January Books 7) The Merry Wives of Windsor, by William Shakespeare

I enjoyed this much more than I had expected to, and indeed I enjoyed the end more than the rather slow start. It must be the closest Shakespeare gets to slapstick humour, with Falstaff getting covered in dirty laundry, dumped in the Thames, forced to disguise himself as an old woman, beaten up by the husband of one of the women he is pursuing, and then humiliated by a flock of fake fairies. I would love to see it on stage: the audio can’t really catch it – though Dinsdale Landen as Falstaff in the Arkangel production grew on me, and Clive Swift as Shallow was as excellent as ever. Also Shakespeare’s word play and Welsh/French accent humour really needs some stage business to illuminate it for today’s audience.

The striking thing about it is (particularly after the overt and unredeemed misogyny of The Taming of the Shrew) that the women win. Mrs Page and Mrs Ford (the eponymous wives) comprehensively outflank Falstaff; Mrs Ford is a step ahead of her own husband; and while Mrs Page does suffer a defeat, it is at the hands of another woman, her own daughter.

Having just read Germaine Greer, I noted with interest that the young Anne at the centre of one of the plot lines manages to outwit two older suitors to marry the younger man whom she actually loves. There is also a young lad called William who studiously does his Latin lessons despite the older generation not really understanding him. One should of course always be careful about reading autobiography into the plays, but in this case it is impossible to avoid the temptation.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love’s Labour’s Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night’s Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All’s Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter’s Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)

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1 Response to January Books 7) The Merry Wives of Windsor, by William Shakespeare

  1. tortoise says:

    Thy Dungeonman is sort of like that…

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