Critical Opinion

The Merry Wives of Windsor doesn’t appear in (m)any Top Ten lists of Shakespeare. Most critics find it a weaker play.

There’s not a great deal of deeper meaning in the play, its plot or its characters.

What seems to be the greatest sin in the eyes of most critics, however, is in the character of Falstaff. While the fat knight is seen as a comic creation of genius in The First Part of Henry the Fourth, one with wit and ironic wisdom, the Falstaff of The Merry Wives is seen as a bad copy of that earlier character.

So why is it (and he) so weak?

Well, yesterday we discussed the idea of the “Garter Theory,” in which the play was presented at the Garter Feast in 1597. Many scholars place the premiere of The First Part in the same year. If the “Garter Theory” is true, then Shakespeare would have been working under a very VERY tight deadline… according to some versions of the legend, in as little as a fortnight.

Fourteen days.

Even a genius can’t create a work of genius under that kind of time constraint.

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