The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare – Summary

The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare

The Merry Wives of Windsor is considered a farcical play of Shakespeare. The play involves quick timing between the actors with carefully choreographed actions. The play is particularly known for its ‘meaning’ and ‘performance’ inseparable.

Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford are the wives of Windsor citizens. The main plot includes the conspiracy of Sir John Falstaff to seduce Page and Ford. Falstaff is in financial crunch, and has conned Justice Shallow and his youthful cousin, Slender. To make situations worse, he decides to woo Windsor merchants’ wives to get money. When he sends a letter to both of the wives, they compare it and discover his conspiracy.

Deciding to teach him a lesson, Page and Ford devise a plan. They invite Falstaff to Ford’s house when Ford is out of place. Falstaff arrive with his companions, Pistol and Nym. On knowing it, Ford becomes jealous and decides to catch his wife’s infidelity. Disguised as a shy man, named Master Brook, he shows passion for Mrs. Ford. He asks Falstaff to woo her by offering him money.

But Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page try to dupe both Falstaff and Mr. Ford. Slender makes friends with Parson Evans, a local clergyman to woo Page’s daughter, Anne, who meets Fenton, a young courtier. However, Page disapproves Fenton and wants her to marry Caius, a French doctor. Caius hears of Slender and challenges Parson Evans for a duel. However the duel is misplaced by the landlord of the Garter Inn, making up differences.

On Falstaff arrival at Ford’s house, Mrs. Page announces the return of the husbands. Falstaff is hid in a large laundry basket and is drowned in a muddy river bank. The wives again make a plan to invite Falstaff to their house and this time when Ford returns, he is disguised as an elderly aunt. Ford searches the house and the laundry basket but in vain, gets infuriated and beats up the ‘aunt’ from the house. Finally, the wives tell their husbands, Ford and Page, about the Falstaff’s entry and their trick to get him humiliated. As a result, Page suggests he had to be publicly humiliated.

As a final plan, Mistress Ford again invites Falstaff to meet at the Windsor Park. He disguises as Hearne the Hunter. In another subplot, Parson Evans organizes Anne to dress as fairies and plans to elope with Fenton. Page plots to kidnap Caius and arrange a secret marriage. Everyone meets in the park and the fairies start pinching and taunting Falstaff. Anne elopes and returns as Fenton’s wife. The play ends with Mr. and Mrs. Page blessing to Anne’s marriage, laughing at the humiliation of Falstaff.

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