Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory midpoint theory, let’s take a look at The Merry Wives of Windsor.
There are 2679 lines in the play (less than the average play, but longer than the average comedy), so the midpoint takes place at line 1340, which occurs in Act Three, Scene Two. In this scene, we see not so much the merry wives, but their husbands, neither of which is too merry.
Page is concerned with getting the right husband for his daughter, or rather in this case, keeping the wrong suitor away from his daughter. Master Fenton is the wrong man, in Page’s eyes. Why? Because he’s broke (“of no having” [III.ii.64], and he has “kept company with the wild prince and Poins” (III.ii.64-5), he’s the wrong man for Anne.
Meanwhile, Ford is so paranoid of his wife’s infidelity, so afraid of becoming a cuckold, he has become a cuckold to his own fear. And here, Falstaff is the bogeyman, the sexual monster that threatens his husbandry.
Falstaff is the lurking, leering evil.
So at this midpoint in the play, this focal point character, subconscious to Page, and all too conscious to Ford, is missing physically, but his presence looms large.
And yet he’s absent from the scene.
Ironic? Sure, but fitting as well. The Falstaff of Merry Wives is NOT the Falstaff of the other two plays. He’s a pale shadow, a shell, of that character. His reputation precedes him (so much so that according to the legend, this play was written because Queen Elizabeth wanted to see the old knight in love), but that reputation is so big, there’s no way he can live up to it.
We “ALL” want to “see this monster” (III.ii.81), but when we do for the last time in the play, he’s just a man wearing horns, a pathetic lech who is brought down by the entire community.
The monster is dead, if he ever really existed.
that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…
NOTE: all this is just a guess… Merry Wives has the biggest proportion of prose (so far at least), and it’s not even close: 88% prose here, and The Second Part of Henry the Fourth is second, but way back around 50%. So what, you ask? When the lines are poetry, they are clearly defined and easily counted… the length of prose lines, on the other hand, is set by typesetters and are open for debate… so if this “mid-point” is not satisfactory, I blame it on the typesetters.