The first thing that struck me about The Merry Wives of Windsor was theappearance of some characters from Henry VI: Falstaff, Bardolph, Nym, andPistol.
The second thing that struck me was the complexity of the plot. Shakespeare is tough enough for me to understand on its own, without theintroduction of a plots that twist and turn, and entwine each other like snakes. I wish I could see the play performed, because it seems like a delightfulcomedy, and I feel that seeing actual players going through the motionspresented to me in the text would do wonders for my comprehension. This is myfirst play read outside of class, with no real discussion to help me through theparts that don’t make a lot of sense the first time around. Fortunately, Ifound some resources on the web that provided synopses of Shakespeare’s plays,and really aided my understanding of the play.Order now
The aforementioned plots remindedme of the plots common to Seinfeld, quite possibly the most glorious oftelevision shows. Seinfeld always had at least two plots going per episode, andthe outcome of one always seemed to have some effect on the outcome of theother. It seems that the original recipe for sitcoms is this: get two plotsgoing side by side, near the end of the piece, smash them into each other, andthen tie up all of the loose ends. This recipe is followed in The Taming of theShrew (the two plots being the marriage of Petruchio and Katherine, and thewooing of Bianca), and again appears in the Merry Wives of Windsor (Falstaff’sattempted wooing of the wives being one, and the impending marriage of Annebeing the other.
) It would be interesting to see if all of Shakespeare’scomedies follow this same pattern, and if so, to see if previous playwrightsused the same formula. The appearance of the characters from Henry VI,especially Falstaff, was also quite interesting. For some reason, seeing theother characters shared by the plays didn’t do quite as much for me as seeingFalstaff. Perhaps I identify with Falstaff more than the others (a ratherdamning proposition, considering what I’m about to write), but I think it’smore likely due to the fact that Falstaff is more prominent that the others. Knowing that Falstaff was a gay lover in Henry VI, and seeing him involved inobviously heterosexual pursuits, I was reminded of our conversation in classconcerning the views of sex in Elizabethan times, compared to our current viewson the subject. I feel that seeing Falstaff in this play gives me a lot moreinsight into the character Shakespeare was trying to create for his audiencesthan Falstaff’s appearances that we have seen in class.
Falstaff really gaveme the impression of being a scoundrel in this play, plotting to commitadultery, and then add insult to injury by stealing money from the husbands ofthe adulterous wives. He’s accused at the beginning of the play for gettingSlender drunk to pick his purse, and he hires off his “friend” Bardolph as abartender. Finally, as a result of all of this, Falstaff ends up the butt of apractical joke. Everyone ends up forgiving everyone else, and they all go hometo live happily ever after, and laugh about the events they have just gonethrough. If that last sentence seems lacking, it’s with reason.
I wasrelatively disappointed with the way the play ended. It seemed to me likeShakespeare decided he was finished writing, and looked for the quickest way toend his play. It was one step better than the Greek’s method of having one ofthe Gods come down from Olympus, and decide who married who, who died honorably,and who was damned to Hades. I felt that The Taming of the Shrew ended much morecohesively.