The Merry Wives of Windsor is not a critical success. And yet it’s widely produced.
And not just as Shakespearean comedy.
It’s been the source for at least four operas. The most famous is Verdi’s Falstaff (1893), but German and British composers have taken a crack at it as well–Nicolai in 1849 and Williams in 1924, respectively. Interestingly, the first operatic version was written in 1799 with a libretto by Defranchesi and music by Antonio Salieri. Yep, the guy who nearly two hundred years later would be turned into a villain who tormented Mozart in the play Amadeus by Peter Shaffer.
What this all means, I’m not sure. Save for the fact that while the ivory tower critics may hate the play, there’s something in there that bring theater companies (and audiences) back to it, time after time….