The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
John Falstaff plans to seduce Mrs. Ford, who is married and rich and controls the purse strings. His servants betray him and tell her. She and her friend have a great time playing with Falstaff – inviting him over, pretending to want to be seduced, but then crying that Mr. Ford is coming. Hilarity ensues with Falstaff tossed in a ditch and beat up dressed as a woman. In the end they both show themselves, with their husbands and friends, rebuking and scorning Falstaff: “Serve Got and leave your desires.”
“Fie on sinful fantasy!
Fye on lust and luxury!
Lust is but a bloody fire,
Kindled with unchaste desire,
Fed in heart; whose flames aspire,
As thoughts do blow them, higher and higher,
Pinch him, fairies, mutually;
Pinch him for his villany;
Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about,
Till candles, and star-light, and moonshine be out.”
Meanwhile, Ford’s friend and her husband, the Pages, each want to marry their daughter Anne to a different man. Anne likes neither but is in love with Fenton. During the last scene where Falstaff is shamed, each man takes the wrong person to steal off and marry. Fenton and Anne elope and come back married, to the Pages' shock. They admit the rightness of love winning the day, though, and revel in being tricked themselves.
1. Falstaff doesn’t really repent. He admits they’ve made a fool of him, and that’s about it. Some people never change.
2. Though there are moments of innuendo and sexual compromise suggested, the play’s message overall upholds chastity, virtue, and true love. It does this by showing two contrasting twin vices defeated: abusing marriage by adultery, and abusing love by arranging marriages without regard for it.
3. The theme of revenge and jealousy is strong. When you see evil in someone, you want to get back at them, and teach them a lesson. Falstaff’s servants see it in him, Mrs. Ford sees it in Falstaff, the host sees it in the Pages and so helps Fenton, and so on. The play basically approves of this impulse, when it is in the confines of justice.
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