The Merry Wives of Windsor

Content Group

Overview
The Merry Wives of Windsor: Ada Rehan (1860-1916) as Mistress Ford, Virginia Dreher (d. 1898) as Mistress Page

This modest but deft play has often been underestimated by critics, though it has attracted many distinguished performers (such as Ellen Terry and Herbert Beerbohm Tree, as well as Lily Brayton). This may be because reviewers tend to see its use of Falstaff as trivialising a major Shakespearean creation, or because of the story that it was merely a command performance by Queen Elizabeth, who specified a play about "Falstaff in love"—perhaps for some Windsor Palace celebration of the Order of the Garter. Certainly, the play's allusions to the latter group are distracting and often successfully cut. However, as a realistic, largely prose comedy, the play works well, and the lively character of the wives is well presented, to the disadvantage of a wide range of male stereotypes, particularly the obsessively jealous Ford. Its value is confirmed by its inspiration of one of Verdi's most enticing operas: Falstaff. It is purely contemporary in style and can be updated readily and plausibly (for the Berkeley Shakespeare Program's production, see Victorian/Edwardian Updating: The Merry Wives of Windsor (1981) as well as video clips of the opening scene and Act 2, Scene 2). Its use of folklore is also effective (see Play Settings: European Dark Ages).

Images
Merry Wives of Windsor, New Shakespeare Company, 1984
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1968
Merry Wives of Windsor, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1985
Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, circa 1900.Note the Hobbyhorse on the right, a feature of the Morris Dances elsewhere.
The Merry Wives of Windsor (V.v): James Hackett (1800-1871) as Falstaff.
Merry Wives of Windsor: Horny Falstaff. New Shakespeare Company,1984.
The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
Arion Alston as Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
Falstaff and the Hostess in The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
Falstaff and Bardolf in The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
Page and Nym in The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
Mistress Alice Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)
Falstaff and Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor (BSP, 1981)

Pages

Videos
Slideshows
Bibliography

Adam, David. Review of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Michael Bogdanov and Company, Ludlow Castle, 2002. British Theatre Guide.

Alexander, Peter, ed. The Merry Wives of Windsor. London: BBC, 1983.

Alvarez Faedo, and Maria Jos. "The Merry Wives of Windsor in Spain." Shakespeare Yearbook 13 (2002): 360-74.

Anon. "Falstaffs Past and Present: The Merry Wives of Windsor and its Stage Record." New York Times, September 23, 1894.

Catherine II, or Catherine the Great. "A Pretty Basketful of Linen." In The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 18, edited by Alfred Bates, 46-54. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906.

Clover, Brian. Review of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Royal Shakespeare Company, Old Vic, London. CurtainUp.

Cordiner, Lynne Hemingway. "The Merry Wives of Windsor: Revisions and Adaptations." On Stage Studies 17 (1994): 104-116.

Cotton, William T. "Comic Conflict in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor." In Performance for a Lifetime: A Festschrift Honoring Dorothy Harrell Brown: Essays on Women, Religion, and the Renaissance, edited by Barbara Ewell and Mary A. McCay ,181-94. New Orleans: Loyola University, 1997.

Crane, David, ed. The Merry Wives of Windsor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Evans, Peter. "'To the oak, to the oak!': The Finale of The Merry Wives of Windsor." Theatre Notebook 40 (1986): 106-14.

Green, William. "Directorial Uses of Farce in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor." Maske und Kothurn 48 (2002): 81-89.

Hayes, Elliott, and Michal Schonberg, Michal, eds. The Merry Wives of Windsor. Stratford, Ontario: CBC Enterprises, 1984.

Homan, Sidney. "The Merry Wives of Windsor in the People's Republic of China: A Director's Notebook." In Shakespeare and the Triple Play, edited by Homan, 116-37. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press; London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1988.

Johnson, Gerald D. " The Merry Wives of Windsor, Q1: Provincial Touring and Adapted Texts." Shakespeare Quarterly 38 (1987): 154-65.

Kolb, James J. "Working on a Globe Replica: Staging The Merry Wives of Windsor." On Stage Studies 16 (1993): 55-68.

Pearson, D'Orsay. The Merry Wives of Windsor. Garland Shakespeare Bibliographies. New York: Garland, 1999.

Roberts, Jeanne Addison. "The Merry Wives of Windsor as a Hallowe'en Play." Shakespeare Surve 25 (1972): 107-12.

Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond