The Merry Wives of Windsor
Despite a consistent record of attracting appreciative audiences to the theater, The Merry Wives of Windsor has not received as much favorable criticism as it merits. Focusing on the unconventional Sir John Falstaff--one of Shakespeare's most vivid creations, best known for his role as confidant to Prince Hal in the Henry IV plays--this witty and satiric farce is perhaps Shakespeare's most realistic comedy. Comparing Falstaff's role in the two genres, many critics have found the comic characterization somewhat weak; by concentrating almost exclusively on this perceived failing, they have often missed the structural strengths and coherent design of the play. R.S. White allusively draws on recent theories of literature, especially feminist criticism and reader-response theory, to illuminate and revalue this neglected play. Seeing Falstaff as a comic mirror of provincial society, he demonstrates how his behavior reflects the values of the town dwellers--notably, acquisitive capitalism and the tendency to treat women as property and marriage capital. His analysis reveals how Shakespeare's use of plot, character, and imperialist language highlights the political ramifications of the seemingly trivial story. White also presents the operatic adaptations of the play by Nicolai, Verdi, and Vaughan Williams as significant readings of the original as well as independent masterpieces. His study provides a cogent introduction to the general problems of interpreting Shakespeare in the present day as well as a fresh and insightful account of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
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audience Bardolph basket Brentford bully Caius Capell Comedy conj Craik notes cuckold devil disguised divided Doctor Caius edited emendation Enter FALSTAFF Enter MISTRESS Evans Exeunt Exit Ford's foul papers French Garter gentleman give Hart hath heaven Henry Herne the Hunter Hibbard horns HOST humour husband King knave knight letter lines of verse Madge Kendal marry Master Brook Master Doctor Master Fenton Master Ford Master Slender meaning Merry Wives Mistress Anne MISTRESS FORD MISTRESS PAGE MISTRESS QUICKLY noun Oliver Oxford Page's perhaps phrase Pistol play plot Pope pray prompt-book prose proverbial Q'S reading Queen of Fairies Quickly's Ralph Crane Robin Rowe Royal Shakespeare Company Rugby Scene seems sense Shakespeare Shallow Simple Sir Hugh Sir John Sir John Falstaff speak speech stage directions suggests Textual Analysis theatrical thee Theobald thou Tilley Welsh wife Wives of Windsor woman word