Act Five: Hi-jinx and Humiliation

The fifth and final act of The Merry Wives of Windsor begins in the Garter Inn, where Falstaff has been convinced by Quickly to meet the two wives in the woods. Master Brook (Ford in disguise) arrives again, and Falstaff proclaims that he will tell Brook

strange things of this knave Ford, on whom to-night (Falstaff) will be revenged, and (Falstaff) will deliver his wife into (Brook’s) hand.
  • V.i.26-28

In the next two very short scenes, Page and Slender prepare their plan to have Slender steal away Anne, who will be dressed “in white” (V.ii.5); meanwhile, Mistresses Page and Ford confer with Doctor Caius and remind him that he will steal away Anne, who will be dressed “in green” (V.iii.1).
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Podcast 73: The Merry Wives of Windsor: Introduction and Plot

This week’s podcast begins our month-long discussion of The Merry Wives of Windsor with a few opening words, and three acts worth of plot. Then, we’ll finish up with our usual recap of this week’s blog entries.
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Act Four: Farce is a Drag

Act Four of The Merry Wives of Windsor begins with Mistress Quickly asking Mistress Page to go to the Ford house where Falstaff is heading, and Mistress Ford waits to meet him. First, though, Mistress Page needs to take her son William, at Parson Hugh Evans’ to his Latin lesson. We get to hear the Latin lesson and its unintentionally bawdy undertones (vocative becomes “focative” [IV.i.45] [and thus fuck-ative], etc…. more on this later in the month, but suffice to say, while the scene does have bawdy elements, to a modern audience [who don’t have a classical education] it’s not quite as funny).

Act Four, Scene Five takes us to the Ford house, where Falstaff has arrived for his rendezvous with Mistress Ford. It’s obvious that Mistress Ford has explained away the earlier incident. When Mistress Page arrives, Mistress Ford sends him into her chamber; and the two merry wives carry on a play-acted dialogue for the benefit of Falstaff. Again, the story is that Ford is coming home and he is NOT happy, or as Mistress Page says, “Any madness I ever yet beheld seemed but tameness, civility and patience” (IV.ii.22-23). Mistress Ford admits that the “fat knight” (IV.ii.24) is there and wonders aloud if they should “put him into the basket again” (40). Falstaff re-enters the scene, proclaiming that he won’t go into the basket again; once in the Thames was enough.  They try to think of a place to store him–chimney, oven–but nothing will work.
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Act Three: What the Buck Basket?

With the beginnings of Act Three of The Merry Wives of Windsor, we find Hugh Evans and Simple (Slender’s servant). Evans is ready to duel with Caius, when the trio of Page, Shallow and Slender arrive. They talk to him about the upcoming duel… not that the lover Slender has much to say, save his repeated asides of “Ah sweet Anne Page” (III.i.38, 64, and 105). Later, Caius arrives with the Host of the Garter, and it quickly becomes obvious to both combatants that they’ve fallen victim to the Host’s machinations, and he has “deceived (them) both” (III.i.98). He leaves them, with the trio of Windsor men in tow, and they–like just about every other character in the play–vows revenge.

Act Three, Scene Two takes us to a street in Windsor, where Mistress Page and Falstaff’s young page Robin are heading to see her friend Mistress Ford, and are accosted by her friend’s jealous husband. Ford immediately (and suspiciously) asks who the boy’s master is, and when he learns it’s Falstaff, he is dumbfounded. As she leaves with the boy, Ford tells us his plan for Falstaff:
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Act Two: The Plot Thickens Around Falstaff’s Waist

Act Two of The Merry Wives of Windsor begins with Mistress Page entering with Falstaff’s letter:

Ask me no reason why I love you; for though Love use Reason for his physician, he admits him not for his counselor. You are not young, no more am I; go to then, there’s sympathy: you are merry, so am I; ha, ha! then there’s more sympathy: you love sack, and so do I; would you desire better sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page,–at the least, if the love of soldier can suffice,–that I love thee. I will not say, pity me; ’tis not a soldier-like phrase: but I say, love me. By me,
Thine own true knight,
By day or night,
Or any kind of light,
With all his might
For thee to fight,
JOHN FALSTAFF
  • II.i.4-18

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Act One: Lust is In the Air

The Merry Wives of Windsor begins not with wives, but with the wife-less: A visiting Justice of the Peace named Shallow (and if that name sounds familiar, you must have been here two months ago when Falstaff and Shallow were reunited in The Second Part of Henry the Fourth), and his cousin Slender, and a Welsh parson, Hugh Evans (who over the course of the play speaks in the same kind of rambling, mispronounced dialogue as last month’s Welshman, Fluellen. [which was a rough draft of the other, I’ll leave up to you all to discuss and decide.]

Shallow is upset, and announces that “Sir John Falstaff… shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire” (I.i.2-3). And if you were here two months ago, you might remember that play ended with Falstaff owing the justice a thousand pound. But that doesn’t seem to be the issue at this point. Instead, it appears that there’s been a certain level of disrespect and “disparagements” (I.i.28) taking place, and the man of the cloth Evans is willing to mediate and “make atonements and compromises between” (I.i.30) the men. Shallow isn’t all that willing, saying that if he “were young again, the sword should end it” (I.i.37).
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