding at the end. Also, everyone forgives Falstaff at the very end, which is also stock for the time.

The mainline scenes are amusing enough, but it’s the least of the plays I’ve read so far. I hope Queen Elizabeth liked it.

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